Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who chairs the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Research Commission on National Security, sat down with the Mainichi Shimbun for an interview about the cover-up of the daily activity logs of Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops dispatched to Iraq. Excerpts of the interview follow:
Question: The daily activities logs of the GSDF’s mission in Iraq were found.
Gen Nakatani: Daily activity logs are compiled by a commander, based on what was heard from on-site GSDF members throughout the night. The logs are a source of information for making decisions in (daily) activities. They ought to be stored, so I thought they should exist somewhere.
Q: The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has extended the retention period of its daily reports to ten years following the disposal and cover-up of the daily activity logs of a GSDF detachment sent to South Sudan. Do you think it was an appropriate decision?
Nakatani: That’s the way they should be. It stands to reason that daily logs are stored for ten years and then placed under the control of the National Archives of Japan. But daily logs include guidelines for response operations and security activities, and the disclosure of these pieces of information will affect troops’ activities and security of personnel. So it is also important that such information will not be disclosed for safety reasons. In the U.S., information related to operations is strictly handled and the information is declassified 10 to 20 years later at the national archive center. The documents (daily logs) should be classified. Given their nature, I wonder whether it’s OK to deal with them in the same way as general official documents.
Q: There were reportedly some LDP members who said the daily activity logs of the GSDF troops deployed in Iraq “deserve to be specially designated secrets” or “should not be disclosed soon.”
Nakatani: I think there were such opinions in the party. If daily logs are treated in the same way as other official documents and disclosed, honest information won’t be reported. The appropriate way of handling documents related to operations needs to be examined. These documents must not leak out.
Q: The released daily logs of GSDF troops in Iraq are partially blacked out for security reasons. Are there any released parts which might affect the security of the troops?
Nakatani: There’s no problem for now because the content of the logs were strictly checked before they were released. But it’s a tough job to respond to a disclosure request.
Q: Do you think daily logs should be specially designated secrets? If they are kept as a secret, sharing information will be difficult within the MOD and the GSDF.
Nakatani: Yes. Only authorized personnel will be allowed to handle [daily logs] and (managing and sharing information) will become difficult. I think that will be worth consideration.