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What's in a secret?

As if the public hasn't had enough of hearing about former President Chen Shui-bian and all of his troubles, the former leader is once again facing new criminal charges. According to media reports, the disgraced ex-president, who is already serving a 20-year sentence on corruption and forgery convictions, will probably soon be indicted on charges of violating the National Security Information Protection Law.

The indictment is being prepared after prosecutors confirmed that information deliberately revealed by Chen during his corruption trial, done in a vain attempt to prove he lacked motive to flee the country, constituted sensitive secrets requiring protection under the law.

If the outspoken former leader really violated this law, prosecutors have a duty and obligation to bring these charges against him.

This is true even though Chen is already doing time in prison after being convicted for other charges, and faces yet another separate trial for allegations of corruption and criminal behavior in connection with a major banking scandal — yet another completely unrelated matter.

However, it remains to be seen if the former president may actually be right with regard to his claim that the information revealed at his trial really wasn't a secret, after all.

The fracas started on Oct. 8 of last year, when Chen appeared at the Taiwan High Court while attempting in vain to seek release on bail pending the outcome of his corruption trial.

During the proceedings, Chen had the burden of proving that he would not attempt to flee Taiwan if the court agreed to release him pending the end of his trial.

While the court was in session, with reporters in attendance, Chen informed the court that even when he enjoyed supreme executive powers as president and head of state, he had refrained from fleeing the country in spite of having many avenues to do so.

He made an example of the anti-government “red shirt” demonstration, which saw half a million demonstrators surround the Presidential Office when he was working inside.

Chen informed the court, and the entire public, of the existence of two separate underground tunnels that could have facilitated his easy escape from the Presidential Office, including one tunnel connecting the office to the nearby Ministry of Defense, where he could catch a helicopter from the rooftop to reach safety.

He also spoke of another underground passageway that led to the former residence of Chiang Kai-shek in the northern Taipei suburb of Shilin, where he could also board a helicopter to be ferried to a distant location.

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