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Past for the Eyes

 | 
Oksana Sarkisova
, 
Péter Apor

Documents of Communism: Lost and Found

Communist Secret Services on the Screen

The Duna-gate Scandal in and beyond the Hungarian Media1

Renáta Uitz

Texte intégral

  • 1 The idea of this paper emerged while I was teaching a course with Oksana Sarkisova at CEU, Budapes (...)
  • 2 The Hungarian Roundtable Talks were conducted between the Communist Party, the Opposition Roundtab (...)

1The visual record of Hungary’s transition to democracy is marked with comfortably familiar (if not canonical) images of key events and personalities. No visual representation of the Hungarian transition which takes its topic and itself seriously is complete without the black-and-white film of Imre Nagy, the prime minister of the 1956 revolt, listening to his death sentence, followed by the images of the immense crowd at his reburial ceremony before the catafalque on Heroes’ Square. The story of the Roundtable Talks cannot be presented properly without the requisite images of the Opposition Roundtable meeting in the building of the Law faculty at Eötvös Loránd University.2 Whether the participants (re)presented will include János Kis, László Sólyom, Viktor Orbán or Péter Tölgyessy much depends on the editors’ discretion.

  • 3 Duna-gate was named after Watergate. Duna is the Hungarian name of the river Danube. I decided to (...)

2Over the years a characteristic iconography has developed around all the major traumas, dilemmas, regrets and victories of Hungary’s transition to democracy. In the public debate about these issues rhetorical panels are accompanied by standard visual panels, generating an air of reassuring familiarity. Among the visual accounts which reflect the dilemmas about the fate of the archives of the communist secret services is the footage on the Duna-gate3 scandal shot by the Black Box (Fekete Doboz) crew. This footage contains telltale signs that the communist secret services were deeply engaged in inappropriate and illegal activities following the conclusion of the Roundtable Talks and even after the declaration of the Republic on October 23, 1989. The Black Box crew filmed hard evidence of continuing illegal secret surveillance of the emerging political opposition and events suggesting the destruction of files on the premises of the communist secret police. As preserved in (distorted) public memory, the central image associated with the Duna-gate scandal is that of a giant shredder wiping out the paper trail of the communist regime.

  • 4 Throughout the paper I am using the phrases “communist secret services” and “communist secret poli (...)
  • 5 For an overview, see Béla Révész, “Ellenzékiek megfigyelése a kerekasztal-tárgyalások idején” [Sur (...)
  • 6 Police major-general Horváth, the chief of Subdivison III/III on October 16, 1989 proposed a whole (...)

3For several years afterwards, the short documentary about the “Duna-gate scandal” popped up in the Hungarian media whenever it hosted the hesitant but increasingly intricate public debate about the fate of the personnel and the files of the communist secret police.4 This was a long process, in the course of which not only would the Hungarian polity gradually learn about the compromised past of several public figures who were involved with the secret police, but those who cared to pay attention would also acquire the ability to distinguish between individuals involved in the operations of the security police and thus tell a networker from a rankand-file security police officer. Eventually those who followed all the inquiries and the legal and political developments would also accept that instead of expecting a complete and definitive list of agents to emerge, or waiting for the dossier of a suspected agent to surface, it was better to accept that secret police paperwork broke down into a number of different genres. While there is no such thing as an agent-list, there existed a network roster (hálózati nyilvántartás) and instead of one agent file there are dossiers on enrolling agents (beszervezési dosszié or “Bdosszié), accompanied by personal information sheets (the so-called form no. 6, or “6”-os karton) and agents’ work dossiers (munka dosszié or “Mdosszié). In addition to such documents, the communist secret service regularly produced various types of reports in the course of their activities.5 Whether intricately technical, deeply emotional or simply defamatory, any contribution on secret police personnel, lustration or file access will take note of the fact that the secret police documents preserved and currently available are compromised, as many files are missing. While some of the missing files appear to be available, at least for blackmailing, many are believed to have been destroyed in the last days of the communist regime in a major house-cleaning campaign undertaken at the secret services.6

  • 7 In its broadest sense, lustration is a method of exposing and/or removing former secret service pe (...)

4In this article I will examine how the familiar images of the Duna-gate scandal changed as they accompanied the Hungarian debate about lustration and access to the files of the communist secret police.7 As the years of transition slowly faded into the past, the documentary record bearing the ultimate visual evidence of illegal secret police activities went through a curious transformation before our eyes.

5My article will demonstrate the dilution of the original footage as it was committed to public memory. During the early years the short fragment recorded on the premises of the communist secret services served as the standard illustration of anything to do with lustration. At a curious, tense moment in 2004 fragments of the visual record were merged in the evening news with extraneous fragments which—although they belonged to different events—conformed better to the public memory of Duna-gate. This mélange of images was then used to challenge the credibility of the original recording, sometimes even by individuals whose own identity shifted significantly within the same period. As a result, the once compelling visual evidence of the abuse of governmental power was replaced by far less unsettling images.

6This article tracks the many lives of the original Duna-gate footage in the Hungarian media and beyond. It will discuss how these few minutes of a video journal recorded and edited by the Black Box studio defined the reference points of the story of the communist state security services and how these symbols were transformed among other myths and legends in the making. The analysis follows the Duna-gate footage from the moment when it served as the ultimate visual evidence of the illegal activities of the communist secret police, through the years when it became an indispensable illustration in accounts of Hungary’s transition to democracy, to the point where, due to an unfortunate editorial decision, it appeared as a false collage of itself.

7In January 1990, the Duna-gate scandal was one of the first real shocks to test the durability of the compromises behind the new constitutional arrangements established in the transition to democracy in 1989. The first part of the article introduces the Duna-gate scandal briefly. It is important to point out at once that the scandal was not only the subject of the documentary whose afterlife is to be discussed in the following pages. It was also the key event which started the ongoing legislative effort to manage the files of the communist secret police, first predominantly in the context of lustration, and subsequently in ensuring that both the victims of secret police abuse and researchers obtained meaningful access to whatever was preserved of these files. Since the media-life of the Duna-gate fragment is so intricately tied up with the twists and turns of the lustration and file access saga, the rest of the article will attempt to account for those key events in the political and legislative record which left their mark on the public life of the Duna-gate footage.

8In tracing the somewhat unfortunate career of the original footage my main concern is not the plasticity of visual evidence in the midst of the storms of democratic transition, as one might expect. Instead, I regard the fate of the Duna-gate footage as the best diagnostic tool for exploring the Hungarian context, which has been unable to produce an appropriate lustration law or a legal framework allowing victims and researchers proper access to the preserved files of the communist secret services.

THE DUNA-GATE FOOTAGE AS EVIDENCE OF SECRET POLICE ABUSES

  • 8 Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt), to give it its proper name, co (...)

