Case against McConville accused based on US interviews

Case against McConville accused based on US interviews
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConville
Irish Times
Sat, Mar 22, 2014

The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.

The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.

Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.

The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.

Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.

But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.

“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.

“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.

Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.

A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.

He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.

The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.

But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.

“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.

Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.

She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.

“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.

Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.

He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.

Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.

An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.

The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to gardaí.

She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.

Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.

After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.

“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.

“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.

Boston College tapes led to charge over McConville’s disappearance

Boston College tapes led to charge over McConville’s disappearance
John Mooney
Sunday Times
23 March 2014

AN ALLEGED member of the IRA has been charged in connection with the death of Jean McConville after police obtained a taped recording of an interview he gave to researchers for an oralhistory project organised by Boston College.

Ivor Bell, 77, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville, a 37-year-old mother of 10 kidnapped and killed by the IRA in December 1972.

A solicitor who represented Bell at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday said “the evidence was not credible”. Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan told Judge Amanda Henderson the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as Z, was his client. The solicitor insisted the person interviewed had denied any involvement.

“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” Corrigan said. He also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.

“The defence submits the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

A PSNI detective inspector rejected Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview. He said the transcript indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.

The officer opposed bail on the grounds the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed Bell had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.

Corrigan said this was out of the question, since his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, his family was based in Belfast, and he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.

Judge Henderson said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.

Bell was remanded in custody to appear again on April 11. He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.

The grandfather, who has suffered two heart attacks and has neck and bowel problems, was arrested at his home in Andersonstown last Tuesday.

The PSNI obtained tape recordings of interviews given by republicans following a protracted legal battle in the American courts.

The interviewees had been given assurances by the researchers that the tapes would only be released after they died, but a US court directed them to disclose the recordings.

A number of former IRA members who co-operated with the Boston College project sought legal advice following Bell’s arrest.

Bell was allegedly a senior figure in the IRA’s Belfast Brigade. He accompanied Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to London to attend secret talks with the British government in 1972 in an effort to reach a political agreement to end the violence engulfing Northern Ireland.

Yesterday Michael McConville, Jean’s son, said his family hoped that all those involved in the abduction and death of his mother would be brought to justice.

Adams said he could not comment on the decision to press charges against Bell for legal reasons, but said McConville’s killing and the disappearing of her remains were wrong and a “grievous injustice” to her family.

Belfast Project: No lawyers, few historians (and no IRB)

Belfast Project: No lawyers, few historians (and no IRB)
Zachary M. Schrag
Institutional Review Blog
22 February 2014

Discussions of the ill-fated Belfast Project at Boston College often frame the issue as what can happen to an oral history project in the absence of IRB oversight. But a recent account of the project in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as subsequent discussion, suggests that the real problem was a lack of involvement by lawyers and historians.

[McMurtrie, Beth. “Secrets From Belfast.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 26, 2014.]

No lawyers

The introduction to a follow-up webcast on the Chronicle site exemplifies the framing of the controversy as one over IRBs:

How is oral history different from other forms of scholarship? What obligations do oral historians and their colleges have, for example, if a subject reveals sensitive information? Who is allowed to hear these recordings and when? And should oral-history projects be vetted by institutional review boards?

But the webcast might better have asked, should oral-history projects be vetted by lawyers?

Here’s what we learn from Beth McMurtrie’s story:

In 2001, Robert O’Neill, head of the John J. Burns Library at Boston College, told researchers Anthony McIntyre and Ed Moloney, “I am working on the wording of the contract to be signed by the interview[ee], and I’ll run this by [historian] Tom [Hachey] and university counsel.” But, the article explains, “Mr. O’Neill never did check with a lawyer about the wording.”

This may have been the step when the project went wrong. Indeed, the researchers see it that way. As researchers Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre, and Wilson McArthur put it in follow-up statement:

Following the disclosure in the current edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education that Boston College misled ourselves and the participants in the oral history project into believing that the donor contract or agreement for interviewees had been vetted by the college’s legal advisers when it had not been, we are consulting our attorneys about the legal implications.

Let’s be clear. It’s not that the researchers or the university failed to recognize the need for legal advice. Rather, the university promised legal review and then failed to follow through.

