State Secrets

Me: I understand you’ve recently introduced a new law called the State Secrets Act.

Japan: That’s right.

Me: And why was this done?

Japan: To increase the security of information.

Me: So, your information wasn’t safe?

Japan: Well, not safe enough, no. I think now it’s much more difficult for people to gain access to information that my government doesn’t want people to otherwise know about.

Me: And what would happen if somebody found out and published this kind of information?

Japan: They’d be put in jail for at least ten years.

Me: Really? Wow. That seems a little severe.

Japan: Well, on the face of it, yes, but if there’s one thing we’ve all learned from the whole Edward Snowden, NSA, leaks thing it’s that governments hiding things is very important and if somebody were to publish something the government doesn’t like –

Me: Such as the truth?

Japan: Such as the truth, then we wouldn’t want that person to spend a few weeks trying to piece their life back together in the transit lounge of an airport and then live the rest of their life in forced exile, would we?

Me: So it would be easier to just throw them in prison for ten years minimum?

Japan: Exactly.

Me: It seems that your government has quite a bit of power in this situation.

Japan: Well, not really. I would like to point out that it’s not the government that decides what is or is not considered a state secret.

Me: So, who does?

Japan: Bureaucrats.

Me: Bureaucrats?

Japan: Yes.

Me: Who employs these bureaucrats?

Japan: Well, the government, of course.

Me: But –

Japan: You see, what we’re trying to do here is avoid any problems of transparency.

Me: But this will mean there’s less transparency.

Japan: Exactly. If there’s less transparency there’s less of a chance of having any problems with it.

Me: And are there any plans for an independent oversight committee to judge and overrule the decisions about what information should or should not be withheld from public knowledge?

Japan: Oh yes, probably, but, you know, you can’t rush these things, can you?

Me: Especially when increasingly reactionary forces are just making things up as they go along?

Japan: Well, yes. That’s the very essence of government.

Me: So, this must have created quite a lot of debate?

Japan: Oh yeah. Huge debate.

Me: The lower house debate was live on TV, wasn’t it?

Japan: It was. Until NHK had to end the coverage for other scheduled programming at which point the government just rammed the bill through with the help of the coalition anyway.

Me: And then it went to the upper house of parliament for more debate?

Japan: That’s correct. Then they voted and passed it into law.

Me: And how long did that debate last?

Japan: Oh, a few hours.

Me: And this occurred at a time when the people could watch and evaluate the pros and cons of the arguments with sober reflection?

Japan: Kind of…

Me: When was it?

Japan: Friday night.

Me: And how long has this potentially society affecting discussion been going on?

Japan: Erm, a couple of weeks.

Me: Is that all?

Japan: Well you have to be decisive about these things. Timing is everything.

Me: How long have your politicians been debating about the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP?

Japan: Three years.

Me: And are they any closer to forming any opinions?

Japan: Oh, there’s plenty of opinion. Most of it conflicting conjecture voiced by angry men in suits in front of microphones. Oh, yeah, loads of opinions. Too many really. That’s the problem with democracy.

Me: And so what do your people think about all this?

Japan: Who?

Me: Your people?

Japan: Oh them. They’re great, aren’t they?

Me: Yeah, but what do they think about the State Secrets Act?

Japan: Ah, erm, some people protested about it but not many and not for very long.

Me: I guess they didn’t have much time.

Japan: Right.

Me: And everybody else?

Japan: Er, well, most people seem to be working quite a bit, possibly too much. Or they’re quite often preoccupied with the screens of their mobile phones. Or buying stuff. People like stuff, don’t they?

Me: Right…

Japan: Look, don’t worry. What they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Me: And now there’s less chance they’ll know anything.

Japan: Exactly. See. I’m just making things safer.

Me: Well, thanks for building a better world to live in.

Japan: No problem.


December 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized.

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