9In Hungary, the fate of the communist secret services and the future of the files they accumulated in the course of their operations were not settled during the early days of the transition to democracy. It is now known that key figures of the fledgling political opposition had been under secret police surveillance during the last days of the communist regime, and it is suspected that some of them were under surveillance even during the Roundtable Talks. Nevertheless, while the rightful owners wanted their confiscated copies of samizdat literature back, along with the printing press that had also been seized by the authorities, the abolition of the state security services and the opening of their archives was not a key item on the agenda of the dealmakers of the democratic transition in 1989. The Opposition Roundtable pointed out the need for a reorganization of the communist secret services, a suggestion that was rejected both by the Communist Party8 and by the Third Side at the national Roundtable Talks. In the end, the closure of the communist secret services did not become an opposition demand at the Roundtable Talks. The transition to democracy was crowned by the declaration of the Republic on October 23, 1989 and the entry into force of a set of constitutional amendments which introduced the constitutional framework for a multi-party democracy based on constitutionalism and the rule of law.

  • 9 Gábor Fodor later transferred to the Alliance of Free Democrats and remains an active advocate of (...)

10Before the democratic elections in which the freshly formed opposition parties were to compete for the votes of the electorate, as the first newsworthy event of the new year, on January 5, 1990, four prominent opposition figures, Bálint Magyar and Gábor Demszky of the Alliance of Free Democrats, and Gábor Fodor9 and József Szájer of the Alliance of Young Democrats, revealed their recent discovery in a press conference held at the Graffiti cinema. Showing a short film allegedly recorded inside a building of the Interior Ministry, they claimed that the communist secret services were still keeping opposition parties and their members under illegal surveillance and using reports based on this surveillance for their subsequent operations.

11The short, black-and-white film is not too spectacular. First the camera shows steel cupboards which, a whispering male voice explains, are empty, due to the fact that “forty tons of secret documents were destroyed.” Then we see sheets of paper, one saying “Strictly confidential” (Szigorúan titkos) in the top right corner and “Report” (Jelentés) in the middle. From there the camera slowly moves downwards, with a different male voice reading the document aloud. The typed text itself gives an account of various meetings attended by prominent members of the emerging political opposition in late December, 1989.

12These unappealing images, recorded by a shaky hand, served as first hard evidence that the communist secret services had not abandoned their surveillance of the members of the political opposition. In addition, this was the first tape to emerge as proof of the mass destruction of secret police files: the Black Box footage shows images of bags and steel cupboards which a narrator identifies as signs of the mass destruction of documents, explaining that all this is taking place at the Interior Ministry, on the premises of the secret police. It was this tape that unleashed the Duna-gate scandal with plenty of evidence of illegal secret service surveillance, but with not much more than strong hints of the mass destruction of secret police papers.

  • 10 The letter is available in Hungarian in Révész, “Dunagate I” in his note 34.

13After introducing this footage, these leading members of the political opposition demanded the criminal prosecution of key state security officials by the metropolitan chief prosecutor. An hour before the press conference, János Kis and Gábor Fodor of the opposition approached Prime Minister Miklós Németh with a petition demanding an explanation and the instant reorganization of the secret services.10

  • 11 Béla Révész, “Az Ellenzéki Kerekasztal es az állambiztonsági szervek” [The Opposition Roundtable a (...)
  • 12 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka” and Révész, “Dunagate I” in note 48. The investigation of the alleg (...)

14The claim made by the opposition politicians was straightforward. While before the declaration of the Republic on October 23, 1989 one could still explain the surveillance of opposition figures as a sign of the unrelenting communist regime exercising its powers to the utmost, this explanation became inadequate as of that day. The major constitutional revision which had been agreed upon during the Roundtable Talks was now in effect,11 a revision which turned Hungary into a constitutional democracy. As expected, the scandal of Duna-gate exploded when opposition figures discovered that they were under illegal surveillance and decided to use the press to demand the prosecution of those responsible.12

  • 13 Kőszeg (himself a favorite object of surveillance games) was a participant in the Roundtable Talks (...)

15The footage which set the events in motion was recorded in exactly the sort of conspiratorial circumstances that one might expect in a story revolving around the communist secret police. According to the participants’ accounts, on December 25, 1989 Gábor Roszik, an Evangelical pastor and a well-known MP on the opposition side at the time, was approached by a man in the crowd in the middle of an open-air ecumenical service held at Heroes’ Square in Budapest. The man, who was unknown to him, asked to be introduced to a journalist who would be willing to go to the premises of the Ministry of the Interior to report on the misdeeds of the secret police. Roszik directed the mysterious bespectacled man to journalist Zoltán Lovas. Lovas first asked a few key opposition figures, among them Ferenc Kőszeg, for advice about the proposed leak.13

  • 14 Despite the lack of resistance, as Lovas explains, at that time this was a most stressful assignme (...)

16Subsequently, accompanied by a cameraman, Lovas was led by the bespectacled man, Major József Végvári, a state security officer, to one of the buildings of the state security services, exactly as he had been promised on Heroes’ Square. The journalist and the cameraman did not meet any resistance at the secret police premises.14 While they were filming, they were shown a set of documents proving the continuing surveillance of opposition figures after October 23, 1989, and also some signs of the destruction on a massive scale of state security documents.

  • 15 The reports of these investigations were published as an appendix to Révész, “Dunagate III” at www (...)
  • 16 The report of the ad hoc committee is available at Markó, “Állambiztonsági iratok a Történeti Hiva (...)

17In response to the Duna-gate scandal both the Interior Ministry and the outgoing (still communist) Parliament started investigations.15 An ad hoc committee was established in the Interior Ministry to investigate the opposition’s claims and the request for prosecution filed by the opposition in January 1990. In its report, dated January 16, 1990, the committee found the state security service documents accessed by the political opposition to be authentic, and also confirmed that some of the information contained in the reports appearing in the Duna-gate footage could only have been obtained through secret surveillance measures. As the report shows, the central concern of the Interior Ministry’s ad hoc committee was to establish who had ordered the surveillance, upon what legal grounds and for what purpose. This was a particularly challenging task as the secret services’ operational rules stated that once the surveillance of an object was terminated, the order authorizing the surveillance had to be destroyed. The ad hoc committee rejected the contention of the services that surveillance was necessary to protect the leaders of the opposition, and found that the purpose of the surveillance was an inquiry into the plans, activities and connections of the individuals in question.16

  • 17 Act no. 10 of 1990 on the interim regulation of permissions on special surveillance measures and t (...)

18Following the report of the Interior Ministry’s committee, Interior Minister István Horváth ordered the seizure of the files of Subdivision III/III and prohibited further surveillance; on January 18, 1990—five days before his resignation—he ordered the complete winding up of the internal security services and a halt to the destruction of their files. In January, 1990 the outgoing communist Parliament passed an act concerning the interim regulation of the use of surveillance measures17 and on January 31, 1990 a parliamentary committee was set up to investigate the operations of the state security services.

  • 18 The report of the parliamentary committee is available in 29/1990. (III. 13.) OGY határozat a Belü (...)

