Wed, Mar 27, 2002 - Page 3 News List

New committee to examine leaks of military information

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday announced it has established a committee comprised of both civilians and defense officials to examine and verify suspected military secrecy leaks.

"The committee is mainly to help the military make a just and objective judgement on cases reported as military secrecy leaks," said defense ministry spokesman Major General Huang Sui-sheng (黃穗生).

"It is made up of seven civilians and six defense officials. These people were chosen because of their good reputation and clean records," Huang said.

"The seven civilians include two lawmakers, three legal scholars, and two journalistic scholars."

Huang made the remarks yesterday at a regular press conference of the defense ministry as he briefed the press on what the ministry has done to improve the current abuse of national secret codes at the expense of freedom of speech in the military or the outside.

"As President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has said, national security and freedom of speech should be equally important," Huang said. "The military should not be the sole and final judge of what is a military secret and what is not. That's why we established the committee."

The task of the committee, established last May, is mainly to examine and verify suspected leaks of military secrets, which, in the past, would easily be judged by the military as compromise of national secrecy since every piece of information related to the military was considered to be confidential.

Huang refused, however, to reveal the identity of the 13 members of the committee for what he said was to protect them from "unwanted situations."

He called on the public to trust the justness of the 13 members in handling the highly sensitive national secrecy affairs.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is reasonable to suspect the justness of the 13 committee members if their identity is kept from the public.

"To prevent committee members from abusing their power, the ministry is to give them only a one-year membership. The membership can be extended only one time by one year," the official said.

Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Huang also announced the ministry is to set up a task force to study rules for the classification of military information.

"The task force is also to be comprised of scholars and lawmakers. They are to help us find out a reasonable and justifiable information-classification standard," he said.

Currently, the military does not have any legal rules for it to follow in classifying military information, especially that related to sensitive areas.

It has relied for decades on administrative orders in the classification of military information. The practice has been much criticized for lacking an objective standard.

Because of the absence of an objective standard, the classification of military information tends to vary from person to person.

Many military documents currently classified as "secret" are not secrets from a strict point of view, defense officials said. Because of the loose classification practice, classified documents in the military are not treated seriously as they should and they could easily be found at a dump of a military site, officials said.

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