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Cablegate: Embassy Bangkok Concerns Over Aces Database

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

090318Z Dec 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 007555

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH HUMAN RIGHTS VETTING
SUBJECT: EMBASSY BANGKOK CONCERNS OVER ACES DATABASE

REF: A. 2005 JAKARTA 9962

B. 2005 JAKARTA 2322
C. 2005 STATE 131486
D. 2005 STATE 21314
E. 2003 STATE 34981

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After careful review at post, Embassy
Bangkok believes the Abuse Case Evaluation System (ACES)
database falls short of its announced goal (reftel C) of
being a tool to "facilitate the management of human rights
abuse allegations and compliance with the Leahy amendment
guidelines". ACES today is filled with entries that
complicate the Leahy vetting process by being so cumbersome
that it makes it more difficult in some instances to
determine whether an individual or military unit is guilty of
gross human rights violations. Current guidance encourages
posts to input data "even if there is some doubt about the
credibility of the information," rather than using the
"credible evidence" standard spelled out in the Leahy
Amendment. This present standard could easily lead to
misleading, even false information being entered into the
system. Post offers some suggestions about ways to improve
quality control for ACES. END SUMMARY.

------------------
THIS IS ACES TODAY
------------------

2. (SBU) The standards for implementing the Leahy Amendment
are laid out in Reftel E, which states that no funds can be
made available "to any unit of a foreign country,s security
forces if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that
such unit has committed gross human rights violations." When
ACES was launched, Embassies were told that it would be a
useful tool to determine whether a police or military unit is
guilty of gross human rights violations by compiling reports
from post reporting, the media, NGOs, and others about
alleged human rights abuses. In July (Reftel C), we were
advised that users at post and in the Department would be
able to enter and comment on allegations put into ACES and
that DRL would validate all reports. Today, ACES is up and
running, yet there seem to be quality control issues
regarding the information that is placed into ACES. The
following examples, taken from entries already in the ACES
database, illustrate this problem:

--An entry about an Indonesian maid who was beaten by her
private employer in Saudi Arabia (Comment. The employer is
not a member of the security forces);
--A group of Burmese soldiers who stole 5 sacks of rice from
local villagers;
--A police officer who took a $108 bribe in Nigeria;
--The killing of villagers by unnamed anti-government (FARC)
rebels in Colombia. (The FARC is not a part of the Colombian
security forces.)

3. (SBU) None of these entries are listed in ACES in a
manner that would assist an officer conducting Leahy
Amendment human rights vetting because they don't concern
possible recipients of USG funding. Further, many of the
entries cited above were entered by an anonymous author known
only as "ACESMAN". Users are therefore unable to check with
the source of the reports for clarification. Although ACES
is a classified database, we understand from the Department
that individuals in the field, in the Department, and in
other agencies will have access to it. Conceivably, anyone
with ACES access can, at their own discretion, enter data
that could prevent the training of a foreign military or
police unit, perhaps even years after the initial data was
entered.

------------------------------
THE CREDIBLE EVIDENCE STANDARD
------------------------------

4. (SBU) ACES is designed to assist us in determining
whether there is "credible evidence" that a vetted individual
or unit has committed a gross human rights violation.
However, the ACES instructions seem to require a less
exacting standard for putting information into the ACES
database than is called for by the Leahy Amendment. Reftel B
states that "even if there is some doubt about the
credibility of an allegation, post should enter it into
ACES". This guidance was reaffirmed by Department officials
at the September 27 Human Rights Conference presentation,
which is linked to the homepage for ACES, in which we are
told that "entering reports known to be false IS
appropriate". We understand that one underlying purpose of
entering "unsubstantiated" cases into ACES is to prevent
future redundancies when new vetting officers track down
rumors that turn out to be unsubstantiated. However, without
clarifying more precisely what type of questionable cases
should be entered into ACES, the guidance as it stands leaves
open considerable potential for the system to be literally
flooded with irrelevant material. Over time, this runs the
risk of making ACES a less usable, and useful tool to
distinguish the true Leahy cases from the superfluous ones.

5. (SBU) Embassy Bangkok recommends that the Department
redefine the standard of what is and is not acceptable for
entry into the database as "credible evidence". The first
webpage on ACES states: "This system exists to manage serious
human rights abuse allegations that are seen as reasonably
credible by the Department of State". Returning to this
"reasonably credible" standard might be a good starting
point.

--------------------------------------------- --
THE LOWER THE STANDARD, THE HIGHER THE PRICETAG
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) As our colleagues in Jakarta recently pointed out
(reftels A and B), effectively using ACES might require
additional resources in a number of posts. In the case of
Bangkok, to improve quality control at our post, we propose
to vet entries with an informal committee of interested
sections / agencies and limit entries to the ACES officers in
the POL section. This will ensure that we access all
information at post about each case, and hopefully prevent
the entry of questionable information such as the cases
listed in paragraph 2.

7. (U) Embassy Bangkok appreciates Department's
consideration of our suggestions.
BOYCE

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