19The parliamentary committee investigating internal security operations for the outgoing communist Parliament included two members from the opposition: Miklós Tamás Gáspár and József Debreczeni.18 The committee was astonished by the web of secret regulations and internal orders under which the state security services operated. The communist secret services’ last-minute destruction of the files in December 1989 was successful to the extent that the committee was unable to identify exactly which members of the political opposition were under surveillance for how long and on whose orders even after October 23, 1989.

20It seems that the primary source of information on these surveillance activities before the parliamentary committee was a set of daily operative information reports (napi operatív információs jelentés, i.e. documents similar to the ones flagged by opposition politicians in their Duna-gate press conference) and various internal informational reports (tájékoztató jelentések) by the secret services. The parliamentary committee wrongly concluded that the campaign of destruction in December 1989 had almost completely destroyed the files (archives) of subdivision III/III, thus preventing posterity from learning about the ways of the communist regime. The committee established the political responsibility of Minister István Horváth, deputy minister Ferenc Pallagi and police Major-General József Horváth; by then all three had resigned. There seems to be no hint in the committee’s final report about the preservation of the surveillance or other files of Subdivision III/III in the archives of the continuing intelligence services.

21Presenting the findings of the parliamentary committee in the plenary session, Miklós Tamás Gáspár read out the names of those high-ranking politicians who were the recipients of the secret services’ regular reports, copies of which were filmed by Black Box inside the Ministry. He stressed that from the reports themselves it was not obvious that the information they contained had been collected by illegal means. Nonetheless, he suggested that all politicians who were recipients of such reports should resign from political life. In response, Prime Minister Miklós Németh—himself one of the recipients—confirmed that a recipient of the reports could have no idea of how the secret services had gathered the information they contained. Németh went on to flatly reject any calls for his resignation. He explained that in the interests of state security any prime minister would have to rely on the work of the security services, and therefore this whole matter should be left undisturbed. As the immediate consequence of the eruption of the Duna-gate scandal, Major Végvári was suspended, though in the end he was not indicted by the military prosecutor. On January 23, Minister István Horváth resigned. Prime Minister Németh continued to make promises about the reorganization of the secret services in conformity with the rule of law.

  • 19 Interview with “168 óra” [168 hours], a radio talk-show, the interviews of which also appear in a (...)
  • 20 See Appendix “Bizottsági jelentés a BM belső biztonsági szolgálatának tevékenységéről” [Committee (...)
  • 21 Daily operative information reports were a genre of regular reports prepared by the state security (...)
  • 22 The list of recipients was made available recently in “Olvasókör, Politikusok, akik az állambizton (...)

22A few days after the Duna-gate press conference, the deputy interior minister responsible for the secret services, Ferenc Pallagi, in a radio interview flatly denied the surveillance of opposition parties, declaring that he had never before seen the documents exhibited at the Duna-gate press conference. He also submitted, “being fully cognizant of [his] responsibility, that the Minister of the Interior and the Cabinet had never seen these documents, which could only appear in one, internal area of state security.”19 As the parliamentary investigation of 1990 established, however, such daily operative information reports on matters of state security were addressed, among others, to the Minister of the Interior, the Secretary of State and also to the deputy minister responsible for state security (Ferenc Pallagi).20 Deputy minister Pallagi’s denial is typical of the reaction of the contemporary establishment as mirrored in the press. Subsequently it was established that a number of high-ranking political office holders were among the recipients of daily operative information reports even after the declaration of the republic on October 23, 1989.21 The list includes, among others, the temporary President of the Republic (Mátyás Szűrös), the Prime Minister (Miklós Németh), the Minister of State (and aspiring President, Imre Pozsgay), the then-Foreign Minister (and later Prime Minister, 1994–1998, Gyula Horn), the then-Deputy Prime Minister (and later Prime Minister, 2002–2004, Péter Medgyessy).22

  • 23 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka.”
  • 24 On the political forces behind various alterations in the scope of the lustration law in English, (...)

23Today, it is generally agreed that the opposition parties at the time had no idea about the structure and procedures of the state security services. As a result, the opposition’s bargaining position was significantly impaired during the Roundtable Talks. As historian László Varga bitterly remarks, the communist state security services managed to hide even from the eyes of the parliamentary investigation committee.23 After the first democratic elections in the spring of 1990 it became the task of the new Parliament to regulate the fate of these archives, to provide for disclosure of their ties with the communist secret services and to achieve the informational restitution of victims.24 By that time, narratives emphasizing the need for security were deeply imbedded in the public debate on the fate of the personnel and files of the secret services.

THE DUNA-GATE FOOTAGE: THE CANONICAL ILLUSTRATION REFRAMED

  • 25 The most famous ones are the documentary series Rendszerváltó évek [Years of Transition]. See espe (...)
  • 26 The first major portrait film on Major Végvári was made by Black Box in 1989/1990, entitled T.E.D. (...)

24In the early and mid-1990s documentaries and documentary collages on the transition to democracy were in fashion.25 When Duna-gate appeared on screen, it usually accompanied another topos: the portrait of Major József Végvári, the man who had led the Black Box crew towards their fine discovery on the premises of the Interior Ministry.26 According to Végvári’s own account he was so upset, confused and disappointed by the disgraceful practices of the secret police that he could no longer contain himself and decided to turn the tables on the “Firm.” This account was recorded by many cameras in many settings over the years, in television studios when the scandal was still fresh but also in more private settings with Végvári sitting for portrait interviews with documentary filmmakers.

  • 27 This contrast between the layers of the presentation is probably the sharpest in the Black Box int (...)
  • 28 Especially in the documentary film Hős vagy áruló?

25Végvári’s account of the events and his role in the exposure of these malpractices does not change much. In the earliest recordings he appears rather nervous, often speaking in the jargon of the secret police, while the unofficial parts appear in less articulate Hungarian.27 As time passes, he becomes more composed before the camera and his narrative more coherent.28 Nevertheless, there is something unsettling about him. He seems haunted and slightly disturbed.

26The more interviews were conducted, and the more time passed, the less suitable Végvári became as the face associated with the public inquiry into the misdeeds of the communist secret police. More and more participants and commentators began to question the genuineness and sincerity of his efforts to expose the surveillance scandal and the destruction of the secret police files. After a decade it was hard to find anyone familiar with the details of the story who did not believe that Végvári’s efforts were in fact an assignment from his superiors, and that what appears in the films is one of the numerous legends fabricated by the secret services themselves.

  • 29 Not to be confused with Interior Minister István Horváth.
  • 30 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka.”
  • 31 Napzárta, studio round table with György Baló, available in the collage Rendszerváltó évek: Televí (...)

