Skip to main content

Operation Tartuffo: has the ACCG detected a conspiracy?

Earlier this year it was suggested that I was "acting as an undisclosed agent of influence for some nationalistic, repatriation seeking foreign government, like that of Greece". Indeed it was even stated, without any hint of evidence, that I was paying "a rate of $400 per 400 words for [my] frequent PR Newswire releases".

Now it seems that my posting on the outcome of the ACCG, PNG and IAPN FOIA case against the US State Department has led to further comments by Peter Tompa.
  • "That does beg the question, however, how Prof. Gill became aware of the decision so quickly"
  • "How did David Gill learn about this decision so quickly ... ?"

Nathan Elkins has made the interesting observation:
It would appear that the ACCG had intended to keep the decision quiet until determining how to react since no comment came from them until immediately after Gill publicized the ruling.
Subsequent to Elkins' post there has been an extended exchange between Elkins and Tompa. Elkins made the point:
Why don't you ask David how he found out? The decision was posted by the court publicly and freely online. Why is there an implication of conspiracy? Why do you seem miffed he found out about it if, as you say, it is wrong to read anything into the fact that the lobby did not publicize anything about the ruling until after Gill's post? After all, the ACCG is usually on the ball with press releases on things like this.
Tompa has not yet asked me directly how I found out.

Imagine the scenario. There is a conspiracy of counter-briefings, press releases paid for by foreign governments, and the sharing of intelligence on the antiquities market. Dossiers of information are perhaps even being handed over to British academics in the Piazza Navona in Rome.

Or the explanation could be just a little more mundane. Back in April I suggested that the outcome of the FOIA case could be known "in time for Thanksgiving" (a projection based on a statement by Tompa). So as Thanksgiving was approaching I pasted "Civil Case No. 07-2074 RJL" into Google ... and it took me straight to the decision in a pdf format.  The information on the outcome was that public.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know


David- Thank you for clearing that up and your exceptional interest in the FOIA litigation brought on behalf of various numismatic groups.


Peter Tompa
Wayne G. Sayles said…

Most refreshing to see a simple straightforward answer.



Now satisfied with David's clarification, would you like to address the question raised in the comments to the other

So again, if the concern is about "influence from above" why seek to violate the privacy of private citizens by attempting to attain the emails of scholars, collectors, and dealers? And what is the interest of trade lobbies in attaining the names and information of officials and law enforcers involved in the enforcement of import restrictions?
Wayne G. Sayles said…
Odd choice of words "Attain" vs. "Obtain". The former implies a level of resistance, which is quite often the case when asking a simple question of an archaeologist. Is there resistance to facts and truth?
Wayne G. Sayles said…
To answer Nathan's question: it is not email addresses or personal information that ACCG seeks, it is a record of who was involved, when, and to what extent, in the process of decision making. Is that not a right to know issue? Would you advocate a shroud of secrecy allowing the State Department to do what it merrily pleases with no accountability?
"to do what it merrily pleases with no accountability"

Gee, that sounds a lot like what you're advocating collectors be allowed to do.

(And are we really going to start criticizing people for typos?)
Wayne did answer this question quite well. The ACCG and the other Plaintiffs just wanted to see what went into the Cypriot coin decision, and in particular, if it was based on any faulty information. My recollection is in one of our briefs we disclaimed any desire to have access to email addresses and phone numbers, etc.

Now that we have answered your question, perhaps you can both let us know if you acknowledge Mr. Kislak's declaration indicated his own committee did not recommend import restrictions on Cypriot coins. I'm sure you will agree it's quite disingenuous to talk about the Cypriot decision being "precedent" for the upcoming Italian renewal without acknowledging that simple fact.


Peter Tompa
Wayne G. Sayles said…

I'm advocating that collectors in the United States be allowed to enjoy the freedoms that U.S. law assures, without government bureaucrats bending the law to suit a special interest agenda or ideological perspective. Since DOS is tasked with administration of CPIA, they are accountable to the American people for its fair and effective implementation. That is not a license to pervert the letter nor intent of the law.

