Row flares as former dissident puts secret police databases on the web

Stanislav Penc, zdroj: Lidové noviny, 7.7.2009

A new row has blown up over the treatment of the Czechoslovak secret police files. This time a former anti-communist dissident says he will take the step of publishing what he describes as crucial computerised databases on around 100,000 people who had dealings with the secret police. He says he has taken the step because the official state guardian of the police records would not do so.

Stanislav Penc,  photo: Lidové noviny,  7. 7. 2009
Former dissident Stanislav Penc says he will publish two secret police or StB computerised databases put together during the Communist regime’s dying days in 1989 on a webpage on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr Penc says they contain the names of around 100,000 people who were agents of the secret police, cooperated with them or were approached by them. As such, he says they represent a unique source of material for both the general public and historical researchers and are a short cut compared with the official procedures for getting at such information.

“These are lists of most of the people that the secret police had dealings with for whatever reasons. These are basically a collection where you can find all of this. That is what is new about this”

Mr Penc maintains that the scope of the database marks it out from previous non-official lists of police agents and adds that it is a useful one-stop source for finding out what the secret police were up to and who they were targeting.

He says he has been forced to take the step of publishing the databases himself because the state archive managed by the recently created Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes refused point blank to do so.

Nearly 20 years after the Velvet Revolution toppled the Communist regime, Penc says it is about time that the fullest information is made public so that suspicions of collaboration are cleared up and blackmail prevented.

“The information on the databases should have been made public so that researchers and the general public knew just what was on the secret police files. This did not happen in spite of the calls and demands. This is the reason we decided to make the information public.”

Mr Penc adds that he suspects that some people at the troubled state institute prefer to guard a monopoly over the information held in the secret police files rather than releasing it.

The security archive and institute started operating in February 2008 as a single source for police and military intelligence files and were charged with processing the material and helping put it in the public domain. They do not question the authenticity of the databases. But they say they contain many mistakes and in any case the original material they are based on is already made available.