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Cablegate: Mps to Fbi: Let's Upgrade Relations

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 HANOI 003031

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR S/CT, EAP/MLS, L, INL/AAE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER ASEC VM CNARC CTERR
SUBJECT: MPS TO FBI: LET'S UPGRADE RELATIONS

This is an action request. Please see para 17.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The early November visit of an FBI
delegation to Hanoi, led by Ms. Deborah Pierce, Deputy
Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division (CID),
and Mr. Thomas Fuentes, Special Agent-in-Charge, Office of
International Operations, offered the opportunity for the
Mission to stage two high-level meetings with the Ministry
of Public Security (MPS) that resulted in groundbreaking
proposals from MPS for increased direct cooperation.
Interspersed in the routine exchanges were several pointed
suggestions from MPS that the U.S. Embassy and MPS develop
working-level documents, either memoranda of understanding
or letters of agreement, to permit us to, in the words of a
senior police general, "upgrade relations to more real and
practical cooperation." The general's proposals, made in
front of a group of a dozen policy-level Vietnamese MPS
officers and then seconded by the senior Vice Minister, were
significant steps forward from the previous Vietnamese
position, which was to reject practical law enforcement
cooperation on legalistic grounds.

2. (SBU) Summary, cont'd: Both the Vice Minister and the
general requested assistance in three areas: provision of
training and equipment; cooperation and assistance in
returning Vietnamese fugitives to Vietnam and in overcoming
agency-level obstacles to returning those fugitives; and,
working to help Vietnam apprehend its "terrorist enemies"
such as Kok Ksor, Nguyen Huu Chanh, Vo Van Duc and Ly Tong.
The next step is up to us to push our law enforcement
cooperation agenda forward by proposing the working-level
agreements that will give MPS the legal framework it needs
to allow real-time cooperation. We recommend freeing the
draft DEA-MPS MOU from its current limbo at State Department
and presenting it to MPS. Following that, we should draft
and present documents to allow FBI and DHS similar
privileges. End Summary.

3. (SBU) The FBI delegation visited Vietnam from November 2-
4, 2005 (see list in paragraph 18). The Mission
participants included DEA's Hanoi Country Office head Jeff
Wanner, RSO Peter Gibbons, and Poloff in the group that met
with MPS, and the DCM led the discussion. This emphasized
to MPS that the priorities and issues raised at the meetings
concern the entire Mission, not just FBI.

Session One: Police Major General Thao
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Vietnamese assembled an impressive set of
counterparts for the meetings. The leader of the Vietnamese
delegation for the main meeting was Police Major General
Tran Van Thao, supported by a team of 12 MPS officials,
listed in paragraph 19.

5. (SBU) FBI and DEA both made presentations that laid out
the USG's key concerns in Vietnam: the expanding network of
relationships and activities between criminal groups in the
United States and Vietnam and the lack of real, operational
cooperation between USG and GVN law enforcement agencies,
due largely to bureaucratic and political unwillingness on
the part of the GVN.

6. (SBU) In contrast to many previous meetings where MPS
mouthed platitudes about increased cooperation while laying
down insurmountable obstacles to real engagement, General
Thao started out positive and got more specific and
practical as the meeting progressed. He opened the meeting
by highlighting Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's
June visit to the United States, Vice Minister of Public
Security Nguyen Van Huong's meetings with security and law
enforcement agencies in Washington on the margins of the
PM's trip and the recent letter of appreciation from former
Presidents Bush and Clinton thanking Vietnam for its USD
100,000 donation to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. After
a recitation of MPS' accomplishments in fighting narcotics
in Vietnam, Thao added, "I understand that the war on drugs
needs international cooperation and support. I highly
appreciate the views of DEA, and am someone who supports
upgrading our relations to include more real, practical
cooperation on drug crimes. I see that this kind of
cooperation is confined to a small level dealing with money
laundering, but it also needs to reach criminals
themselves."