27Police Major-General József Horváth,29 the chief of the internal intelligence unit of the secret police (Subdivision III/III), claims that he was informed of the December 1989 break-in into the premises of the secret police and its consequences not by internal intelligence, but by the television coverage of the press conference in the Graffiti cinema.30 This latter statement may be untrue, but it is not entirely implausible. It reflects the state of utter confusion in which the communist security services existed and operated during the second half of 1989. Indeed, the level of internal confusion in the secret police was not concealed too long even by the Interior Ministry. Tomaj Barsi, the ministerial spokesperson, openly said on a late-night news broadcast in the wake of the Duna-gate scandal that the secret services were trying to adopt a philosophy which suited a “pluralistic constitutional state,” but that the actual practices did not always match this philosophy.31

28Thus, both J. Horváth’s and Végvári’s stories fit an emerging master narrative, irrespective of whether the former, the latter, or neither is telling the truth. The only thing that is clear is that over the years, as the ways of the secret police became more familiar to the public, the portrait of the nervous man with the glasses became less and less appropriate to epitomize the uncovering of the misdeeds of the communist secret services. As time went on, it became increasingly easy to drop the figure of Major Végvári from the pantheon of visual topoi illustrating the never-ending quest for the heritage of the communist secret police. From the early surveillance scandal of 1989 attention shifted to the search for a decent lustration law and proper access to files. This shift happened when grave scandals involving prominent and not-so prominent secret service officers and agents took the media space over from gestures of remembrance and occasional, half-hearted legislative efforts to introduce, and later to reform, legal norms on lustration and file access.

DDEALING WITH SECRET POLICE FILES AMIDST NEW SCANDALS: THE DUNA-GATE FOOTAGE MEETS ITS FATE

  • 32 The lustration law was passed in 1994 as the “Act on Background Checks to be Conducted on Individu (...)
  • 33 Act no. 67 of 2001. This act did not affect the scope of lustration. Instead, it introduced a numb (...)

29This is not the place for a detailed account of all the stages of legislation affecting the fate of the archives of the communist secret police: the following overview will concentrate only on the key events of this saga. In order to understand the Hungarian context it is important to bear in mind that in Hungary the issue of access to the files of the communist secret police was separate from that of lustration. The Duna-gate scandal triggered legislative attempts to expose the former agents of the communist internal secret services, or at least to exclude them from elected office through lustration. The first bill on lustration was passed in 1994, during the last days of the first democratically elected Parliament, setting off an ongoing game of public ping-pong between the Parliament and the Constitutional Court, which seemed to have more or less settled down by 2000.32 Legislation allowing victims and researchers access to the files of the communist secret services and creating the Agency for History (Történeti Hivatal) was adopted as an afterthought, forced upon Parliament by the Constitutional Court. Thanks to legislative amendments in 2001, which brought major changes in the rules governing access to the files of the former secret services, the victims of the communist intelligence apparatus also gained more or less meaningful access to files containing information on their lives.33

  • 34 “Titkos ügynök a kormány élén, A D–209-es számú elvtárs kiemelt főoperatív beosztásban” [A Secret (...)

30While exposures of top elected officials and public figures did not cease during the first decade of the fledgling Hungarian democracy, the summer of 2002 brought a major and uncomfortable surprise when the leading conservative daily Magyar Nemzet published a set of documents asserting that Péter Medgyessy, the newly elected Prime Minister and member of the Hungarian Socialist Party, had served as a counter-intelligence officer between 1977 and 1982.34 The Medgyessy scandal of 2002 confirmed the weaknesses of the existing legislation on lustration and enforced the reconsideration of lustration and informational reparation.

31The constantly changing legal framework has proved unable to expose agents and collaborators of the communist state security services, but it continues to fuel further argument, prompting the revision of a legal framework which—despite all the changes already introduced—has remained ultimately incapable of fulfilling its noble aims. First of all, the rules on lustration fell short of signaling with sufficient certainty which players in the post-communist political elite had worked for the communist secret services. The most painful aspect of the Medgyessy scandal was the fact that the Prime Minister had passed the process of lustration, which cleared him of ever having worked for the internal intelligence division of the communist secret services (i.e. Subdivision III/III), while not revealing that he had indeed been an officer of the counter-intelligence division of those services. This traumatic revelation, which could not have been prevented even by the most careful lustration review, was the result of the parliamentarians’ lack of information concerning the structures and procedures of the communist secret services at the time when they drafted the lustration law.

  • 35 Act no. 3 of 2003 on the disclosure of the activities of the secret services of the communist regi (...)

32In the spring of 2003 a new law on access to the archives of the former secret services came into force, transforming the Agency for History into the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára).35 This overhaul was meant to remedy numerous shortcomings in the slow transfer of files from the new security services to a research archive, and also to pave the way for meaningful file access.

  • 36 Not long after the Medgyessy scandal a so-called “agent list” was posted at www.angelfire.com/zine (...)

33Despite all these efforts, the autumn of 2004 turned up more former communist state security officers among elected officials and public figures, while various lists of agents of doubtful credibility started to emerge on the internet and in newspapers even during the spring of 2005.36 The approaching final deadline which would bring an end to mandatory lustration and the emergence of these lists of agents prompted a new interest among parliamentary circles in amending the legislation on exposing the agents of the former communist secret services and on access to their files. Completely unexpectedly, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány of the Hungarian Socialist Party took the lead in advocating the full disclosure of state security service collaborators. While his vague initial policy statements were met with approval by all four political parties, the more concrete the Socialist proposal became, the further it fell short of four-party consensus.

  • 37 “Ügynöktörvénystart” [Start of an Agents’ law], Hvg.hu (1 June 2005) at http://hvg.hu/ hvgfriss/20 (...)

34The most important components of the major amendment to the law on access to files, passed in 2005 on the initiative of the Socialist government, were found unconstitutional in the Hungarian Constitutional Court in October 2005 upon the petition of the outgoing president of the republic (who was acting at least in part upon the request of the faction leaders of parties in the governing coalition).37 While amendments to the laws are still constantly being prepared, more and more revelations about agents emerge. There were reports even in the international media when the world-renowned film director István Szabó’s recruitment as an informer was exposed in the press early in 2006.

  • 38 Az Este [The Evening] aired on MTV1, the main Hungarian public television channel, on 10 December, (...)

35It was in the context of one of the scandals around the flood of agent lists that the Duna-gate footage reached the most recent stage in its career. In December 2004, the Hungarian television’s evening news program, Az Este [The Evening], invited the eminent historian János Kenedi to comment on the credibility of the emerging lists of agents and secret police files.38 As an illustration, the editors of the program prepared short spots on the fate of agents and agent lists in various post-communist democracies. This was followed by a live studio conversation with Kenedi, who explained how far the known and officially archived files of the communist secret police could be trusted. The conversation revolved around the credibility of the emerging agent lists, and whether any of them was identical to “The List” which according to one of the strongest myths of the Hungarian transition had been prepared by the services in the early days of democracy and handed over to the first democratically elected Prime Minister, József Antall.

