Founded in 1970, the Council for European Studies (CES) is the leading academic organization for the study of Europe. The Council promotes and recognizes outstanding, multidisciplinary research in European Studies through a range of programs, including conferences, publications, and awards. The 2010 conference takes place in Montreal. For more details, please visit: http://www.ces.columbia.edu. Our panel discusses the role of the civil society in transitional justice. I’m talking about non-state initiatives to publicly unmask the names of former communist-era secret agents.
My talk was the first to examine a number of unofficial secret agents public identification initiatives that have taken place in the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, and Poland, and contrasted them with official initiatives undertaken by state agencies in those countries. While official efforts to unmask former communist-era secret agents have been plague by legal problems, leading to the public identification of only a handful of such individuals in each of these Eastern European countries, unofficial initiatives have completely ignored the morality of disclosing such sensitive information in the absence of corroborating information from a variety of sources, notifying the named individuals to give them a chance to tell their side of the story, and even clearly distinguishing between agents and their victims. The reasons why the vigilanti chose to make public long lists of names related to the communist-era secret services, the legal consequences of such actions, and the tortuous road the information traveled from the secret archives to the public domain were all investigated in my presentation.