Boston College files motion to quash subpoena

According to the New York Times report, Boston College has filed a motion to quash the federal subpoena seeking access to their Northern Ireland archive.  Their reported argument is worth noting.  From the New York Times report

Lawyers for Boston College argue that releasing the interviews would break the I.R.A.’s “code of silence” and could lead to “punishment by death,” according to the filing.

“Our position is that the premature release of the tapes could threaten the safety of the participants, the enterprise of oral history, and the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland,” Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the United States Attorney’s office, which filed the subpoena on behalf of the British authorities, would not comment on the case. The subpoenas summoned interviews from two members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, a commander who died in 2008. They accused Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, of running a secret kidnapping ring. Part of Ms. Price’s interview was used in a documentary, “Voices from the Grave.”

Anthony McIntyre, a journalist, academic and former I.R.A. member who interviewed Ms. Price, said the home next to his was smeared with excrement after “Voices from the Grave” was released, and the media reported death threats were made against him.

Mr. McIntyre said in an affidavit, “I am of the view that the more the Belfast Project interviews reveal about how deeply matters of the I.R.A. were discussed, the greater the danger that I, as the primary researcher, will face.”


Update  Kevin Cullen’s Boston Globe article has some added detail

In their filings, BC lawyers express frustration over the vagueness of the subpoenas. The court order authorizing them is sealed, and the British agency requesting them unknown. Jeffrey Swope, of the Boston firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, asked the court to either quash the subpoenas or at least let BC have “access to the documents that describe the purposes of the investigation to enable them to specify with more particularity in what ways the subpoenas are overbroad.’’

Thomas E. Hachey, University professor of history at BC and executive director of the college’s Center for Irish Programs, said in an affidavit that he suspects police in Northern Ireland are seeking the records.

“The fact that these materials are sought by governmental authorities, believed to be the Police Service of Northern Ireland, will almost certainly create needless alarm among otherwise peacefully-reconciled individuals and risks stoking unrest among combative elements of that society who would like nothing more than to see the embers of division fanned into the flames that would consume the hopes of those who seek reconciliation, rather than recrimination,’’ Hachey wrote.

BC lawyers said Hachey “was recently warned by the United States consul general in Belfast not to come to Belfast for a previously planned celebration of Boston College’s contribution to the peace process because of reactions to the possible release of materials from the Belfast Project.’’


The subpoenas demand original tape recordings, “any and all written documents,’’ and notes and computer records connected to interviews with Hughes and Price.

BC said it had already turned over recordings and transcripts of Hughes “because the conditions pertaining to the confidentiality of his interviews had terminated with his death.’’ But BC lawyers dismiss the demand for other records as a “classic fishing expedition’’ that threatened academic freedom and, in some cases, personal safety.

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