Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Military bends on secrets regulations

NATIONAL SECURITY The Ministry of National Defense, after criticism from lawmakers from across party lines, agreed to a tighter definition of what constitutes a military secret

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature's defense committee yesterday agreed to new regulations on the classification of military secrets after the Ministry of National Defense compromised on the definition of what constitutes a military secret.

The ministry had been criticized by lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps for making a broad interpretation of what constituted a secret. The ministry's definition would have covered almost everything related to the military, from a general's personal background to the purchase and development of weapons systems.

The amended regulations will act as a guideline for the military for cases involving secrets being compromised by active-duty military personnel and civilians.

They are administrative orders. Violators of these orders will be punished according to the armed forces criminal law, which was passed in 2001.

With the endorsement of the legislature, the ministry is now ready to abolish decades-old regulations governing military secrets.

A senior defense official said the new regulations might be too broad in terms of what constitutes a military secret, but that the old regulations are even worse as they leave greater discretion to the ministry.

The ministry developed the first version of the new regulations in the middle of last year, sending it at the end of that year to the legislature for endorsement.

That version was rejected by the defense committee on the ground that its definition of secrets was too broad.

Ten months later, a modified version was submitted to the defense committee.

As the regulations were being reviewed yesterday, a fierce debate broke out between lawmakers and defense officials.

PFP Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) asked officials representing the ministry why a general's personal background should be considered confidential.

"Is there any secrecy about a general's personal background? We can easily get such information about a US military leader from relevant Web sites," Lin said.

Lieutenant-General Chen Ti-tuan (陳體端), administrative deputy defense minister, said the enemy might be interested in such information. But in later talks with lawmakers, Chen agreed that there was no need to hide such information.

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