Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. Policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive.
Doyle is the director of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive (NSA), a nonprofit organization affiliated with George Washington University in Washington, DC. The NSA uses Freedom of Information Act requests to reconstruct the historical record around U.S. foreign policy and national security issues. Because U.S. archives tend to be more open and accessible than the archives of Latin America, and because of U.S. longstanding support for the region’s militaries, U.S. archives sometimes constitute a sole source of information about Latin America’s Cold War history of political repression and state terror. The discovery in Guatemala of the National Police Archives was an important exception to the rule. She and other human rights investigators can triangulate U.S. declassified documents, newly emerged Guatemalan National Police records, and the forensic work carried out by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation. Doyle perceives a broad shift in the human rights work she does in Latin America, one that places more emphasis on the forensics paradigm, where an abuse is considered a crime as well as a violation of human rights. Here she is highlighting the classic notion of forensic as having to do with court investigations and prosecutions. With that as a premise, she went on to flag some of the challenges it presents.
We all have great expectations for the technologies that have been highlighted at the conference. But she pointed out that it can take a long time for these technologies to filter into the field. It is also important to protect the analog (such as hand written notes), as Stefan Schmitt noted elsewhere. Digitized records require constant upkeep because of formatting changes. Technology might also change an investigator’s relationship to victims. There is the possibility that family members, for example, will not accept DNA evidence. There is also the need to train human rights advocates and court workers in these new technologies. This is something that both AAAS and the Berkley Human Rights Center do. Finally, Doyle, mentioned Kathryn Sikkink’s point about the deliberate suppression of information, noting that she would add the deliberate manipulation of information. The NSA finds this all the time, including instances of fabricated documents. These are all issues that should be flagged.