IAUC Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder

Eric H. Holder, Jr., Esq.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW Washington,
DC 20530-0001

Re: US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty – UK subpoena of Boston College records

Dear Attorney General Holder:

On behalf of the Irish American Unity Conference (“IAUC”), this is to request your personal attention to a legal matter of utmost concern to the IAUC and which has potentially serious implications for United States policy pertaining to international law and treaties. As you are aware, the United States Attorney, at the request of the United Kingdom, has caused the issuance of subpoenas to the Trustees of Boston College and two of its representatives, seeking the production of highly sensitive materials gathered and maintained by Boston College’s Burns Library. The legal proceedings are 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).

The subpoenas command production of audio and video recordings of “any and all interviews containing information about the [1972] abduction and death of Mrs. Jean McConville,” along with written transcripts, summaries, and indices of such interviews….” These materials are sought under the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), 18 U.S.C. §3512. Legal arguments have been raised by Boston College and intervenors that the subpoenas are not consistent with the MLAT or the Extradition Treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom signed on March 31, 2003 (Treaty Doc. 108-23). 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….”

Article 18 of the MLAT also requires that the Attorney General engage in a consultation with the United Kingdom where either the United States or the United Kingdom “has rights or obligations under another bilateral or multilateral agreement relating to the subject matter of this Treaty.” These issues are presently pending before the court in the docket referenced above.

The IAUC’s concern is that the subject materials contain sensitive information and allegations concerning the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland which, if released, pose a high potential to destabilize the Irish peace process. That process is at a delicate stage because there exist elements that, for their own reasons, are staunchly opposed to peace in Northern Ireland and seek to reverse the progress that has been made. While the contents of the subpoenaed materials are unknown to the public, it is likely that they will engender recriminations and undermine trust among various parties, and could lead to a new round of violence in Northern Ireland.

The IAUC believes that the subpoenas requested by the UK are politically motivated. The subpoenas were initiated on March 3, 2011, immediately after the unexpected success of nationalists in the February 2011 Irish elections, and at a time when “dissident republicans” and hard-line Loyalists have become increasingly active in trying to undo the peace.

Further, the British government’s focus on a single killing in 1972 contrasts starkly with the United Kingdom’s long-standing refusal to pursue investigations of crimes with many innocent 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 the murders of civil rights attorneys Patrick Finucane in 1996 and Rosemary Nelson in 1999.

Further, the IAUC submits that the Good Friday Agreement (“GFA”) is “another bilateral or multilateral agreement relating to the subject matter of” the MLAT, pursuant to which the UK has obligations, and therefore is the type of of agreement concerning which the Attorney General is obligated to consult under Section 18 of the MLAT prior to issuing subpoenas.

In light of the serious implications of the subpoenas including the legal issues raised, the IAUC urgently requests that you personally review the consistency of the subpoenas with the duties and obligations of your office under the MLAT, and upon due consideration, withdraw the request for subpoenas.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration, and please let us know if we may provide any additional information.

Thomas J. Burke, Jr. National President
Irish American Unity Conference

Peter C. Kissel
President, DC Chapter
Irish American Unity Conference