In the webcast on the story, both Mary Marshall Clark, director of Columbia University’s Center for Oral History Research, and Clifford M. Kuhn, executive director of the Oral History Association, stressed the importance of consulting lawyers, not ethicists, when making promises of confidentiality. As Clark put it, “IRB is not a legal board, it’s an ethical board.”

Ethics review occasionally offers legal advantage, as when the Quebec court considered it as a factor in quashing a subpoena. But recall that in that case, the University of Ottawa refused legal representation to the researchers, and that the University of Arizona turned over data over the objection of its IRB. I suggest, then, that the problem at Boston College was not the absence of IRB review, but of legal review, which is quite a different thing.

Few historians

The article also shows the relatively small role played by professional historians and historical methods in the project.

  • Anthony McIntyre, described in the article as “an independent historian,” received his graduate training in political science. (McMurtrie’s article doesn’t mention this, but Wilson McArthur, who interviewed Loyalists, also has a degree in political science.)
  • Thomas Hachey–the Boston College historian most involved in the project–states, “I don’t think any pretense was made by any of us at the time that this was going to be following the template for official oral history.”
  • The project was mostly kept away from BC’s history department and its Irish-studies program. And when Kevin O’Neill, an associate professor of history, was eventually consulted, he “wrote a memorandum saying that he was impressed by [the interviews'] potential value to historians, but was very concerned that the interviewer didn’t appear to have much experience with oral-history methodology—asking leading questions, for example.”

Now, what O’Neill considers “leading questions” sound a lot like the two-sentence format used for decades by oral historians. At the risk of an ad hominem argument, I note that O’Neill is listed as a specialist on pre-famine Ireland. What training does he have in oral history methods?

Perhaps knowing that no one involved had much if any training in oral history, Clark used her time on the webcast to repeatedly disavow the project as an oral history project, calling it journalism instead.

I don’t know the exact basis for her distinction; it strikes me that a project aimed at developing an archive of interviews for future use is a lot more oral history than journalism. But this element of the story deserves more exploration.

What are the interests of third parties?

While McMurtrie’s article is a helpful addition to our understanding of the Belfast Project, it leaves unanswered what I consider a key question: what would have happened if all the contracts had been honored, and the researchers had followed all the protocols suggested by Clark? What if, that is, all narrators had reviewed their interviews, and those interviews had remained sealed until the narrators’ deaths?

The answer, it seems, is that the project would still have generated controversy, because the people most exposed by the interviews are not the narrators, but third parties they mentioned.

Here’s a key passage from the article:

Mr. Hughes gave a detailed account of the activities of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, of which he was a leader, including its role in the murder of Jean McConville. In December 1972 gunmen abducted the mother of 10 from her apartment in front of her children. Ms. McConville was never seen alive again. Mr. Hughes, who monitored the slum known as Divis Flats, where the McConville family lived, said she had been revealed as an informer for the British Army, was ordered killed, and her body buried. That order, he said, had come from Gerry Adams, his commanding officer.

Hughes died in 2008, so the interviewers broke no agreement by releasing his interviews after his death. Nor would the right of review stressed by Clark have kept Hughes from identifying Adams (who denies ever belonging to the IRA) as an IRA commander.

In his insightful take on the project, James Allison King, a doctoral student in information sciences, notes that Moloney claims inspiration from an earlier project conducted by the Irish Bureau of Military History.

[King, James Allison. “‘Say Nothing’: Silenced Records and the Boston College Subpoenas.” Archives and Records (published online 31 January 2014): 1–15. doi:10.1080/23257962.2013.859573.]

From 1947 to 1957, the Bureau compiled 1773 statements covering the Irish independence movement from 1913 to 1921. Rather than seal each interview until the narrator’s death, the Bureau apparently sealed the entire project until 2003, by which point, one suspects, just about everyone mentioned in the interviews was dead. That some of the Belfast Project’s interviews were published much more rapidly reflects not any misunderstanding between Boston College and the interviewers, nor the result of an unexpected subpoena. Rather, it was, at least in part, the decision of the interviewers that only the narrator had an interest in what he or she disclosed. But I haven’t seen an explicit statement from Moloney or McIntyre to this effect.

Oral history, Clark argues, “is a field of ethics.” I think she’s right, and the field may need to say more about the Belfast Project than that it wasn’t oral history.