7. (SBU) Later in the meeting, responding to a briefing by
the FBI representatives, Thao expanded his offer further.
"If American criminals of any kind have connections or
networks in Vietnam, we are more than willing to help you.
We can give you their identification information if we have
it, or whatever else is in our files. If a Vietnamese
person commits a crime in your country and escapes, you will
have our support in pursuing him and then handing him back
over to you.

8. (SBU) Thao then focused on the issue that has held up all
offers of cooperation in the past: Vietnamese legal
obstacles. "We are both law enforcement agencies, and we
have to abide by the law. Everything we do together has to
be in strict compliance with the law. This means that we
need a legal framework for both sides to facilitate
cooperation, such as a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or
some other mutual agreement to combat crimes together."

9. (SBU) Explicitly recognizing that an MLAT is not a short-
term possibility, Thao proposed a practical short-term
alternative: "In the long term, yes, we want a State-to-
State MLAT. But we know that takes a very long time. For
the short term, we can come up with an MOU or LOA at a lower
level to fix problems in our cooperation. In our
cooperation with other countries, we have found that we can
find a more simple and convenient method to create a direct
MOU or LOA or other arrangement for cooperation. In terms
of the legal procedures, it is much simpler. And it would
suffice to allow our experts to work together directly."

10. (SBU) Clearly reading a well-prepared talking point, and
with the representative from the General Department of
Security nodding in agreement, Thao concluded: "I want to
deliver this message: MPS has come to absolute agreement to
upgrade its relations with the United States to a higher
level." He then assigned his International Cooperation
Department to work with the U.S. Embassy to discuss the
details of the necessary arrangements.

11. (SBU) Thao raised two issues as Vietnamese concerns:
MPS lack of equipment and capacity, and the need for the USG
to reciprocate when MPS assists in handing over wanted
fugitives. Thao's request for training and assistance was
somewhat perfunctory, delivered hurriedly. He was more
concerned about the reciprocity issue. "When we hand over a
criminal," he said, "we do so unconditionally. But when we
ask you for assistance in returning a wanted fugitive, we
get lots of conditions before you will give him up." Thao
cited the case of Nguyen Khac Son as an example. "You may
not understand that, when it comes to finding and returning
a U.S. fugitive, there are many agencies involved in the
process. MPS becomes the advocate for the United States and
takes charge of the process of obtaining interagency
consensus on the decision to return a fugitive. We need you
to be the advocate for us that way, instead of telling us
that other agencies are preventing you from helping us."

12. (SBU) Thao also touched on the issue of anti-GVN
activists operating from the United States and asked for
continued U.S. assistance in these cases. He expressed his
appreciation for what he called "encouraging developments"
concerning the case of Nguyen Huu Chanh, Vietnam's public
enemy number one and the patron of the anti-Vietnam
organization Government of a Free Vietnam.

Session Two: Vice Minister Toan
--------------------------------

13. (SBU) Later, the delegation, led by the Ambassador, met
with Standing Permanent Vice Minister of Public Security
Nguyen Khanh Toan. Toan, himself a former investigator,
received the delegation warmly and expressed explicit
support for Thao's earlier proposals. "I find these
proposals necessary and practical and in accordance with
Vietnam's needs," Toan said. "I think that with this first
high-level FBI visit, there is a good chance for us to meet
and raise understanding on both sides for real functional
cooperation." He cautioned, however, that "any cooperation,
police or security, will be in accordance with the
principles of sovereignty and noninterference in internal
affairs. We have orders to protect the Vietnamese
population, and you should keep in mind that we have only
modest experience in dealing with outsiders."

