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Cablegate: Codel Reyes Visits Argentina

VZCZCXYZ0007
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2290/01 3381729
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041729Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9831
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002290

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP KWMN AR
SUBJECT: CODEL REYES VISITS ARGENTINA

1. Summary and Introduction: Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Chairman
of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
(HPSCI), visited Argentina November 28 - December 1 and met
with Vice President and Senate President Scioli, the
president of the Chamber of Deputies, the chairperson of the
Argentine Joint Committee on Intelligence Oversight and other
officials. The codel also visited the area along the borders
with Brazil and Paraguay. Rep. Michael Thompson, member of
the HPSCI, joined Chairman Reyes for part of his schedule.
The Ambassador escorted Chairman Reyes to the meeting with
Argentine Vice President Scioli, who expressed his admiration
for the U.S. Senate and political system. In addition to
their consideration of U.S.-Argentine relations, they raised
a number of issues related to congressional oversight of
intelligence. The codel met with Argentine Congressional
Deputy Cordoba, who chairs the Argentine Joint Committee on
Intelligence Oversight. She reviewed her committee's
authorities and activities since its inception in 2003. At
the conclusion of that meeting, Chairman Reyes invited
Chairperson Cordoba and members of her committee to
Washington in 2008. End Summary.

MEETING WITH THE VICE-PRESIDENT
-------------------------------

2. The Ambassador accompanied Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX),
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence (HPSCI), and his delegation to a meeting with
Argentine Vice President Daniel Scioli and President of the
Chamber of Deputies Alberto Balestrini. The November 29,
2007, meeting took place at the National Congress. Deputy
Stella Maris Cordoba, president of the Joint Committee on
Oversight of Intelligence Agencies, also participated.

3. The Ambassador noted that Scioli and Balestrini would
depart their current positions on December 10 to be sworn in
as the new Governor and Vice-Governor, respectively, of the
Province of Buenos Aires. Scioli noted that Buenos Aires was
the nation's largest province, with a population of 15
million out of Argentina's total of 40 million. The
Ambassador said the Embassy was prepared to continue
supporting efforts to improve law enforcement and judicial
training in Buenos Aires. Scioli thanked the Ambassador and
told Chairman Reyes the Ambassador was "active, hard-working
and popular." He claimed there was across the board a desire
in Argentina for greater cooperation with the U.S.

4. Scioli said he had many friends in the U.S., stemming
from his first job as a Frigidaire refrigerator salesman and
his years of competing in speedboat championships in the U.S.
He also recalled intense negotiations with U.S. airlines
when he was Secretary of Tourism and Sport, and he also
claimed that his personal lobbying of then-Secretary of State
Colin Powell helped get the State Department to lift a
"warning" against travel to Argentina. Fortunately, he said,
American tourists came back to Argentina in droves. The
Ambassador pointed out that there had been about 15% growth
during the past year in travel in both directions between the
two countries.

5. Reyes expressed appreciation for his earlier meeting with
his counterpart, Deputy Cordoba, and noted a number of issues
that were raised in their discussion, such as the importance
of congressional oversight of intelligence functions, the
growing trend in both countries for greater transparency of
intelligence budgets, and, in Argentina, the concerns (dating
from the country's experience in the 1970s with the "Dirty
War") about the potential for government abuse of
intelligence capabilities. In response to a query by
Balestrini, Reyes stressed the importance of close
consultations between the executive and legislative branches
on intelligence matters even when the two were controlled by
opposing parties. They noted the Argentine Congress had one
joint, bicameral committee for intelligence matters, whereas
the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives each had their
own committees.

6. Scioli indicated he had been following the races in the
U.S. for the Democrat and Republican presidential
nominations. Acknowledging that there had been no equivalent
debates in Argentina during its recent elections, he said he
was particularly impressed by how the U.S. pre-candidates
were forced to address major issues, such as health,
education and the environment. He also said he considered it
instructive for Argentina how, in
U.S. political parties, the various pre-candidates and their
factions would close ranks once the party had selected a
candidate.

MEETING WITH ARGENTINE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE
---------------------------------------------

7. On November 28th, the Ambassador accompanied Chairman
Reyes and his delegation to a meeting with Reyes's Argentine
counterpart, Deputy Stella Maris Cordoba, Chairperson of the
Joint Committee on Oversight of Intelligence Agencies. The
meeting was held in the committee's conference room at the
National Congress and was also attended by the Vice Chairman
of the Oversight Committee, Deputy Oscar Rodriguez, as well
as members of the committee staff.

8. Deputy Cordoba gave a briefing on the structure and
responsibilities of her committee, as well as a brief history
of the committee's establishment, which was first mandated in
2002 but was not formed until 2003. Deputy Cordoba claimed
that Argentina was the first Latin American country to form
an intelligence oversight committee within its legislature
with real powers. She provided an outline of the committee's
bicameral composition, made up of seven senators and seven
deputies, selected proportionally based on party
representation in the Congress. Deputy Cordoba commented
that the committee had modeled itself after its Western
counterparts, which they had closely studied via
consultations with members of the intelligence committees in
the U.S. and Europe, and that they incorporated several
features found in other Western countries, such as term
limits for members, intelligence budget oversight and
control, and the ability to call hearings on specific issues
that compelled officials from the intelligence agencies to
testify.

9. An interesting feature of the Argentine intelligence
oversight committee is the role of "national ombudsman,"
which allows private citizens to seek redress from abuses by
the intelligence agencies via the committee. Deputy Cordoba
outlined that the overall function of the committee was
heavily influenced by the Argentine experience of
intelligence abuses during the "Dirty War," which continues
to provoke heavy distrust within the Argentine public today.

10. Chairman Reyes remarked positively on the strides
Argentina had made in instituting legislative oversight on
its intelligence agencies, and particularly its focus on
preventing future abuses. In light of the previous Argentine
visit with the U.S. Congress in 2004, Chairman Reyes extended
another invitation to Deputy Cordoba and her committee to
meet with HPSCI in Washington in 2008. Chairman Reyes and
Deputy Cordoba also briefly discussed the possibility of
conducting staff exchanges so that both countries could learn
from each.

11. As the meeting concluded, the Ambassador raised with
Deputy Cordoba the status of legislation on the Trafficking
in Persons (TIP), which Deputy Cordoba has been spearheading.
Deputy Cordoba noted that the Argentine Senate had approved
its version of the legislation but that the Chamber of
Deputies has not reached a similar agreement, and as such,
while Argentina remained committed to passing legislation on
the issue, it would have to wait until the next legislative
session in early 2008. She said she believed a number of the
new committee chairs would favor her more comprehensive TIP
legislation when the Chamber reconvenes in March.

PRESS RELEASE
-------------

12. The codel visit was viewed very positively by Argentine
interlocutors and set an excellent basis for further
cooperation in the future. The Embassy issued November 30 a
press release (available on its website) noting that Codel
Reyes had called on Vice President Scioli, President of the
Chamber of Deputies Balestrini, and with Deputy Cordoba and
her Joint Committee on Intelligence Oversight. The press
release noted that the codel's meetings covered issues
related to congressional oversight of intelligence activities
and border security, and that the meetings reviewed the
bilateral cooperation agenda in these areas.

13. The codel did not have the opportunity to clear this
message before departure.
WAYNE

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