 

 

Anthony McIntyre: Against the Dying of the Light

Against the Dying of the Light
Anthony McIntyre
The Pensive Quill
11 February 2014

The inferences to be drawn from Beth McMurtrie’s lengthy article Secrets From Belfast in the Chronicle for Higher Education show little sign of fading into the distance where they can be conveniently forgotten about by those least enamoured to being reminded. Her substantial investigation has stirred a hornet’s nest which on top of leaving Boston College fuming like a bear with a sore head has helped illuminate a gulf between aspects of investigative journalism in the US and its non-investigative opposite in Ireland. Flying in the face of the type of evidence uncovered by Beth McMurtrie, a lecturer in journalism in Dublin’s Griffith College with a penchant for using a range of monikers has kept himself busy finding that the researchers were to blame – all on their own. Some years earlier the same lecturer found that the same researchers were at fault for believing that the British had penetrated the IRA through the agent Stakeknife. He also concluded that the British spy Freddie Scappaticci was not in fact a British spy.
More…

Author’s accepted manuscript: ‘Say Nothing’

‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas
Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association
James Allison King

This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Archives and Records, Spring 2014 [copyright Taylor & Francis], available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23257962.2013.859573

‘Say nothing’- silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas
Author’s accepted manuscript

ABSTRACT

How will subpoenas for Boston College’s sealed Irish Republican Army (IRA) oral histories affect future attempts to archive the Troubles and armed conflict in general? To answer this question, the author examines the long-term implications of subpoenaing Boston College’s Belfast Project, arguing that the subpoenas present a case study of the little-recognized preservation hazard of silenced or uncreated records. The author situates the case within the context of the two types of wartime preservation hazards: the destruction or obfuscation of extant record and the silencing of records that otherwise would have been created. In order to show the subpoenas’ grave implications on the archive’s mission to record the full story of the Troubles for future generations, the article places the Belfast Project within the context of other Northern Irish and international archival projects. Ultimately, the author intends to demonstrate the relevance of the case to archivists, arguing that the Boston College subpoenas pose a preservation risk as hazardous as any fire or explosion by threatening to silence records that otherwise would have been created and thereby creating irreparable holes in the historical record of the Troubles.

FIRST PAGE EXCERPT

‘Northern reticence, the tight gag of place
And times: yes, yes. Of the ‘wee six’ I sing
Where to be saved you only must save face
And whatever you say, you say nothing’
–Seamus Heaney, North

Talk could be deadly during the Troubles, especially in the Catholic neighborhood of Divis Flats, where Jean McConville and her children lived.

Of the 3,709 people killed during the three decades of sectarian violence, the tragic circumstances surrounding her execution as an alleged agent for British military intelligence continues to haunt a traumatized nation.

Although the Irish Republican Army (IRA) executed McConville in 1972, her case remains unresolved more than four decades later. Detailed, first-hand information concerning her murder only became available under the auspices of a relatively recent groundbreaking oral history endeavor called the Belfast Project. Brendan Hughes, a Provisional IRA leader at the time, spoke about the IRA disappearance of the widowed mother of ten for the first time in a Boston College-sponsored oral history project:

I knew she was being executed. I didn’t know she was going to be buried…or ‘disappeared’ as they call it now. I know one particular person on the Belfast Brigade at the time, Ivor [Bell], argued for [her] to be shot, yes, but to be left on the street. Because to take her away and bury her…would serve no purpose people wouldn’t know. So looking back on it now, what happened to her…was wrong.

Like all IRA and Loyalist men and women interviewed by the ‘Belfast Project,’ Hughes was assured by Boston College’s researchers that ‘no material could be used until and unless the interviewee consented or had died.’

The Belfast Project sealed oral histories until the contributor’s death because, in the words of historian and journalist Chris Bray, ‘frank discussion about armed civil conflict could get interviewees killed or arrested.’

The College honored the contract for Hughes, who died in 2008. But federal subpoenas for the complete oral histories of Hughes, Dolours Price, and any other IRA recordings with information concerning McConville’s murder instigated a lengthy court battle extending over two years, which only recently attained some level of resolution. Although all parties concerned assumedly seek resolution for the 2,000 some unsolved murders during the Troubles, efforts to prematurely unlock the archive might paradoxically deepen the secrets of the Troubles by chilling present and future projects to retrieve previously unheard voices.