36The other topic of conversation was the fate of the missing secret service files and, in general, the integrity of the remaining records. Kenedi explained that in the archival system of the communist secret police it is impossible to destroy complete dossiers at random, as many cross-references exist in other rosters. Thus, if a dossier is removed, other rosters and indexes reveal that a dossier or some documents from the dossier are missing from the preserved record. In saying this, Kenedi was not revealing any new discoveries about the nature of the preserved files: by this time the facts were known to the narrow audience that followed the less scandalous (and therefore more boring) parts of parliamentary debates and read historical publications on file access and agenthood.

  • 39 The conveyor belt and the shredder were filmed by Black Box in the paper mill at Újpest, and appea (...)

37What makes this television interview with Kenedi interesting is what happened after the first part of the studio conversation. The conversation was interrupted by a spot introduced as the Black Box footage on the Duna-gate scandal. This included the familiar images of typed secret service documents accompanied by Lovas’s whispering voice, followed by the scenes of the mass destruction of papers—among them red folders going down a conveyor belt, right into a huge paper shredder, a scene previously unseen in the classic Duna-gate footage.39

38After the spot a visibly perplexed Kenedi appeared on the screen, saying that “this is exactly the type of recording which has the potential to expose disinformation.” He was immediately challenged by the program presenter, who had noticed his reaction. The presenter pointed out that, contrary to what Kenedi claimed, there were folders being destroyed before the very cameras. Kenedi, while acknowledging that he was puzzled by what was described as the Duna-gate footage recorded by Black Box, maintained that what he had seen in the spot were unbound sheets and nothing that resembled secret police dossiers. When asked about the red folders, he said that was not what a secret police dossier looked like. The unbound sheets he could identify from the recording were most probably daily information reports (which were produced in about half a dozen copies by the services) or some other kind of departmental (in-house) papers. By the end of the interview it had become clear to the average television viewer that Kenedi could not provide an expert opinion which would suffice in the circumstances: the red folders remained much more attractive than a makeshift explanation about some irrelevant sheets of paper produced by daily office routine.

  • 40 According the István Jávor and Márta Elbert, writing on behalf of Black Box, by the time the colla (...)

39With this short episode, the Duna-gate footage credited to the Black Box crew suddenly became the center of media attention for a second time, now in its own right. Three days later the same evening news program, Az Este, invited Balázs Horváth, the Interior Minister of the first democratically elected government, to share his expertise on the most recent round of the lustration and file-access scandal. The former minister’s studio appearance was introduced by a short clip of János Kenedi’s reaction to what was credited as Black Box’s original recording on Duna-gate, with a commentary questioning the authenticity of the footage about the destruction of secret police files.40

  • 41 According to some accounts, the journalist Zoltán Lovas was approached by the editors of the news (...)

40According to the announcer, Kenedi, the expert, had said that the footage was “capable of spreading disinformation.” The announcer declared that the papers destroyed in the shredder were not secret agent reports as previously claimed by Black Box, but only departmental papers—in other words, not secret police files proper, as the audience had previously been led to believe. Before moving to the studio interview, it was announced that representatives of Black Box had declined to appear to comment.41

  • 42 Jávor and Elbert, “Gátlástalan este.” In addition to the problem of the reediting of the Black Box (...)

41Kenedi’s puzzled reaction is understandable, for the Duna-gate footage credited to Black Box had been reedited for use in the news program. The red folders which were such an attractive feature of the short excerpt actually came from a different body of material, also recorded by Black Box in 1989, about the destruction of Communist Party documents rather than secret police papers. This editorial intervention was revealed by an open letter in a leading newspaper by István Jávor and Márta Elbert, who still run Black Box and its archive.42 Although in purely legal terms the reputation and good name of the Black Box crew may not be in doubt, this editorial incident is symptomatic of the media representation of the entire political and constitutional conundrum over the fate of the files of the communist secret services.

  • 43 Jávor and Elbert, “Gátlástalan este.”

42It should be noted that at the time when the Duna-gate footage was prepared hardly anybody outside the secret police, perhaps nobody at all, was in a position to identify the documents shown on the camera while being read out, or the papers seen in the shredder. These papers were much later identified by experts as copies of daily operative information reports containing surveillance information on the democratic opposition. In the original Duna-gate footage by Black Box, while mentioning the mass destruction of secret police files, the filmmakers did not claim to know what kind of secret police papers were being destroyed at the time. It is the commentary added to the reedited version of the Black Box materials in the news program, merging two different sets of footage, which makes claims about what is being destroyed and accuses the Black Box crew of misleading the audience. As István Jávor and Márta Elbert make clear in their open letter, “at the paper mill they were destroying party documents from district party committees, and there is no visual evidence of the destruction of Duna-gate files.”43

43One has to admit that in the maze of parliamentary investigative committees, expert opinions and dozens of forgotten or abandoned parliamentary bills, the whole issue of lustration and file access has become disturbingly complicated. It is not particularly newsworthy if yet another parliamentary session passes without a meaningful vote on lustration or file access. What makes news is the exposure of agents who have received lustration clearance, as happened most prominently with Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy. Another event that can make headlines in a newshungry media is the exposure of former agents independently of the lustration process, a matter that might also become problematic (and therefore newsworthy) because the laws on file access, and especially on the publication of the results of such access, are murky, to say the least. This material, even when it is newsworthy, is not too telegenic. Had the Dunagate footage recorded by Black Box been more “attractive,” it would most probably have survived without being spiced up with images of red folders cut and pasted from another collection. It is unfortunate that this editorial zeal in a news room has the potential to destroy the reputation and credibility of the richest visual archive of the Hungarian transition. It seems that the need to please viewers takes precedence over the black, white and gray shades associated with reality.

  • 44 Az Este, aired on MTV1, the main Hungarian public television channel, on March 3, 2005.

44In this respect it is worth noting that essentially the same accusation against Black Box, of misleading practices in the coverage of the Dunagate scandal, was aired again by Az Este in March 2005. This particular broadcast was of interest solely because it featured not only a remastered, and thus falsified, visual record but also an individual who had undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. This time, the reedited footage introduced the studio appearance of probably the most popular media celebrity on all matters constitutional, György Kolláth, who was invited to comment on the fate of agents and files.44

  • 45 Dr. Kolláth mentioned that in response to this internal investigation of the secret services an ac (...)

45Dr. Kolláth’s expertise in matters of communist state security is truly extraordinary. As a high ranking official (departmental head, or minisztériumi főosztályvezető) of the Interior Ministry in 1990, he was a member of the in-house investigation committee established by the Ministry in response to the appearance of the Duna-gate footage in January 1990. In the studio interview in March, 2005 he hastened to explain that, as a member of the investigative committee in 1990, he was the only “civilian” among the professionals. He stated even more categorically that even back then he had not understood much of the ways of the secret police or state security, as he had never been an expert on such subjects.45 He skillfully avoided commenting on the substance of the agent scandals and on the integrity of the remaining secret police files, and resorted instead to repeating well-known generalities.

