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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