While some academic and political communities were quick to speak out about the case’s far-reaching cultural and legal implications, archivists have been slow to acknowledge the potential repercussions of the Boston College subpoenas.

Christine George has proven the exception by raising awareness throughout the community in part through the publication of a critical article exploring the future legal and ethical implications of the court case.

Like George, I intend to argue that the fate of the Belfast Project directly affects the archival community. My approach differs from hers, however, by examining the case through a preservation lens. More specifically, I will analyze how the subpoenas — and the inevitable distrust and entrenchment they will engender — threaten to determine how present and future conflicts are, or are not, preserved.

News of Interest: Researcher-participant confidentiality now a formal concept in Canadian law

Researcher-participant confidentiality now a formal concept in Canadian law
Miriam Shuchman
Canadian Medical Association Journal
February 3, 2014

The successful quashing of a search warrant for confidential research records has changed the landscape for protecting research participants in Canada, says a research confidentiality expert. John Lowman, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, says the court decision made researcher-participant confidentiality privilege a formal concept in Canadian law. However, the privilege won’t apply automatically to all confidential data; the ruling from Quebec Superior Court underscores that it must be argued on a case-by-case basis.

The pivotal case began in late May 2012, when an international manhunt was underway for Luka Magnotta, the Montréal porn actor suspected in the gruesome, videotaped murder of a Concordia University student in Montréal. With the web awash in photos of Magnotta, a man contacted police and told them that five years earlier, when he was a research assistant on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded study of escorts, he had interviewed the alleged murderer. University of Ottawa criminologists Chris Bruckert and Colette Parent led that study, but when Montréal police asked Bruckert if Magnotta had been interviewed, she said she didn’t know.

“In fact, there was no way I could have known,” she told CMAJ. To protect the privacy of research subjects working in the sex trades, Bruckert and Parent used strict confidentiality protocols, including asking research participants to choose pseudonyms — Magnotta chose “Jimmy” — and having their research assistants sign the pseudonyms to consent forms, to guard against anyone identifying participants based on handwriting. After an interview is taped, transcribed and stripped of obviously identifying information, they send it to the participant to delete other details that could identify them. Once the participant returns the transcript, the team destroys the participant’s e-mail address, along with the connection between the name, e-mail address and pseudonym.

Undeterred, police told Bruckert they would take legal steps, including a search warrant, to obtain the interview.

Bruckert contacted the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) where Executive Director Jim Turk hired Peter Jacobsen, a lawyer known for defending journalists who are pressed to divulge their sources. Bruckert sent the digital audiotape of the interview and the 68-page transcript to Jacobsen’s Toronto office. Police seized the materials there, but took them in a sealed package, because of the legal move to quash the search warrant on the grounds that it would violate the researchers’ promise of confidentiality.

By then, Magnotta had been arrested in Europe. Later he wrote an affidavit stating that he gave an interview as “Jimmy” in a study at the University of Ottawa, that he was assured the interview would be private and confidential, and that he wanted it to remain so.

To Bruckert, the threat was clear: her research on sex workers would be impossible without confidentiality. But the issue had been tested only once before in Canada. In a 1994 Coroner’s Inquest in Vancouver, a masters’ student was subpoenaed to testify about confidential interviews with individuals who assisted suicides among people with HIV/AIDS, but after he refused to answer questions, the coroner ruled that the student’s communications with his research subjects were privileged so his refusal to answer questions was not contempt of court.

As Bruckert and Parent worked to prepare their case, CAUT negotiated with the university seeking its support of the researchers, but University of Ottawa President Allan Rock wrote Turk that the university would not pay legal costs “in the context of criminal proceedings.” Members of the university’s Research Ethics Boards also pressed for support for the professors, writing Rock that a board had approved the research on condition of the participants’ confidentiality, and months later, University administrators agreed to cover about half the CAUT’s expense, or $150 000.

