A recent real estate scandal brought Mt. Athos, or Holy Mountain, an autonomous part of Greece, and one of the last theocratic states, back into the spotlight of the main stream media. Yet, the validity of Ottoman land titles and the political connections of the 20 monasteries that include visits from Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin, are not the only controversies associated with the Byzantine community.
As it is often pointed out briefly in wire reports and newspaper articles discussing the World Heritage site, women, and most female animals have been barred from entering the peninsula for over 1000 years. Men may apply for a visa, at a fee of 25 Euros. Yet, this restriction does not only affect visitors wishing to visit the monasteries for spiritual recreation.
In effect, it bars women from conducting research on the monasteries themselves and the artifacts they hold, for instance Byzantine icons and vast library collections. At present, these items are only accessible on photographs, which may or may not be provided, in varying quality. A first hand inspection of the artifact, which would be required for scholarly publications, is per se not possible. There are no mechanisms in place that would grant access to the originals for all researchers in a pragmatic manner while preserving the rules of the monasteries, e.g. by temporary transfer to the mainland.
This policy is in clear violation of a 2003 EU parliament resolution on "basic rights":
"The European Parliament,...
“Under this plan, the decoy docs would undermine hackers’ trust in the integrity of data, make them question whether releasing it in the public domain would be worth it, and force WikiLeakers to do more work verifying their authenticity.” - Dawn Lim, ‘Darpa’s Plan to Trap the Next WikiLeaker: Decoy Documents’ Wired, November 4, 2011.
The recent revelations of work by DARPA to plant fake documents in official systems to put off or trick potential whistleblowers and the publishers who work with them is the latest in the US Government’s series of reactions to the work of WikiLeaks, including the recent issue of an Executive Order tightening procedures around the classification of government information, enabling administrators to quickly remove suspected whistleblowers from duty and establishing an Information Security Oversight Office within the National Archives and Records Administration with powers to monitor and enforce the Executive Order’s directives.
There are a number of tactics at work with the DARPA proposal: the identification and monitoring of anyone who accesses the decoy documents, the planting of seeds of uncertainty in the minds of potential whistleblowers as to the authenticity of the documents, and making it more difficult for a publisher to feel confident about the release of the leaked documents while increasing the efforts they need to go to to verify the documents’ authenticity.
“On March 25, Human Rights Ombudsman Sergio Morales' wife, Gladys Monterroso, was abducted by unknown assailants and released some 15 hours later after she was beaten and raped. Early indications suggested that the kidnapping may have been intended to intimidate Morales into backing off of his efforts to highlight and investigate human rights violations committed during Guatemala's internal conflict. Specifically, the attack could have been designed to stop him from making public sensitive records from the Historic National Police Archives. This potential link led the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to take on the investigation.”
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
This story has continued, with, fortunately, very positive results. And it reveals much to us about the nature of evidence en masse – how large collections of records can be necessary if we are to fully understand the systems and governance that supports the actions of abusive or just societies.
Having discovered this trove of police records in 2005, Guatemalan human rights investigators established the Project to Recover the Historic Archives of the National Police. The project had, by October 2009, digitised eight million documents from the archive, and cleaned and organized another four million.
A 2001 cable discusses the potential release of archive material on a highly sensitive topic, the dealings of Eugenio Pacelli, later pope Pius XII, during Second World War. This cable (01VATICAN4258) was first published in a redacted form by the Guardian. Its full text was later on released by Wikileaks. Both versions can be accessed here.
The cable describes a meeting between embassy staff and Peter Gumpel, SJ the keeper of the archive, to discuss a way forward, so that the existing material could be released without delay, while maintaining a "positive, productive dialogue".
According to the cable, Gumpel responded:
"GUMPEL IMMEDIATELY ADVISED THAT THE ISSUE OF ACCESS TO THE VATICAN ARCHIVES RELATED TO THE WORLD WAR II ERA WAS SIMPLY AN INTERNAL MATTER OF PROCEDURE AND NOT A POLITICAL ONE."
The following passage was redacted by the Guardian. According to the full Cablegate archive, it went on to say:
"ALTHOUGH LATER HE ADMITTED THAT IT HAD BEEN TURNED INTO A POLITICAL ISSUE THROUGH A DISTORTION OF FACTS RELATED TO THE WORKINGS OF A JEWISH-VATICAN COMMISSION STUDYING PIUS XII'S ROLE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. GUMPEL PROFFERED COPIES OF HIS STATEMENT, WRITTEN WITH AUTHORIZATION FROM THE HIGHEST LEVELS WITHIN THE VATICAN HIERARCHY, COUNTERING "FALSE" ASSERTIONS BY UNNAMED MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION, AS WELL AS A STATEMENT PREPARED BY CARDINAL WILLIAM KEELER OF BALTIMORE, THE U.S. BISHOPS DELEGATE FOR CATHOLIC-JEWISH AFFAIRS, WHO DID NAME NAMES."
In the following, a passage describing this "political issue" has also been removed:
The records continuum model was developed by Monash University’s Frank Upward in the mid 1990s as a way of expressing the many recordkeeping processes that occur in society and the contingencies inherent in them. It explains the way in which records are made, organised, shared and used in a variety of times, places and contexts under the influence of changing legal, political and practical constraints. It has been written on extensively, and there are some references included below, so I do not propose to expand on it in detail here.
My reason for introducing it is that as the events of CableGate 2 unfolded over the last couple of weeks I was struck with the way in which the expanded possibilities for use, sharing and reclaiming records we have seen with the cables release have demonstrated what, in continuum terms, is labelled ‘Fourth dimension’ recordkeeping; that is, the formation of a pluralised archive which exists beyond spatial and temporal boundaries, transcends state and economic controls and which actually encourages and incorporates people’s participation and comment. An archive which reflects a truer, less filtered and more inclusive perspective on the events documented in the records.
The qualities that set CableGate 2 apart from traditional archives and even from prior releases by WikiLeaks, making it a truly ‘Fourth dimensional’ archive, are essentially about participation and plurality.
- Bruno Latour, Visualization and Congnition: thinking with eyes and hands, Knowledge and Society, 1986.
We take for granted that there exist, somewhere in society, macro-actors that naturally dominate the scene... The problem is that these entities could not exist at all without the construction of long networks in which numerous faithful records circulate in both directions, records which are, in turn, summarized and displayed to convince.
- Julian Assange, ‘State and Terrorist Conspiracies’, iq.org, November 10, 2006.
Authoritarian regimes give rise to forces which oppose them by pushing against the individual and collective will to freedom, truth and self realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce resistance. Hence these plans are concealed by successful authoritarian powers. This is enough to define their behaviour as conspiratorial.
Recordkeeping and power are inextricably bound together. The act of making a record and how it is kept can shape the current and future reality for an individual or group - in some cases to oppress or control, in some to liberate. This was strikingly evident in the stories emerging from WikiLeaks’ latest batches of cable releases where they touched on recordkeeping and archives.
Here are nation states choosing to open or restore the archive in pursuit of more open societies, while others seek to close or corrupt it - their actions correlating closely with the extent to which they exert oppressive and unjust power over the citizenry. We see these macro-actors using Latour’s ‘long networks’ of recordkeeping to propagandise their oppressive practices, or indeed to strike agreements with other states or the remnants of former police or security organisations on the management and protection of records and archives, in pursuit of Assange’s concept of concealed, conspiratorial plans. Here are a few examples.