As for Attain vs. Obtain, would you really call this a typo? He used the word twice in the same sentence. Nathan is a bright young man, he knows the difference. That difference is worth noting, a typo is not.


This issue is still being dodged. Peter stated that the concern was about influence from above. However, the judge's memorandum indicated that the trade lobbies were seeking the email correspondence of private citizens (submitted in confidence and properly exempted) which included scholars, collectors, and dealers as well as the names and personal information of low level State Department officials and law enforcers involved with the enforcement of MoUs (also properly exempted). It is incongruous with Peter's statement about "influence from above" that this type of information would be sought. Private citizens are not "decision makers from above" and neither are low level employees and law enforcers. Is there another interest at play in obtaining this information?

You praise David's straightforward answer to a question you wouldn't even ask him directly, but yourselves remain coy. The discursus into the ,obtain vs. attain is the predictable sort of distraction from the issue I've come to expect.
Nathan- I'm not going to take the time to look at the briefs again, but you are free to do so. They are all on the ACCG website. in any event, my recollection is Plaintiffs said they did not want personal information other than names. Plaintiffs solely wanted to learn what went into making the decision, so Plaintiffs could judge for themselves whether they believed some faulty information ended up as part of the basis for the decision.

I should also note Plaintiffs did not ask for comments made pursuant to the State Department's FED REG Notice or supplemental notice on coins other than from a few individuals and groups. What Plaintiffs were interested in were any behind the scenes contacts with State Department officials. There certainly was evidence produced that the State Department was soliciting information behind the scenes from individuals who were associated with groups seeking restrictions. Oddly enough, the State Department apparently made no similar effort to seek information from either neutral groups or ones against restrictions.

Seeking such information is not inconsistent with the decision being ordered from above as that information could have been used as justification. You also assume Plaintiffs knew as much about what happened on the Cypriot restrictions when they made their FOIA requests as they do now. That would be a faulty assumption.

And why shouldn't Plaintiffs have asked about the names of bureaucrats who helped make this decision? That is relevant as well to piecing together the record. I should also note there is no requirement in FOIA that Plaintiffs demonstrate the relevance of any particular request.

I think I have now answered your questions. In return, I would again ask you to read the Kislak declaration (also on the ACCG website) and tell me after reading that if you plan to again stand before CPAC when the Italian renewal comes up again and talk about the Cypriot "precedent" without acknowledging that "precedent" appears to be contrary to CPAC's recommendations. Of course, you are free to do so, but isn't that being disingenuous? You are not claiming Mr. Kislak's declaration about what happened in his own Committee is only his "opinion" are you?


Peter Tompa
David Gill said…
While I have posted your comments, I would be grateful if you could direct specific points made to Nathan to his blog, Numismatics and Archaeology.
Many thanks,
Wayne G. Sayles said…

I do understand your point about outside dialogue and frankly agree with your position. This is your blog, not a chat list. When Barford and Elkins started doing this on my blog, I blocked them. Nathan has engaged me here, I suspect that you would like me to take my response to his blog as well. But, he doesn't post my submissions to his blog. So, you have, in effect, given him a platform and excluded me from a rebuttal. How academic is that? Maybe you should chastise Nathan as well.


David Gill said…
I was certainly not wanting to chastise ... just asking that we do not use Looting Matters to continue a discussion that is best located elsewhere in the blogosphere.
I am (normally) happy to post things ... but I would like people to think before they do!
Best wishes
Peter is welcome to post his comment on N&A, as David suggested, should he wish to pursue it further. That would be more appropriate since the issue was first raised there.

I have not submitted a comment on Wayne's site in well over a year. He does not like what I have to say and won't post it. I have allowed him to post on my site in spite of this imbalance, but decided to discontinue this uneven practice this summer.

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.