TOKYO — Japanese officials moved to control the diplomatic damage after an air traffic controller was questioned here for posting secret American flight information on his blog that included the detailed flight plans last November of Air Force One.
The Transportation Ministry said Saturday that the controller, who works at the Tokyo International Airport at Haneda, could face charges of leaking national secrets. Japanese officials appeared embarrassed by the breach, which also included flight data of an American military reconnaissance drone.
Tokyo is apparently worried that the episode could raise new doubts in Washington about Japan’s ability to handle delicate information, following a scandal four years ago over the leak of American naval radar secrets. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, reported that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may personally apologize to President Obama for the breach during a meeting this month in New York.
The ministry said the controller, who was identified only as a male in his 50s, posted the flight plan of Air Force One during President Obama’s visit to Asia in November. It said the blog contained two pages of detailed information about the flight, including numerical data and a map showing the plane’s route.
The flight details of Air Force One are usually kept secret to protect the president. The ministry said the blog contained no explanation of the numbers or images, which would have been largely incomprehensible to a layman.
The ministry said the controller was being questioned, after an anonymous caller tipped off the ministry last Monday. The ministry said the controller did not appear to act with ill intent, but had told the authorities that he posted the information to show his friends. It said the sensitive information had been removed from the blog.
The controller posted a total of 12 pages of sensitive information on his blog, the ministry said. He included the flight plans of an American military Global Hawk drone that was gathering radiation readings near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the ministry said.
For Japan, the episode is uncomfortably similar to the leak in 2007 of classified information about the American Navy’s advanced Aegis radar system, which is also installed on Japanese warships. A Japanese Navy officer was arrested for copying sensitive data about the radar onto CD-ROM disks and distributing them to classmates at a Japanese naval school.
That earlier leak raised doubts about Japan’s management of military secrets, prompting Washington to temporarily suspend shipment of parts for upgrading the radars.