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Archives as Instruments of Power and as Manifestations of the Hidden Heart of Power

The discussion surrounding the management of state secrets and archives in contexts of political power is a complex and nuanced topic. In 1985, the former Italian Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini highlighted how the state secret has sometimes been used to cover serious deviations in the information and security services, rather than to protect legitimate national interests. Spadolini suggested that the real manipulators of the system do not operate in a theatrical or obvious manner, but rather through hidden and subtle methods. History has shown how the management of archives has been a key tool for maintaining secrecy and power, especially in contexts where the principles of the Enlightenment and democratic transparency have sought to make power more accountable to citizens.

However, the control of archives has allowed those in power to manipulate, hide, or destroy compromising documents. In her essay published by Einaudi titled “Secrets and Gaps: The Massacres between Secret Services, Judiciary and Government,” Tobagi highlights various tools used to protect the internal dynamics of power: orality, the management of documents outside official circuits, the destruction of documents, the withholding or denial of compromising documents, the loss of parts of the archive, and organizational disorder.

Appropriately, the author mentions various Italian historical examples that illustrate the use of these tools, such as the archives of Giulio Andreotti, Licio Gelli, Bettino Craxi, Umberto Federico d’Amato, and those of the secret service colonel Cogliandro, among others. These cases demonstrate how, in certain contexts, archives can be transformed from repositories of knowledge into tools of power, used to conceal the truth rather than reveal it.

In summary, Tobagi emphasizes the importance of the role of archives and the management of state secrets in political history, highlighting how these practices can be used not only for national security purposes but also to protect personal or political interests, often at the expense of transparency and democratic accountability.

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