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Secret Services, Archives, and the Dark Dimension of Democracy.

It’s challenging to dispute the importance of the final part of Benedetta Tobagi’s essay, published by Einaudi under the title “Secrets and Gaps.” The conclusion explores specific aspects, beginning with the difficulties faced by researchers and journalists in working with declassified documents about Italy’s dark period known as “the season of massacres.” The author highlights the inefficacy of declassification, noting how much of the declassified documentation was incomplete, often consisting of copies of already-known documents like court records or information from judicial investigations. Tobagi also emphasizes the challenges at the Central State Archive, where she experienced a sense of alienation similar to that described by judge Leonardo Grassi, who investigated the Italicus massacre. She notes that the Secret Service seemed to have omitted an entire historical phase, filling files mainly with material already available through judicial channels.

Another aspect Tobagi underlines is the handling of files on compromised individuals, where files were updated only after these individuals’ names emerged in trials. She points out the technique of making “event-based” deposits rather than providing complete documentation blocks, fragmenting archival series and compromising the comprehensibility and interpretation of the documents. This illustrates how, despite announcements of full disclosure by Marco Minniti, the disappointing results were predictable given the intelligence archives’ management methods. Tobagi highlights a deceptive attitude by the secret services, who claimed to have provided all relevant material but were then contradicted.

The absence of democratic control becomes evident: while the producing entity (the secret services) maintains complete control over the archives and autonomously decides what to declassify, every hope of post-event democratic control by institutions, investigative journalism, and historical research is nullified. The comparison established with the “armadio della vergogna” (closet of shame) is significant, paralleling the situation encountered by the author of the essay with Paolo Pezzino’s revelation about the concealment of papers on Nazi-fascist massacres, highlighting a persistent lack of transparency and access to important documents for Italian history.

In conclusion, Tobagi questions the sincerity and effectiveness of the declassification and transparency efforts in Italian intelligence services, stressing how these practices negatively impact historical understanding and the search for truth in critical periods of the country’s history.

The second aspect emerging in the essay’s conclusion is the difficulties historians and researchers face in reconstructing terrorism and criminality events in Italy, especially during the “season of massacres,” due to the limited accessibility and opaque management of archives. This includes the challenge of accessing archives from intelligence, the armed forces, and the Carabinieri, which are non-transparent and not obliged to share documents with the Central State Archive, severely limiting the study of phenomena like the 1970s terrorism. Despite the introduction of the Italian Freedom of Information Act in 2016, significant obstacles persist, including the requirement to specify the content of documents in detail, which is often impossible without precise inventory of archives.

Unlike the United States, where classified documents are indicated, Italy often lacks detailed inventories, making it difficult even to know what to request. Examples cited by the author include the inability to access documents on the Parliamentary Commission for Accusation Procedures, the Inquiry Commission on the case of Michele Sindona, and other important historical events. The fragmentation of archives and their autonomous management by producing entities further complicates the situation, highlighting a culture of non-transparency. The complex and contradictory archival legislation in Italy often provides formal but fictitious justifications for keeping archives closed, and the extremely long times for transferring archives further limit access to historical archives.

The third aspect in the conclusion relates to these transparency issues in archives, inevitably leading to negative consequences for the historical reconstruction of events related to terrorism, and the countermeasures implemented by the Italian state. The difficulty in accessing archives, including those of the intelligence and the armed forces, poses a significant challenge in studying key documents, such as those related to anti-terrorism activities in the 1970s. Even with the Italian “Foia” introduced in 2016, significant obstacles remain, including the lack of detailed archives inventories, inadequate mapping of document funds, and a lack of transparency culture. Even archives not strictly related to national security, like those of the Chamber of Deputies, often pose significant barriers to access, cloaking documents under the guise of “secrecy.”

Finally, the fourth aspect highlighted is the limited and generic acknowledgment by the Presidency of the Republic of the gravity of misdirection in investigations related to the massacres and terrorism in Italy. This creates a nebula around historical events, making it difficult to fully understand the facts and responsibilities. The author particularly refers to the ties between security services and organized crime, especially the role of Sisde, citing testimonies suggesting the secret services’ involvement in violence attributed to Cosa Nostra, revealing an intertwining of political, criminal, and institutional interests. This phenomenon is not described as a state fight against the mafia but rather as an internal conflict within Italian institutions, where different factions and interests

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