This story is so strange that I have to do my usual high octane speculations about it. Ms. K.B. and Mr. V.T. and Mr. F.L.M. all shared this story, and with all the strangeness going on in the southern hemisphere, from missing Argentine submarines to Israelis buying up land in Patagonia and Terra del Fuego, I have to wonder just what is going on. Here's the two versions of the story, though we'll be concentrating on The Guardian's version for reasons that will become apparent:
Now, if one looks at the Guardian's version of this story, a number of questions arise:
Thousands of government papers detailing some of the most controversial episodes in 20th-century British history have vanished after civil servants removed them from the country’s National Archives and then reported them as lost.
Documents concerning the Falklands war, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the infamous Zinoviev letter – in which MI6 officers plotted to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government - are all said to have been misplaced.
Other missing files concern the British colonial administration in Palestine, tests on polio vaccines and long-running territorial disputes between the UK and Argentina.
Almost 1,000 files, each thought to contain dozens of papers, are affected. In most instances the entire file is said to have been mislaid after being removed from public view at the archives and taken back to Whitehall. (Emphasis added)
Shades of the JFK files... If you're like me, any time a government reports that it is missing files, it means that said government, for whatever reason, is hiding something. The idea of simply "losing" or mislaying files doesn't wash in my book. But then the story takes a weird twist:
The Foreign Office subsequently told the National Archives that the papers taken were nowhere to be found.
After being questioned by the Guardian, it said it had managed to locate most of the papers and return them to the archives. A couple, however, are still missing. The FO declined to say why it had taken the papers, or whether it had copies.
Other files the National Archives has listed as “misplaced while on loan to government department” include one concerning the activities of the Communist party of Great Britain at the height of the cold war; another detailing the way in which the British government took possession of Russian government funds held in British banks after the 1917 revolution; an assessment for government ministers on the security situation in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s; and three files about defence agreements between the UK and newly independent Malaya in the late 1950s, shortly before the two countries went to war with Indonesia.
The disappearances highlight the ease with which government departments can commandeer official papers long after they have been declassified and made available to historians and the public at the archives at Kew, south-west London. (Emphasis added)
In other words, these files were already public, and then removed from view, and most of them then returned.
Given the recurrence of references to "territorial disputes with Argentina", the Falklands war, and British administration, I cannot help but wonder if this sudden "removal and return" might somehow be related to the strange story that emerged at the end of last year about Israeli real estate purchases in southern Argentina, the missing Argentine submarine, and so on. Why remove and then return documents? Something must have caused some concerns, and of all the things being listed, the Argentine aspect of the documents missing seems to be a thread winding through it all. Indeed, if one were concerned that some sensitive detail might have escaped the censors vetting documents for declassification, one might create false leads and trails by removing documents relating to Zinoviev, or Northern Ireland, and so on. (The confiscation and seizure of Russian assets after the Bolshevik revolution - given the current state of emerging financial warfare between the West and that country, does have relevance.) Given the associations of southern Argentina with prominent post-war Nazi installations in that part of that country, the visits of US presidents to the same region, the presence of the Chinese there, Israel's presence there raises eyebrows, and surely would cause British intelligence and security to make "discrete inquiries".
This may be, of course, a "nothing story," but documents are not removed, and then partially returned, with some reason. My bet is that it has something to do with what is going on down there, and with some very old stories dating from the end of the war, and possibly with missing Argentine submarines and new Israeli real estate interests in the region.
See you on the flip side...