Kerry could hold key to denying Boston tapes to PSNI
September 10, 2012
By Jim Dee
More than 15 months after Boston College received a US Justice Department subpoena seeking their archived interviews with Dolours Price, efforts to keep the interviews from the PSNI are almost exhausted. But don’t expect the tapes to arrive in Belfast anytime soon.
Rejecting a request to revisit its own July ruling that the Price interviews be surrendered, on August 31 the Boston-based First Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a major blow to the efforts by former Boston College lead researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre to thwart the PSNI.
Having parted ways with the college after accusing it of mounting a half-hearted archive defence, Moloney and McIntyre’s appeal stresses journalistic and academic freedom and a claim that the lives of IRA and UVF project interviewees — and, indeed, the entire peace process — will be in jeopardy if the PSNI gets the tapes and begins prosecutions.
Last Friday, lawyers for Boston College went before the same appeals court to contest a January federal court order demanding the surrender of seven other IRA members’ interviews that a judge deemed relevant to the IRA’s 1972 murder of Jean McConville. A ruling in that appeal isn’t expected to be imminent.
Moloney and McIntyre have vowed to petition the US Supreme Court to rule on the Price interviews.
But they must clear one more First Circuit Appeals Court procedural hurdle (involving a ‘stay’ request of the surrender order) before doing so.
Since assembling the documents needed to petition the Supreme Court can take up to 90 days, an appeal request could be as far off as late-November.
And, if America’s highest court does opt to hear the case, oral arguments probably wouldn’t be heard until next year.
All along, Moloney and McIntyre have faced a very formidable foe: the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which obligates each country to pursue domestic legal action if asked to do so.
If America’s top court decides to enter the fray, Moloney and McIntyre’s lawyers will have their work cut out in convincing the most conservative Supreme Court in decades that international treaty obligations can be trumped by any other considerations.
Given the preeminence of the US-UK MLAT, the best hope of safeguarding the archive has rested with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Several members of Congress — including Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s powerful foreign relations committee — have called on her to persuade Britain (as the executing authority for the PSNI) to withdraw its Boston College subpoena. Clinton hasn’t made any public pronouncements on the case — and nor would she, since this sort of diplomacy is better suited to talks away from the limelight.
Whatever the reason, Britain’s subpoena remains live. And with Barack Obama potentially facing defeat in eight weeks, the window of opportunity for Hillary to ride to the rescue is closing fast.
The former First Lady has made it clear that, even if Barack Obama wins re-election in November, she’ll not be returning as Secretary of State in his second term.
But all is not lost for those praying for State Department salvation.
Among the front-runners to succeed Clinton is none other than John Kerry.
If he takes over the State Department’s reins in a second Obama term — and if he wasn’t just playing to the Irish-American gallery when calling for Clinton to act — Kerry himself may end up playing the defining role in the Boston College tapes saga.