14. (SBU) Toan was even more concerned with the issue of
anti-Vietnam activists, launching into a long diatribe about
Montagnard Foundation head Kok Ksor, Nguyen Huu Chanh and
convicted bomber Vo Van Duc. He reserved his most bitter
vitriol for AMCIT Ly Tong, currently imprisoned in Thailand
for having hijacked a small plane and using it to drop pro-
democracy leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City during President
Clinton's visit there in 2000. Towards the end of his rant,
Toan revealed that he had been in charge of security for the
Clinton visit, which would explain his vehemence on the
subject. "I explained to Ambassador Pete Peterson that I
would take care of everything on security for the visit.
But I never expected that," he said. The Ambassador noted
that the USG has no higher priority than the war on terror,
and that the United States "absolutely supports" the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Vietnam. The USG
is aware of the statements and activities of some of the
anti-Vietnam groups and continues to monitor them to ensure
that political speech does not become political violence, he
added.

Next Steps
----------

15. (SBU) General Thao and Vice Minister Toan delivered the
most positive message we have heard on the subject of law
enforcement cooperation. The next step, however, is to test
their sincerity by actually proposing letters of agreement
or memoranda of understanding that would accomplish what the
two generals promised. We have one MOU already in the
pipeline: a draft DEA-MPS MOU that we submitted to
Washington for Circular 175 authority in early August of
this year. We understand that this MOU is still under
discussion between the legal offices of DEA and State, but
we hope that Washington will be able to expedite approval of
this MOU so we can propose it to MPS as soon as possible.

16. (SBU) The next step we can take is to modify the MOU
that FBI recently signed with China for use in Vietnam. We
will work with LEGATT in Bangkok to obtain a copy of that
MOU and then submit our proposed modifications to the FBI,
EAP and L for clearance before we bring it to the GVN. If
that works, we can then apply the same language to a
document that would cover DHS/ICE-MPS interaction. We
understand that these MOUs would likely not address the
GVN's concerns regarding smoothing the process of returning
their most wanted criminals to Vietnam. This outcome does
not require (or, probably, allow) an MOU-centered approach,
unless it is to provide simple assurances that the USG will
do its best under U.S. law to facilitate returns. The main
benefit of any document is to free up the Vietnamese
agencies to work with us; we are already free to work with
them.

17. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Please advise as to the timetable
for completion of Washington consultations on the DEA-MPS
draft MOU we submitted for consideration.

LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
--------------------

18. (SBU) The senior officials in the FBI delegation were
Ms. Pierce and Mr. Fuentes. Charles Cunningham, Section
Chief, Transnational Criminal Enterprises, CID; James Stern,
Unit Chief, Asian Criminal Enterprises (ACE), CID; Kevin
Humphreys, Supervisory Special Agent, ACE, CID; Charles
Bevan, Unit Chief, Office of International Operations;
Michael Reilly, Foreign Operations Specialist, Office of
International Operations; Truc Kim Dang, Language
Specialist; Robert Cahill, Legal Attache, Bangkok; Robert
Burkes, Assistant Legal Attache, Bangkok; and Daniel Kelly
Supervisory Special Agent, Bangkok, also attended.

19. (SBU) The MPS participants were:

- Senior Colonel Tran Gia Cuong, Director, Department of
International Cooperation;
- Senior Colonel Hoang Cong Tu, Director, Counter-Terrorism
Department;
- Senior Colonel Nguyen The Cong, Deputy Department
Director, General Security Department;
- Senior Colonel Nguyen Xuan Bich, Deputy Director, Office
of the General Police Department;
- Senior Colonel Nguyen Manh Te, Deputy Director, Criminal
Investigation Department;
- Senior Colonel Le Van Nghenh, Deputy Director, Office of
the Investigation Bureau;
- Senior Colonel Bui Van Ha, Deputy Director, Economic
Investigation Department;
- Senior Colonel Le Van Ngenh, Deputy Director, National
Investigative Agency and Counternarcotics Department (C-17)
- Senior Colonel Cong Van Hieu, Expert on External
Relations, Department of International Cooperation;
- Colonel Tran Van Thanh, Interpol Office;
- Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Van Chieu, Deputy Division
Chief, Department of International Cooperation;
- Captain Le Hoang Duong, Expert, Department of
International Cooperation (interpreter).

MARINE

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