  • 46 See György Kolláth, “Utóirat a Dunagate-ügyről—egy civil szemszögéből” [Postscript on the Duna-gat (...)
  • 47 As an illustration before Dr. Kolláth’s studio appearance, a longer version of the Duna-gate mix w (...)

46This remastered self-definition of a former official of the communist Interior Ministry was nothing new: Dr. Kolláth had explained his role in similar terms before.46 He has since then also authored numerous expert opinions in which “civilian” is defined as a person who does not wear a uniform or carry a gun. Thus, in a major item of news commentary on file access, the Hungarian media audience is left with some documentary footage reedited beyond recognition47 and a “civilian” dispensing amusing aphorisms, who by his own admission is not an expert on anything to do with state security.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

47The short, shaky and rather dark footage of Duna-gate, with its whispering voiceover, raises endless questions about the operations of the communist secret services and the fate of its agents and files. In the early accounts of the Duna-gate scandal the images of secret police documents providing evidence of the illegal secret police surveillance of leading figures in the emerging opposition and the hints at the mass destruction of secret police files were accompanied by the comments of players who contributed to placing the issue of agents and file access on the political agenda of the new democracy. Over the years, however, once the excitement over the surveillance scandal of 1989/1990 had started to fade, and many drafts of lustration laws and regulations on file access had come and gone, some people have disappeared from the visual record, while others have changed profoundly on screen, before our very eyes.

48In the post-transition and post-modern discourse the story-hungry news coverage of exposed agents and developments in the file access saga is finding it more and more difficult to settle on safe, canonical images. While the Hungarian public can still be excited by accounts of former agents, the focus of the high political debate about the fate of the files of the communist secret police has shifted from lustration to file access. Keeping up with the spirit of times, after an unfortunate glitch, the images of the Duna-gate picture book have been abandoned for new visual topoi. As the reputation of the key players in the agent-saga becomes increasingly questionable and other familiar faces appear in new roles, news editors are left with one firm visual reference point to capture the essence of the problem of the communist secret police: the image of a gigantic paper shredder. Firm, that is, until the founders of Black Box studio remind us that the wrong footage of the wrong monster shredder appeared as a casual background illustration to the news of the day in the coverage of the lustration and file access saga in the evening news.

49When file access is discussed in the press, the favorite illustration of the day now shows the endless shelves of former secret police files stored in the Historical Archives of the State Security behind the locking wheel of an armored door. The endless shelves send the message that at last all is clear: the sinister files are kept in a well-guarded archive accessible under transparent conditions. The locking wheel on the closing steel door suggests that the archives are properly secured and access is granted only to those who are truly entitled to it.

50The peaceful calm of dusty files is disturbed only by the noise of former agents being exposed once in a while, and by reports surfacing regardless of, or outside, the strictures of legality. They constitute a sobering reminder both to victims of the communist secret services and to historians eager to replace our many myths and legends about the communist past with the truth. But whatever has survived the alleged shredder is still kept in a safe place behind the locks of legislation, sealed by rules of access which have been constantly improving since 1990—at least according to the longest surviving legends of Hungary’s constitutional democracy.

Notes

1 The idea of this paper emerged while I was teaching a course with Oksana Sarkisova at CEU, Budapest on the representations of the transition to democracy in documentary films. A research paper written by Fruzsina Orosz (LEGS class 2005/06) for this course enabled me to articulate some of my points. While I owe a lot to their insights, I remain fully responsible for any errors and misunderstandings in this piece. All translations from the Hungarian are mine.

2 The Hungarian Roundtable Talks were conducted between the Communist Party, the Opposition Roundtable and the so-called Third Side (Harmadik Oldal). For an informative introduction to the Hungarian Roundtable Talks see András Sajó, “The Roundtable Talks in Hungary” in Jon Elster (ed.), The Roundtable Talks and the Breakdown of Communism (Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1996). On the question of the reorganization of the secret police at the Roundtable Talks see the record on the appearance of Ferenc Pallagi, the deputy minister in the Ministry of the Interior, responsible for state security services (head of Division III in the Ministry of the Interior) on September 6, 1989 before the Roundtable’s experts’ subcommittee no. I/6 (the negotiating forum entrusted with developing measures to prevent aggressive solutions) in András Bozóki (ed.), A rendszerváltás forgatókönyve. Kerekasztal-tárgyalások 1989-ben [The script of transition. Roundtable talks in 1989] (Budapest: Új Mandátum Könyvkiadó, 2000), vol. 6, 659, 663–4. For an exchange at a mid-level political coordination meeting, see also A rendszerváltás forgatókönyve, vol. 4, 302, 323.

3 Duna-gate was named after Watergate. Duna is the Hungarian name of the river Danube. I decided to keep the Hungarian throughout the text. In the discussion below I follow László Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka, avagy amikor a jog a politika ügynökévé válik” [Gergő and his shadow, or when law becomes the agent of politics], Beszélő 7 (September–October 2002): 30, available at http://beszelo.c3.hu/02/0910/07varga.htm (accessed 10 February, 2007); Béla Révész, “Dunagate I, Előzmények és botrány a sajtó tükrében” [Dunagate I, the antecedents and the scandal as reflected in the press], Beszélő 9 (December 2004): 46, available at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/12/08reveszb.htm (accessed 10 February, 2007); Béla Révész, “Dunagate II, A rendszerváltás forgatókönyvei és állambiztonság” [The scenarios of transition and state security], Beszélő 10 (January 2005): 40, available at http://beszelo.c3.hu/cikkek/dunagate-ii (accessed 10 February, 2007) and Béla Révész, “Dunagate III, A jogállam árnyékában” [In the shadow of the constitutional state], Beszélő 10 (February 2005): 46, available at http://beszelo.c3.hu/cikkek/ dunagate-iii (accessed 10 February, 2007). The references below are to the electronic versions of these articles.

4 Throughout the paper I am using the phrases “communist secret services” and “communist secret police” interchangeably, as the secret services were a unit in the communist police force within the framework of the Interior Ministry. The most infamous unit in the Hungarian communist secret police was Subdivision III/III, the department dealing with internal intelligence. Over the years it became more and more clear that the various departments within the secret police (i.e. counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and internal intelligence) worked together, so that in the long run the Hungarian polity’s initial preoccupation with pinpointing officers and agents in Subdivision III/III turned out to be more misleading than useful in coming to terms with the communist past.

5 For an overview, see Béla Révész, “Ellenzékiek megfigyelése a kerekasztal-tárgyalások idején” [Surveillance of the opposition during the roundtable ralks], available at www.rev.hu/html/hu/ugynok/munka/revesz2.html (accessed 10 February, 2007); R. Müller, “Napi Operatív Információs Jelentések, 1979–1989” [Daily operative information reports, 1979–1989] in György Gyarmati (ed.), Trezor 1. A Történeti Hivatal Évkönyve [Trezor 1. Yearbook of the agency for history] (Budapest: Történeti Hivatal, 1999), 251–82. Furthermore, documents were not only produced but also destroyed in the course of the regular operations of the secret police, as in any other bureaucratic organization. Internal rules required records to be kept of the fate of files wiped out.