The hearing took place in April 2013 before Justice Sophie Bourque of Quebec Superior Court. Her 37-page decision issued Jan. 21, follows a legal framework known as the Wigmore criteria, a four-step analysis to determine if a particular communication should be protected against disclosure. The case hinged on whether the public interest in obtaining the “Jimmy” interview for the investigation and suppression of crime outweighed the interest in what Justice Bourque described as “the free flow of accurate and pertinent information,” which could dry up without a reliable promise of confidentiality. She broke the seal and reviewed the interview transcript privately, but did not share its contents, writing that its relevancy to the charges against Magnotta or to a “not criminally responsible” defence was “minimal at most and marginal.” Bourque quashed the search warrant, concluding that “the Confidential Interview is covered by the researcher-participant confidentiality privilege and…it should not be disclosed.”

The Crown has until late February to appeal the decision but already, the case has prompted rethinking of researchers’ duties. New guidelines at the University of Toronto, for example, list principles to be followed in “research where external pressure to disclose is reasonably foreseeable” and the federal Panel on Research Ethics told CMAJ it would issue a new interpretation of the duty of confidentiality in the next two months.

‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas

‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas
Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association
James Allison King

DOI:10.1080/23257962.2013.859573 Published online: 31 Jan 2014

Abstract

How will subpoenas for Boston College’s sealed Irish Republican Army oral histories affect future attempts to archive the Troubles and armed conflict in general? To answer this question, the author examines the long-term implications of subpoenaing Boston College’s Belfast Project, arguing that the subpoenas present a case study of the little-recognized preservation hazard of silenced or uncreated records. The author situates the case within the context of the two types of wartime preservation hazards: the destruction or obfuscation of extant record and the silencing of records that otherwise would have been created. In order to show subpoenas’ grave implications on the archive’s mission to record the full story of the Troubles for future generations, the article places the Belfast Project within the context of other Northern Irish and international archival projects. Ultimately, the author intends to demonstrate the relevance of the case to archivists, arguing that the Boston College subpoenas pose a preservation risk as hazardous as any fire or explosion by threatening to silence records that otherwise would have been created and thereby creating irreparable holes in the historical record of the Troubles.

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Keywords:
Boston College subpoenas, Belfast Project, archives, silence, preservation, armed conflict, Troubles, Northern Ireland, oral history

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Safe for Research? Boston College: The Truth Behind The Lost Contracts

Boston College: The Truth Behind The Lost Contracts
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow
6 August 2013

Around the beginning of July this year, myself and Anthony McIntyre began getting increasingly edgy messages from Boston College (BC) alleging that a crisis in the over two-year long subpoena saga was developing which needed urgent and radical action. Only ourselves, we were told, could provide the way out.

What followed was another depressing chapter in the story of Boston College’s seemingly boundless yearning to give up its precious research participants to the US government, the IRA activists who agreed to give the college valuable interviews between 2001 and 2006 about their lives during the Troubles.

The message was clear that that unless we identified three interviewees whose contracts with BC had been lost by the college then the Department of Justice, on behalf of the PSNI, would get a bonanza. BC issued warnings that a court decision this May which severely restricted the number of interviews that were eligible for handover could be reversed by the US government. That outcome, the message suggested, could be a disaster for the Belfast Project. Unless we named the three anonymous interviewees.

What had happened was this. At the very start of the legal challenge to the PSNI/DoJ subpoenas in 2011, a lower court ruled that every single interview given by anyone who mentioned Jean McConville had to be given to the PSNI. Most of the interviewees had provided a number of interviews, such that there were several transcripts related to each interviewee.

The lower court’s ruling created the following ludicrous situation: let’s say interviewee A gave fifteen interviews and had talked about McConville in only one. Even if that mention was just for the equivalent of say a couple of paragraphs, all fifteen interviews would nonetheless end up with the PSNI. Although fourteen of A’s interviews had nothing to do with the disappearance of Jean McConville, they would all be handed over.

Without going into all the detail suffice it to say that in May a higher court known as the First Circuit reversed that decision and very sensibly said that only those interviews which actually mentioned Jean McConville were eligible for handover. So for that hypothetical interviewee A, only one of his or her fifteen interviews could be sent to Belfast.

This was an important change especially for the interviewees because otherwise they possibly could face charges for a multitude of offences that had nothing to do with the McConville case. Doubtless the most disappointed party after the decision was made public was the PSNI.

But this is when BC began to undermine its own project, in the course of which it exploited the potential vulnerability of the interviewees to criminal charges beyond the McConville case in efforts which would have discredited myself and Anthony McIntyre.

