III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

IV Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 15-19 de diciembre de 2010


Ponencias aceptadas


Mesa A. El siglo de Obama

Thomas P. Wilkinson (University of Applied Sciences, Cologne, Germany)

Disclosure and deceit Secrecy as the manipulation of history, not its concealment


The declassification of official secrets is often seen as either a challenge or a prerequisite for obtaining accurate data on the history of political and economic events. Yet at the same time high government officials have gone on record suggesting if not outright declaring that their policy has been "plausible deniability". Official US government policy for example is never to acknowledge or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere its forces are deployed, esp. its naval forces.

The British government has a special law governing "Official Secrets" whereby the legitimate scope of the law is not uncontested. When the so-called "Wikileaks" site was launched and attained notoriety for publication of infamous actions by US Forces in Afghanistan, this platform was heralded and condemned for its disclosures and exposures.The question remains both for the professional historian as well as other investigators-- and it should be said-- educated citizens, what is the real value of disclosures or declassification? Does disclosure or declassification constitute proof, and if so by what criteria?

Both facts and non-facts can be concealed or disclosed. However, their historical significance-- whether past or immediate-- is not self-defining. The release or exposure of a document is often viewed as an event in itself. The event comprises the content of the document and perhaps information about its presumed author(s) as well as the purpose for which it was ostensibly produced. Can that data be taken at face value? What considerations should be given when evaluating the document? Ultimately however there remain two questions does the secret document (now public) really constitute the "secret"? What is the "secret" to which the document actually refers?

What constitutes "secrecy" in history? Is secrecy the difference between the known and unknown or the known and untold?

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