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International Conference „Need to Know IV. What We Now Know about Secret Services in the Cold War. A State of Affairs 25 Years after 1989” – Leuven (Belgium), 23–24 October 2014
International Conference „Need to Know IV. What We Now Know about Secret Services in the Cold War. A State of Affairs 25 Years after 1989" – Leuven (Belgium), 23–24 October 2014
Intelligence services make headlines. An increasing number of scandals and revelations demonstrate that they have been more active than one has thought. The NSA did not only spy on its enemies, but also on US allies. It monitored millions of people by reading their correspondence and eavesdropping on their conversations. Unfortunately, systematic and scholarly research of these activities is impossible. We can only rely on random data that leak sporadically. They do not allow to paint a complete picture of intelligence services' activities, focuses, results, and impact.
However, we do dispose of archival sources of modern intelligence services. After the fall of the Iron Curtain several former communist countries declassified their state security's archives. Over the last decades, this has led to a daunting number of studies on a wide variety of aspects related to the Cold War, communist regimes, dissident movements, transnational contact between East and West, etc.
The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is an appropriate moment to make up a balance sheet and to reflect on the general conclusions the analysis of these archives has led to. What have these sources taught us? To what extent and in which ways did security services change the course of history? Have they appeared as omnipresent and efficient as they are usually deemed to be? What do the archives tell us about Western intelligence services?
The conference was organized by the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation, the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), the Center for Cold War Studies of the University of Southern Denmark, and the Baltic Intelligence and Security Studies Association.
The "Need to Know" conferences were founded in 2011 and since then they have taken place annually. The focus of the conferences is on foreign intelligence and they invite scholars of intelligence studies as well as former practioners to an interdisciplinary discussion of historical, current and methodological questions within the field. Intelligence studies have benefitted greatly from the opening of archives in Central Europe and it is the result of this research in particular, that has been presented on the conferences. The conferences have established themselves as an important meeting place for scholars from Europe, the US, Canada and Russia.
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