Features Access granted: archives open for researcher

On June 24, 2010 Regeringsrätten, Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court, reached a verdict, marking a victory for Professor Birgitta Almgren’s research. Both the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal had rejected Professor Almgren's request to obtain the classified documents from the GDR's foreign espionage that the CIA sent to Säpo.

Published on balticworlds.com on augusti 26, 2010

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On June 24, 2010 Regeringsrätten, Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court, reached a verdict, marking a victory for Professor Birgitta Almgren’s research. After analyzing German Nazi infiltration of Sweden in Drömmen om Norden [The Dream of the Nordic Region, 2005], her current project, Inte bara Stasi [Not just Stasi…, 2009], which is funded by the Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, deals with Sweden and the GDR. Both the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and the Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeal had rejected Professor Almgren’s request to obtain the classified documents from the GDR’s foreign espionage that the CIA sent to Säpo.

The dossier, known as the Rosenholz file, contains information about Swedish agents, unofficial collaborators who signed contracts with the East German security service (Stasi). But the Supreme Administrative Court decision went against Säpo and the Administrative Court of Appeal, reprimanding them while granting her access on condition that she maintain strict confidentiality (chapter 18, § 2 of the Swedish Official Secrets Act 2009:400).

In her petition, Almgren stressed that knowledge of Sweden’s relations with the GDR is of paramount importance and of great public interest, especially with respect to Swedish actions in relation to dictatorships today. It would be regrettable if serious scientific research that can shed light on these relationships were blocked. The European Parliament has adopted a resolution (2./4 2009) in which it criticizes member states for persisting in maintaining classified status for documents after the collapse of the communist countries, and therefore calls on these states to open their archives to researchers.

Professor Almgren’s research analyzes how dictatorships work, the role of language in infiltrating an open democratic society – still a highly topical issue today. She has already accessed the documents in Berlin about the German agents who operated in Sweden. She intends to study this material in relation to the Swedish source material. The Rosenholz file will allow researchers to move on to the Stasi dossiers that contain information about payments, rewards, background checks, and personally signed contracts where the agents provide motivation for cooperating with the Stasi. According to the Supreme Administrative Court ruling, Professor Almgren may therefore have access to the documents with certain restrictions: no documents may be copied, the identity of agents must not be disclosed, and all memos must be destroyed by June 30, 2011 at the latest.

The Court emphasized the desirability of greater transparency in Security Service operations, but the information must be handled with maximum confidentiality. If she discloses information that she ”is duty-bound by …order or provision… to keep secret, ” she may be liable for breach of confidentiality. Despite these restrictions, the Supreme Administrative Court ruling nevertheless is a major step toward greater transparency by opening the archives to researchers.

Read more: an interview with professor Birgitta Almgren and comments on her request to obtain the documents.