The interviewees could only be identified by an alphanumerical code attached to all the transcripts and tapes sent to Boston by the two researchers, Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur. But each interviewee also signed a contract which consigned their interviews to BC on condition that they would only be published after their death. The process included a guarantee of confidentiality and the contract was proof of BC’s ownership.

The agreement between myself and BC was to use a coding system to maintain the anonymity of the interviewees, and that only myself and the Burns Librarian would have access to this code. The only way by which this code could be created was by reference to the donation agreements, which the Burns Librarian – not Ed Moloney – was obliged to collect in Belfast and transport to Boston.

Needless to say, the donation contracts were the most sensitive documents handled by anyone involved in the project. Without them, the interviewees could be not identified, and so they were handled with great care. Written into the arrangements that governed the project was the instruction that these contracts could only be carried to Boston by hand. They could not be sent by mail or via the internet because the risk of interception was too great.

As it happened the man in charge of the project, BC librarian Bob O’Neill was a regular visitor to Ireland and he would arrange to meet the two researchers from time to time to pick up the contracts which he would then take to Boston.

Alas, it seems that O’Neill lost, mislaid or otherwise never collected a number of these contracts. Even though the project ended in 2006 BC claims to have failed to notice this crucial gap in his paperwork until two years or so ago. The extent of the problem was not admitted by BC until the recent court decision when the college had to come clean. That is when we started getting those anxious messages.

Seven interviewees aside from Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price had mentioned Jean McConville in their sessions but the contracts for three of them, identified only as “S”, “Y” and “Z”, had been lost, we believe by O’Neill since both McIntyre and McArthur had compelling reasons to ensure the contracts ended up in his hands.

The message to us from BC was that the the DoJ had made an official request for the names of the three interviewees, absent which it could not identify them. If we failed to cooperate, we were told, the DOJ would request that the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Boston reconsider its decision and issue the whole transcripts, if not the entire archive, so that the DOJ could identify those interviewees whom the First Circuit found had knowledge of the McConville case.

Bear in mind that the DOJ had never asked for the code in its subpoenas, but BC’s alarmism suggested the DOJ would be granted what they never subpoenaed. If the DOJ got their way, then all of the hypothetical participant A’s fifteen interviews would go to the PSNI and the US government would justify this on the grounds that full access was the only way to identify “S”, “Y” and “Z”.

The clear implication of the messages from Boston College was that we, and specifically myself, would be responsible for the collapse of the entire project if the May decision was reversed. As one message from BC put it, referring to myself: “Does your client want this [opening up of entire interviews] to be his legacy?” (What? As opposed to giving up names to the PSNI?)

And so we waited with baited breath for the DoJ’s submission to the First Circuit in expectation that the government, in a fit of pique, would ask the First Circuit court to reverse its decision in the case of “S”, “Y” and “Z”. But we waited in vain.

Last Friday the government’s filing was made public and there was not a mention of this threat at all. Not one. Not even a hint of a threat. Instead the DoJ simply asked the court to not to change the result regarding the release of transcripts, but rather to reaffirm in principle the executive branch’s supremacy in relation to the exercise of treaties governing subpoenas delivered on behalf of foreign governments. However, the DOJ wholly declined to challenge the First Circuit’s earlier decision which still stands.

So, what is the explanation for Boston College’s groundless threats against myself and by implication Anthony McIntyre? The most charitable is that the college and its attorney completely misread the US government’s intentions. They cocked it up, in other words.

The least charitable is that the college knew full well that the DoJ had no intention to challenge the First Circuit’s restriction on the interviews but that, with some well-directed bullying and strong-arming, the result might be that we could be maneuvered into betraying our sources to the PSNI, an act that would completely discredit us in Ireland and end our campaign. If this was the case it is testament to how underhand BC’s tactics had become, and how little understood our motives in waging this battle.

I know which of these theories I believe and I believe it because there is another motive at work here, one that has been apparent almost from the outset of this legal case. That has been BC’s eagerness to put the US government’s law enforcement interests ahead of those of its research subjects; ensuring that it was seen to provide aid to law enforcement in its (bogus) murder investigation always seemed more important to BC than protecting the people who agreed to share important and sensitive historical information with the institution.

