MSDF's carelessness in handling data no secret

MSDF's carelessness in handling data no secret
MSDF's carelessness in handling data no secret 

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aug. 29, 2007

Why on earth was such important information, classified as "special 
defense secrets" handled so carelessly?

The data leak case involving information on Aegis vessels of the 
Maritime Self-Defense Force started when a lieutenant senior grade, a 
former instructor at the MSDF's First Service School in Hiroshima 
Prefecture, removed a magneto-optical disk without authorization from 
the desk of a lieutenant commander who was a senior instructor at the 

The case took another turn when the lieutenant senior grade copied data 
on the disk onto compact discs and distributed the CDs to his students. 
The lieutenant then handed the CDs to petty officers at the destroyer 
Shimakaze, to which he was later assigned.

On the Shimakaze, the data were stored in an MSDF personal computer 
shared by crew members. Those who were assigned to firing control on the 
destroyer had access to the data.

On Tuesday, the Kanagawa prefectural police and the MSDF's internal 
investigation unit searched the Shimakaze and other locations on 
suspicion of a violation of the law concerning protection of information 
in connection with the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement.

It was the fourth such search conducted with the aim of establishing a 
criminal case. Since the investigation started seven months ago, the 
routes of the leaked information have been mostly identified. The result 
of the investigation shows the lack of a sense of alertness in an 
organization tasked with defending our nation.

Ministry must take more care

The case first emerged when the prefectural police seized a PC hard disk 
in a search of the home of a petty officer 2nd class in connection with 
a visa violation allegedly committed by the petty officer's Chinese 

How far did the the leaked information spread before it reached the 
petty officer 2nd class? The data could have been leaked to parties 
outside the MSDF.

An Aegis vessel is a U.S.-developed state-of-the-art ship that has a 
highly advanced air-defense capability.

The leaked data comprised the latest information on the Aegis system 
obtained by senior officers at the MSDF's Yokosuka base who traveled to 
the United States to learn about the system. The officers, including the 
lieutenant commander, entered the information they acquired in the MO 
disks and shared it.

Newly appointed Defense Minister Masahiko Komura said at a press 
conference: "All Japanese administrative bodies treat information too 
lightly. This could have an effect on the nation's international 

The Defense Ministry should be the government body that is the most 
sensitive and careful about information management. The ministry must 
tighten up its information management.

National security threatened

In mentioning a possible "effect on the nation's international 
relations," Komura doubtless was referring to Japan's relations with the 
United States. But the effects of the case are already evident.

The Defense Ministry is in the process of selecting the nation's next 
mainstay fighter. The F-22 Raptor, the United States' highly advanced 
fighter jet, is the strongest candidate for the selection. However, 
there are now doubts over whether Washington will allow the export of 
the fighter to Japan.

The United States is carefully considering whether to export the F-22 to 
Japan, and one of the reasons behind its cautious stance apparently is 
the scandal over the MSDF's leak of Aegis data. Washington apparently is 
concerned that top-secret high-tech information about the F-22 may be 
compromised if the fighter is exported to Japan.

In response to the scandal, the Defense Ministry has decided to 
integrate the intelligence security commands at the three branches of 
the Self-Defense Forces into one new organization next fiscal year. The 
organizational laxity that allowed key U.S. naval information to reach a 
sailor of such lowly rank as a petty officer 2nd class must be 

The careless attitude of "treating information too lightly" has had a 
serious impact on Japan's national security. This reality must be 
recognized and addressed.

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