Timerman Briefing Book Project
Building on a collaboration with Southern Cone Specialist, Carlos Osorio, in the Spring of 2009, students worked to compile a Briefing Book using declassified documents related to Argentine journalist Jacobo Timerman’s detention during the last Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983). Granted electronic access to the Archive’s holdings, students researched hundreds of documents both better to understand this history and to select those documents that most clearly helped transmit it. Having chosen those documents that most clearly revealed the Timerman story, they compiled short summaries of each one and collaboratively authored a first draft of the Briefing Book’s introduction.
This particular case study was chosen for a number of reasons: on 25 September 2009 is the thirty-year anniversary of his release from detention and expulsion from Argentina; upon its publication in 1982, Timerman’s book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number helped to bring worldwide attention to the human rights situation in Argentina; and it was largely through the Timerman case that the Carter administration defined its human rights agenda. Much of this story has been gathered together for the first time in the Timerman Briefing Book published this week on the National Security Archive website.
In the course of doing this research, the internship class decided to reach out to the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria in La Plata, Argentina, where William and Mary has a semester-long study abroad program. Students believed that much of the history they were trying to understand through a U.S. lens could be better understood if they were able to see what Argentine State documents revealed. Moreover, because a large part of Timerman’s detention took place in La Plata, it was reasonable to seek additional information in the Archive holding the Provincial Police Intelligence records related to this case. The Archive’s coordinator, Laura Lenci, responded to our request for collaboration with great enthusiasm, immediately integrating two William and Mary students into an internship experience to produce a parallel Briefing Book using the Argentine documents found in the Archivo.
One of the assignments students completed in the course of doing their research was a case chronology or time-line detailing important moments in the Timerman story, and indicating where in the official record these events were documented. The chronology we publish here today, in both English and Spanish, is the result of this collaboration, and benefited from extensive fact checking courtesy of Prof. Konefal’s Fall 2009 National Security Internship class. Many of the documents cited here can be found in the Briefing Books published simultaneously by the National Security Archive and the Archivo de la DIPBA, Comisión Provincial por la Memoria.
It is our hope that the chronology and the Briefing Books will be of interest to human rights scholars of all disciplines, as well as to the general public. It is with great pride that we present to the public the results of this collaboration, which brings together three institutions for the first time: the College of William and Mary, the National Security Archive, and the Archivo de la DIPBA, Comisión Provincial por la Memoria. And it is particularly gratifying to know that the College has played a small part in making this collaboration possible.
Class of 2011 Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies
The College of William and Mary