12/06/13: The Miami Herald reports Japan's parliament approved on Friday a state secrets law that stiffens penalties for leaks by government officials and for journalists who seek such information, overriding criticism that it could be used to cover up government abuses and suppress civil liberties. The ruling coalition forced a vote on the bill in an upper house committee on Thursday. Despite stalling tactics by opposition parties, the full upper house approved the bill on Friday by 130 to 82. The more powerful lower house had approved the bill last week. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is seeking to increase Japan's global security role and create a more authoritarian government at home, says the law is needed to protect national security and assuage US concerns over the risks of sharing strategically sensitive information with Tokyo. Critics worry the law could be used to hinder public disclosures, punish whistleblowers or muzzle the media since journalists could be jailed for seeking information they do not know is classified as secret. The bill allows heads of ministries and agencies to classify 23 vaguely worded types of information related to defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism, almost indefinitely.