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Secret File of “Suspicious” Auctions

by Ursula Kampmann

May 14, 2015 – Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology and the Leipniz Institute for Social Sciences, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has now initiated a project that wants to provide a basis for the fight against illicit trade or, as Prof Dr Markus Hilgert, coordinator of the joint project, puts it: “In the light of resolution 2199 of the UN Security Council from February 15, 2015, the project has again become increasingly urgent and important. In requesting all Member States to take measures against the illicit trade in cultural property from Iraq and Syria, it stresses how important it is to lay the scientific groundwork for such measures in Germany.”

What is embarrassing for all parties involved is how scientific is defined here. After all, the heart of the work will be a secret file, to which, according to a statement of Martin Steinebach, Doctor of Engineering, Head of Department of the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology and in this capacity responsible for the technical side to this project, “archaeologists or investigators from authorities” will upload suspicious auctions. The way things stand at the moment, it is not possible to object or even give an opinion on this suspicion. According to what Martin Steinebach says, the data bank is “part of a portal that brings investigators and experts together. How the investigators deal with the assessment of the experts will be seen over the course of the project.” The experts are police officers, customs officials and members of public authorities with supervisory mandate.
That makes this “research”-project a classic example of circular reasoning: without the chance of objection, the desired number of “suspicious” objects is “suspected” by those whose political activities have proven them to be interested in presenting as many “suspicious” objects as possible.

These “experts” produce their numbers under a veil of scientificity, incontrollable and uncorrectable. They benefit from these numbers in their political lobbying. All this is cloaked by the illustrious names and titles this project is so proud of.
 
It is a low-point of German research that it uses a secret file and even boasts of this in a press release. A true scholar would be interested in having an open and controversial discussion about his findings. Only who fears the truth has to keep his research a secret. This has nothing to do with scholarship.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project as part of the “Research for Civil Security II” program in the subject area “Civil Security – Protection against Organized Crime” with 1.2 million euros. One wonders if the Ministry has been dazzled by the titles and names of the ones responsible for this project or if the funding has a hidden agenda.

The press release on the research project ILLICID can be found on the website of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and on the website of the Fraunhofer Institute.

Numerous articles on the Protection of Cultural Property can be found in our archive.

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