And herein lies a very important message. Boston College should be shunned as an institution for academic research until it proves that it will fight with integrity and determination to protect the confidentiality and interests of its research subjects. Until then BC simply cannot be trusted. It is not a safe place to conduct research.

Boston tapes name gaffe: Confessions may be useless after identity codes lost

Boston tapes name gaffe: Confessions may be useless after identity codes lost
BY JIM DEE
Belfast Telegraph
29 JULY 2013

In the latest twist in the battle over taped interviews made with former paramilitaries as part of a history project by a US university, doubt has now arisen as to how useful they may be to the PSNI.

It was reported at the weekend that Boston College, which holds the tapes, had lost the coded keys identifying individual participants among the dozens of former IRA and UVF members interviewed for its oral history Belfast Project.

The interviews include those of deceased former IRA member Dolours Price who alleged Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was involved in the IRA’s 1972 slaying of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, whom the IRA regarded as a spy.

Three weeks after it was widely reported in many media outlets that a 26-month legal battle over the Price interviews ended with PSNI officers flying to Boston to take possession of them, it’s been reported that Boston College isn’t in possession of the coded keys to the interviews. It is not believed that the revelations relate to the Price interviews.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, journalist Ed Moloney – the former director of Boston College’s Belfast Project – was adamant that the college was periodically given the coded keys when the material was presented to its archivists by the interviewers from 2001 until 2006.

He said that, as the project progressed, he moved to New York, and, although he remained involved, he wasn’t party to the handing over of interviewee contracts or identification keys. He also criticised Boston College for not doing a proper inventory of the material before now.

“The project started in 2001 and we’re now in the year 2013, and it is only now that Boston College has suddenly realised ‘Oh! We don’t have the contracts’.”

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn labelled Moloney’s allegations “reprehensible”. Mr Dunn insisted that Mr Moloney was duty-bound to make sure that the college got the contracts and identifying keys. He said: “Ed Moloney, as project director, had a contractual obligation to provide the materials and we’re going to hold him accountable to provide those materials.”

The US Department of Justice will announce tomorrow whether or not it will appeal a May 31 federal appeals court decision in favour of Boston College.

That decision restricted the scope of an earlier ruling that 74 sessions with seven former IRA members be turned over the US Justice Department, which is acting on behalf of the PSNI. The appeals court has ordered Boston College to surrender only 11 sessions.

BACKGROUND

Boston College’s Belfast Project saw two dozen former IRA and UVF members interviewed from 2001 to 2006.

Participants were assured that their interviews wouldn’t be published while they were alive.

Now it has now emerged that coded keys, identifying who’s who among the interviewees, cannot be found.

Boston College Belfast Project IRA Tapes: Row Over Interviewee Identities

Row over interviewee identities
UTV News
Published Sunday, 28 July 2013
The controversy surrounding the Boston College interviews has taken another twist after those involved refused to identify three IRA members who took part in the project.

The tapes were obtained by the PSNI under a court order in connection with the investigation into the death of Jean McConville – one of the Disappeared.

Earlier this month, two PSNI detectives travelled to the US to bring back excerpts of interviews carried out at Boston College as part of their inquiry into the murder of west Belfast woman Jean McConville in 1972.

The interviews were carried out by journalists Ed Maloney and Anthony McIntyre and the project was overseen by the college.

A court ordered the college to hand over the material following the death of one of the interviewees, the former IRA bomber Dolours Price who died in January.

The police want to review the interviews conducted with Price.

It’s believed she alleged that Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams personally ordered the IRA abduction of the Belfast mother of 10.

However, Mr Adams has always denied the allegations and of ever being a member of the organisation.

In the latest twist, it has emerged that Boston College, cannot identify three of the interviewees.

The Sunday Times newspaper has reported that a lawyer for Ed Maloney and Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, wrote to the college declining to help.

He’s quoted as saying his clients’ obligations to the interviewees require them to resist any attempts to help identify those who are still alive.

Writing on his internet blog, Ed Moloney suggested the revelation means that almost half of the nine interviews given by IRA members are now of questionable legal value.

He has suggested one of the interviewees was Dolours Price but said it was not known whether her original contract authenticating the interview was lost or never collected from researchers in Ireland.

It’s reported that researchers could face legal action by the US Government for the entire set of interviews to be handed over.