Cablegate: Gvn Declares Lists of State Secrets

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The GVN has for the first time publicly
issued a list of Office of the Government documents
requiring classification. Included in this list are
documents related to security issues, national reserves,
budget figures and "important internal and external
policies." Official sources largely praised the release of
the new list as a sign of transparency. We think it does
more to underscore just how much is considered secret in
Vietnam. End Summary

2. (U) Under Vietnamese law, the Prime Minister determines
what types of documents must be classified "top secret" and
"confidential" in consultation with the Minister of Public
Security. The Minister of Public Security alone determines
what items must be classified as "restricted," the lowest in
Vietnam's three-tier classification system. Under current
criminal law, revealing state secrets to foreign sources
"hostile" to the GVN could result in the charge of
espionage, which carries the death penalty or life in
prison. Those who intentionally leak state secrets to other
recipients could face up to 15 years in jail.

3. (U) On July 7, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai issued a new
list of confidential and top secret State documents from the
Office of the Government (OOG), replacing a list issued in
1994 that had never been published. National security
issues, defense plans, national reserves and movements of
Central Bank funds are listed as top State secrets. Wartime
military mobilization plans, documents on "important
internal and external policies" and government personnel
changes are identified as confidential topics. Other
confidential items include news and documents on the content

of negotiations with foreign parties, state budget figures,
money printing data and plans for arms imports and exports.

4. (U) The Prime Minister's list was the most wide-ranging
of a number of recent decrees and directives on the
classification of documents. In January, the GVN classified
as "top secret" all documentation of trials in connection
with national security issues, as well as reports and
statistics in relation to death penalty cases. In April,
the Minister of Public Security determined that readers'
essays and letters sent to the "Tap Chi Cong San" (Communist
Review) that are critical of the Party and State are
restricted, along with some of the journal's studies on
Party policies and orientations and the Party's guidelines
on the journal's operations. The Public Security Minister
also classified career reports of cadres at the departmental
level and higher.

5. (U) In June, the Minister of Public Security classified
as "restricted" documents and information on national
strategic issues concerning internal and external relations
and security collected by journalists working for the
National Television of Vietnam, along with public essays,
letters and petitions from viewers regarding national
security. In August, the Prime Minister released a list of
confidential and top secret State documents from the

National Politics Publishing House. Confidential documents
include sensitive news and documents related to the history
of the Communist Party of Vietnam, some biographical
information and career reports of high-ranking leaders and
controversial information about the country's path to
socialism. The list of top secret State items includes
Party documents on certain political and economic issues,
security, national defense and external affairs documents
and Party guidelines on the publishing house's operations.

6. (SBU) Senior journalists from State-controlled newspapers
welcomed the Prime Minister's decision to promulgate the
list of OOG confidential and top secret State documents.
Senior Colonel Tran Nhung of Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's
Army) newspaper said it was a positive step reflecting the
Party's tendencies towards increased transparency. Nguyen
Chi Dzung, editor-in-chief of the Legislative Affairs
Journal of the Office of the National Assembly (ONA), opined
that the promulgation might help to facilitate publication
of more important documents and information. Dzung said
that, in the past, Government officials had declined to
provide the press with information on different issues by
offering the excuse that they were "State secrets."

7. (SBU) Le Tho Binh, deputy chief of the Hanoi office of
the Ho Chi Minh City-based Legal Affairs Journal, said the
promulgation of new lists of State secrets did not help to
lessen the Party's current tight control over information
dissemination. The Prime Minister's list itself was still
very vaguely worded, which might favor "cautious
apprehension" on the part of journalists. Binh noted that a
number of items on the list were generally referred to as
documents that "have not yet to be released and/or will not
be released."

8. (SBU) Comment: Because this is the first time the GVN
has published the list of Office of the Government documents
requiring classification, it is difficult to assess whether
there has been any relaxation of these regulations. The
publication of this list represents only the smallest of
advances, and the GVN still maintains rigid control over the
dissemination of information. The broad range of issues
that remains classified lays bare the CPV's enduring desire
for secrecy rather than any real move toward openness.

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