6 Police major-general Horváth, the chief of Subdivison III/III on October 16, 1989 proposed a wholesale review of operative records, with reference to the changed political circumstances. The task was to destroy all security police files which were not compatible with the current legal regulations. Deputy minister Pallagi authorized the destruction of files on November 21, 1989. Accordingly, Horváth prepared a proposal, dated December 8, 1989, which called for a “comprehensive review of the operative records” of the state security services. This proposal, signed by Pallagi on December 18, 1989, authorized a sweeping destruction campaign with the deadline of December 31, 1989. The destruction order covered those current operative files still with the state security personnel, archived operative files and the so-called network files (i.e. files on agents and other contacts of the services). On December 22, 1989 a circular from the secretariat of the deputy minister for state security services ordered that no records of the destruction of files should be kept. These documents are available in György Markó, “Állambiztonsági iratok a Történeti Hivatalban. A Duna-gate egy belügyminisztériumi jelentés tükrében” [State security documents at the agency for history. Duna-gate in the light of a Report of the Ministry of the Interior], Kritika 31 (October 2002): 20, available at www.th.hu/html/hu/aktualitas/irat_megsemmisites.html (accessed February 10, 2007).

7 In its broadest sense, lustration is a method of exposing and/or removing former secret service personnel (officers, agents and informers) from elective public offices and public employment. Solutions in different countries differ in scope and vehemence. The pages below will summarize the most important features of the Hungarian approach to lustration, without providing a detailed comparative analysis.

8 Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt), to give it its proper name, commonly abbreviated as MSzMP. The Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt, commonly abbreviated as MSzP) referred to in the text is the offspring of the Communist Party, formed during the regime change, which was also elected to the first democratically elected Parliament and subsequently became a governing party in 1994, and also in 2002 and 2006 (forming a coalition with a small liberal party, the Free Democratic Alliance [Szabad Demokraták Szövetsége, or SzDSz].

9 Gábor Fodor later transferred to the Alliance of Free Democrats and remains an active advocate of unrestricted access to files.

10 The letter is available in Hungarian in Révész, “Dunagate I” in his note 34.

11 Béla Révész, “Az Ellenzéki Kerekasztal es az állambiztonsági szervek” [The Opposition Roundtable and the State Security Services] in A rendszerváltás forgatókönyve, vol. 7, 420.

12 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka” and Révész, “Dunagate I” in note 48. The investigation of the alleged crimes of the secret services fell under the jurisdiction of the military prosecutor. Following the press conference Ferenc Kőszeg, a prominent opposition figure, was approached by another police officer, Lieutenant István Bajcsi, to request his presence at the military prosecutor’s office where Bajcsi was planning to hand over further evidence on the illegal surveillance of opposition figures. Bajcsi did not know Kőszeg before.

13 Kőszeg (himself a favorite object of surveillance games) was a participant in the Roundtable Talks (on experts’ subcomittee no. I/6), but he did not attend the meeting in which deputy minister Pallagi was heard about the activities of the communist secret services.

14 Despite the lack of resistance, as Lovas explains, at that time this was a most stressful assignment and the intruders were not entirely sure whether they were safe. His panic and fear caused serious physical symptoms. See his early account in Zoltán Lovas, Jöttem, láttam, győztek [I came, I saw, they conquered] (Budapest: AB-Beszélő, 1990), 201, and later in the documentary Hero or traitor? (Hős vagy áruló? Dir: Róbert Kiss, 2004). The title of the film refers to Major József Végvári.

15 The reports of these investigations were published as an appendix to Révész, “Dunagate III” at www.beszelo.hu/05/02/095reveszfugg.htm (accessed 10 February, 2007).

16 The report of the ad hoc committee is available at Markó, “Állambiztonsági iratok a Történeti Hivatalban” and also as an appendix to Révész, “Dunagate III.”

17 Act no. 10 of 1990 on the interim regulation of permissions on special surveillance measures and techniques. Note, however, that this act did not contain any comprehensive regulations for the national security establishment. Instead, in the spring of 1990 the outgoing Communist Cabinet passed a Cabinet decree in connection with the act on the interim regulation of surveillance measures concerning the interim regulation of national security tasks. (Cabinet decree 26/1990. (II. 14.) Korm. on the interim regulation of the performance of national security tasks.) This interim cabinet regulation provided the grounds for establishing the bulwarks of the currently existing national security establishment in the form of two civilian, Nemzetbiztonsági Hivatal [Agency for National Security] and Információs Hivatal [Information Agency], and two military intelligence offices, opening on March 1, 1990. The final regulation of the new Hungarian democracy’s national security services was passed in 1995 (Act no. 125 of 1995), during the second Parliament with an overwhelming majority of the Hungarian Socialist Party.

18 The report of the parliamentary committee is available in 29/1990. (III. 13.) OGY határozat a Belügyminisztérium belső biztonsági szolgálatának tevékenységéről [29/1990. (III. 13.) OGY resolution on the operations of the state security services of the Ministry of the Interior].

19 Interview with “168 óra” [168 hours], a radio talk-show, the interviews of which also appear in a weekly paper, entitled 168 óra [168 hours] on January 9, 1990. Quoted by Révész, “Dunagate I” in note 30.

20 See Appendix “Bizottsági jelentés a BM belső biztonsági szolgálatának tevékenységéről” [Committee report on the operations of the Internal Security Services of the Ministry of the Interior], (3 January), attached to 29/1990. (III. 13.) OGY resolution. Révész, “Ellenzékiek megfigyelése a kerekasztal-tárgyalások idején.” Minister Horváth intended to broaden the scope of recipients of daily operative information reports in November 1989. Rolf Müller, “Belügyi információs jelentések” [Internal informational reports] in Trezor 3. Az átmenet évkönyve [Trezor 3. Yearbook of transition] (Budapest: Állambiztonsági Szolgálatok Történeti Levéltára, 2004), 147, 162, note 34.

21 Daily operative information reports were a genre of regular reports prepared by the state security services. For a general description, see Müller, “Napi Operatív Információs Jelentések.” Also explained in Révész, “Ellenzékiek megfigyelése.”

22 The list of recipients was made available recently in “Olvasókör, Politikusok, akik az állambiztonsági jelentéseket kapták” [Reading group club, politicians who received state security reports], Hvg.hu (March 24, 2005), available at http://hvg.hu/itthon/ 20050323olvasomozgalom.aspx (accessed 10 February, 2007).

23 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka.”

24 On the political forces behind various alterations in the scope of the lustration law in English, see M. C. Horne and M. Levi, “Does Lustration Promote Trustworthy Governance? An Exploration of the Experience of Central and Eastern Europe,” Prepared for Trust and Honesty Project, Budapest Collegium, Second draft, October 2002, available at www.colbud.hu/honesty-trust/horne/pub01.doc (accessed 10 February, 2007).

