IAUC Letter to Secretary of State on Boston College Subpoenas
IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE
PO Box 55573 • Washington, D.C. 20040
Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Good Friday Agreement/
UK subpoena of Boston College records
Dear Secretary Clinton:
On behalf of the Irish American Unity Conference (“lAUC”), I write to call your attention to an urgent matter that threatens the peace process in Northern Ireland, and to request your assistance. At the request of the United Kingdom, the United States Attorney in Boston has caused the issuance of subpoenas to the Trustees of Boston College and two of its representatives, seeking the production of materials gathered and maintained by Boston College’s Bums Library which contain sensitive information and allegations concerning the Troubles in Northern Ireland. If released, the materials sought have serious potential to destabilize the peace process, which remains fragile and currently faces challenges from various elements from dissident nationalists and loyalist elements. The IAUC requests that you convey to the Attorney General the serious foreign policy and national security interests implicated by the subpoenas.
The legal proceedings, initiated on May 3, 2011, are currently pending before the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in IN RE: Request from the United Kingdom Pursuant to the Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters in the Matter of Dolours Price, M.B.D. No.: 11-MC-91078 (JLT). Strong legal arguments have been raised by Boston College and intervenors that the subpoenas are not consistent with the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) or with the Extradition Act. In particular, Article 3, Section 1 of the MLAT provides
“the Central Authority [i.e., the Attorney General] may refuse assistance if:
(a) the Requested Party [the United States] is of the opinion that the request, if granted, would impair its sovereignty, security, or other essential interests or would be contrary to important public policy; [or] …
(c) the request relates to an offence that is regarded by the [United States] as:
(i) an offence of a political character. … “
Release of the materials sought by the subpoenas would be contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States because they have a high potential for severely undermining the peace process which has been an important foreign policy objective of the United States for the past fifteen years. As you are aware, the United States, under the administration of President Clinton, was a principal architect of the Good Friday Agreement, or “GFA” (also known as the Belfast Agreement) signed in 1998 by the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The results of this historic agreement have been the establishment of stability and relative calm to the North of Ireland.
However, the Northern Ireland peace process is at a delicate juncture because certain elements exist who, for their own reasons, are staunchly opposed to the GFA and seek to undermine and dismantle the progress that has been made. While the contents of the subpoenaed materials are unknown to the public, it is likely that they contain material that will result in recriminations and undermine trust among various parties, and could lead to a new round of violence in Northern Ireland. In sum, the information sought has a serious potential for destabilizing the peace process and, by extension, U.S. national security interests.
The timing and focus of the subpoenas strongly suggest that they are politically and personally motivated to expose certain individuals to danger and to disrupt the peace process. The subpoenas command production of audio and video recordings of “any and all interviews containing information about the  abduction and death of Mrs. Jean McConville,” along with “written transcripts, summaries, and indices of such interviews …. ” The subpoenas were initiated in the immediate wake of unexpected success of nationalists in the February 2011 elections to the Irish Parliament in Dublin, and at a time when “dissident republicans” and hardline Loyalists have become increasingly active in trying to undo the peace. Further, The British government’s focus on a single killing in 1972 contrasts sharply with the United Kingdom’s refusal to pursue investigations of crimes involving the death of many more victims, such as the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan murders (33 civilians killed), the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre (11 civilians killed), the 1971 McGurk’s Bar bombing (15 civilians killed), and until last year, the 1972 Bloody Sunday murders (14 civilians killed).
The IAUC therefore urgently requests that you communicate with Attorney General Eric Holder, regarding the serious national security implications raised by the subject subpoenas, and for that reason request that the subpoenas be withdrawn.
Thomas J. Burke, Jr.