zaterdag 19 maart 2011

Macht, archiefvorming en archieven

Ik zit een beetje in de Amerikaanse archieven de afgelopen weken. Deze keer niet over Oswald en de CIA, maar over 9/11 en het archief.
David Wallace en Lance Stutchell schreven een bijzonder interessant artikel over het archief van de 9/11-commission: Understanding the 9/11 Commission Archive: Control, Access, and the Politics of Manipulation (pdf).
This article examines a range of issues surrounding the archive developed by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known and the “9/11 Commission.” We provide a partial biography of the 9/11 Commission’s archival record as it was being assembled. This contemporaneous analysis of the politics surrounding this archive during its formative stage lends insights into the political and power dynamics shaping this archive. We review how the public record and public knowledge of 9/11 was shaped by the processes surrounding the accretion of this archive by charting records access and control controversies before, during, and years after the Commission submitted its final report. Despite claims from all sides that what was needed was an unfiltered, non-partisan and accurate review of what went wrong and how it went wrong, the story we outline underscores that the composition, accumulation, access to, and control of the archival record surrounding 9/11 is shaped as much by political concerns over blame and responsibility (and evading it) as it is by good faith efforts to get to the heart of the matter. In the charged atmospherics of modern US politics, custodial power over the record and access to it was used to prevent political embarrassment and to submerge - as opposed to surface - basic facts. Those with powers over access were not willing to risk having the documentary record either accessed or analyzed in a truly independent manner. This does not bode well, and in fact represents a deeper structural reality that will confound similar future governmental investigations that require access from those it is investigating. There is no reason to doubt that, absent a seismic shift in how the record is maintained and controlled, the archive will continue to be used as a means to shape and interfere with legitimate inquiries.
In het artikel gaan Wallace en Sutchell uitgebreid in op de strijd die de commissie moest voeren met onder andere het Witte Huis, NORAD en nog zo wat instanties over toegang tot archieven. Heel interessant, maar  nu beperk ik me tot een fijne anekdote uit het artikel over fysieke manipulatie (en diefstal) van archieven.
In 2005 werd Sandy Berger, de vroegere National Security Adviser van president Clinton, veroordeeld wegens "“unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents….to stuffing copies of documents in his coat jacket as he left the National Archives and then destroying some at his office and pretending he had never possessed them”
A National Archives staff member had seen Berger in a hallway with what appeared to be papers tucked into his socks and showing from his pants leg. On his fourth and final visit on October 2, 2003, the Archives staff decided to test their suspicions, in part by lightly numbering the back of documents provided to him, where any absence would be readily identifiable afterwards. During this visit Berger stole four additional copies of the Clarke after-action assessment plus his notes. An Archives staffer working with him reported feeling “almost physically ill” after documenting the theft.
In dit verhaal gaan de medewerkers van NARA trouwens ook niet vrijuit:
One elemental insight from this episode on the relationship between power and archives was the fact that Berger had, in violation of “government rules on the handling of classified documents,” been given preferential treatment by Archives staff due to his status. In violation of its own regulations the Archives allowed Berger to perform his review in the office of a high level archivist who oversaw White House records. Archives staff had also allowed themselves to be manipulated by Berger by allowing him to be alone with the classified information provided to him – also a violation. Commission chronicler Philip Shenon noted that, instead, he:
"should have been monitored by a guard or a surveillance camera. He should have been forced to leave his cell phone behind. But the Archives had long made exceptions to former senior officials like Berger. He might be out of government now, but the Archives staff knew that in Washington’s revolving door, Berger was likely to be back in power in a future Democrat[ic] administration… and able to make trouble for the Archives and its budget requests. [Better to k]eep him comfortable. Keep him happy." (Shenon 2008, pp. 3-4)
Al met al is het artikel van Wallace en Stutchel met 46 pagina's redelijk lang, maar als je wil lezen over de relatie tussen macht, archieven en "de waarheid" is het zeer de moeite waard.
Zijn er nog studenten Archiefwetenschap op zoek naar een scriptie onderwerp? Volgens mij zijn er wel vergelijkbare Nederlandse archieven die het bestuderen waard zijn...

Falling man - Don Delillo
Diefstal in het Stadsarchief
Een dagje Den Haag
Over de openbaarheid van een inspectierapportage
Top Secret America

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