25 The most famous ones are the documentary series Rendszerváltó évek [Years of Transition]. See especially episode Televíziós leletek, 1989 őszétől 1990 tavaszáig [Television recordings from the Autumn 1989 till the Spring of 1990] (László B. Révész and Pál Erdőss, 1997) and Hős vagy áruló?, mentioned above.

26 The first major portrait film on Major Végvári was made by Black Box in 1989/1990, entitled T.E.D. 23 Charlie (by Márta Elbert, István Jávor, Zoltán Lovas and László Pesty), 50 min., released in 1990. Segments of this film were included in the Black Box video journal Magyar Változások [Hungarian transformations] by Márta Elbert, István Jávor, Zoltán Lovas and László Pesty.

27 This contrast between the layers of the presentation is probably the sharpest in the Black Box interview included in the video journal Magyar Változások, following the footage recorded in the secret police building with Végvári’s aid.

28 Especially in the documentary film Hős vagy áruló?

29 Not to be confused with Interior Minister István Horváth.

30 Varga, “Gergő és az ő árnyéka.”

31 Napzárta, studio round table with György Baló, available in the collage Rendszerváltó évek: Televíziós leletek.

32 The lustration law was passed in 1994 as the “Act on Background Checks to be Conducted on Individuals Holding Certain Important Positions,” Act No. 23 of 1994. Available in Neil Kritz (ed.), Transitional Justice, How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1995), 418. The Constitutional Court found the central provisions of the act unconstitutional in 60/1994 (XII. 24.) Constitutional Court decision. After numerous further rounds, Parliament passed Act no. 93 of 2000.

33 Act no. 67 of 2001. This act did not affect the scope of lustration. Instead, it introduced a number of clarifications in the act which made it somewhat easier for victims to access their files deposited with the Agency for History. Furthermore, it was the first in the series of lustration bills to define such terms as “person under surveillance,” “career employee,” “network person,” and also “third party” and “relative.”

34 “Titkos ügynök a kormány élén, A D–209-es számú elvtárs kiemelt főoperatív beosztásban” [A Secret agent heading the government, comrade no. D-209 on a special high operative rank], Magyar Nemzet (18 June 2002), available at www.mno.hu/ index.mno?cikk=84914&rvt=2 (accessed 10 February, 2007).

35 Act no. 3 of 2003 on the disclosure of the activities of the secret services of the communist regime and on the establishment of the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security, available in English at the website of the Historical Archives at www.abtl.hu/html/en/acts/ABTL_4_2003_evi_III_tv_e.pdf (accessed 10 February, 2007).

36 Not long after the Medgyessy scandal a so-called “agent list” was posted at www.angelfire.com/zine2/szakerto90/ under the pseudonym “Szakértő 90” (Expert 90), including the names and personal identification data of 219 persons. The availability of the list was first reported by the online news portal, Index, on February 27, 2005 as “Interneten az Antall-féle ügynöklista” [Antall’s agent list on the web], www.index.hu/politika/belfold/ugynoklist22/ and the news media followed suit. News accounts, interviews, analysis and further agent lists were collected at numerous portals devoted solely to the agent issue (see www.nincstobbtitok.hu, http://hvg.hu/ugynok.aspx and www.hetivalasz.hu/showcontent.php?chid=10927 all accessed 20 February, 2007). Initially the public debate focused on whether or not this list was The Agent List, which according to one of the founding myths of the Hungarian democracy had been handed over by the outgoing Communist government to the first democratically elected Prime Minister. The list included the names of numerous public figures who were not subject to the lustration laws, thus fuelling a string of accusations and denials. Note that at the time the 1956 Institute launched an interesting on-line initiative to provide easily accessible information on matters related to secret police agents and files at www.rev.hu/html/hu/ugynok/_ugynok.html (accessed 20 February, 2007).

37 “Ügynöktörvénystart” [Start of an Agents’ law], Hvg.hu (1 June 2005) at http://hvg.hu/ hvgfriss/2005.22/200522HVGFriss19.aspx (accessed 10 February, 2007).

38 Az Este [The Evening] aired on MTV1, the main Hungarian public television channel, on 10 December, 2004.

39 The conveyor belt and the shredder were filmed by Black Box in the paper mill at Újpest, and appear in a different film, on the destruction of Communist Party papers. The title of that documentary is Pártiratok zúzdában [Party records in the paper mill]. Excerpts also appear in the documentary collage Magyar Változások [Hungarian transformations] edited by Black Box, in which the scenes from the Újpest paper mill are followed by the excerpts on Duna-gate.

40 According the István Jávor and Márta Elbert, writing on behalf of Black Box, by the time the collage was aired on Az Este for the second time, the editors of the news program were aware that the Black Box studio had lodged a protest against this particular montage made out of Black Box material with the chairman of the television channel. See their article, “Gátlástalan este” [Unscrupulous evening], Népszabadság (18 March 2005), available at www.nol.hu/cikk/355641/ (accessed 10 February, 2007). Jávor and Elbert accused the editors of the newsprogram of purposely discrediting Black Box’s documentary material. The response of the news program’s editor appeared as a letter in Népszabadság (1 April 2005), available at www.nol.hu/cikk/357176/ (accessed 10 February, 2007).

41 According to some accounts, the journalist Zoltán Lovas was approached by the editors of the news program. Márta Elbert, on behalf of Black Box, told newspapers, that she had never received an invitation. See www.index.hu/politika/belfold/mtvdob0318/ (accessed 10 February, 2007).

42 Jávor and Elbert, “Gátlástalan este.” In addition to the problem of the reediting of the Black Box footage, there is a dispute about copyrights and royalties which is not covered by this paper.

43 Jávor and Elbert, “Gátlástalan este.”

44 Az Este, aired on MTV1, the main Hungarian public television channel, on March 3, 2005.

45 Dr. Kolláth mentioned that in response to this internal investigation of the secret services an act was passed that re-organized the secret services in 1990. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he may at best be referring to a set of interim measures passed in 1990, mentioned above. The act of parliament reorganizing the secret services was not passed until 1995.

46 See György Kolláth, “Utóirat a Dunagate-ügyről—egy civil szemszögéből” [Postscript on the Duna-gate scandal—from a civilian perspective], Belügyi Szemle 33 (1995): 13. See also his contribution to the documentary Hős vagy áruló

47 As an illustration before Dr. Kolláth’s studio appearance, a longer version of the Duna-gate mix was shown. There the Black Box camera crew’s entry into the premises of the Communist Interior Ministry was dated mistakenly as of November 30, 1989 by the narrator of the news show.

Auteur

Renáta Uitz (b. 1973) is associate professor of Comparative Constitutional Law in the Legal Studies Department of the Central European University, Budapest. Her research interests include the transition to democracy, problems of transitional justice, the rule of law and constitutionalism in post-authoritarian democracies. Her book Constitutions, Courts and History: Historical Narratives in Constitutional Adjudication was published in 2005.

© Central European University Press, 2008

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