Informant Confidentiality in the Corporate University

Informant Confidentiality in the Corporate University
By Robert Dingwall
Social Science Space
Published: January 30, 2012

UK newspapers have belatedly picked up on a troubling precedent that is crystallizing in the US courts. Boston College has been ordered to disclose recordings from an archive of interviews with former IRA members to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The PSNI believe these recordings may contain information relevant to their investigation into a 1972 murder. The researchers who compiled them apparently promised their informants life-long confidentiality, while Boston College claims that they were only authorized to promise confidentiality so far as US law permits. When the project began in 2001, however, US law was assumed to set a high threshold for disclosure, following precedents in relation to journalists, under the provisions of the First Amendment and its protection of speech. The matter has not been helped by the Federal District judge’s handling of the case, where he refused to allow the researchers to be joined as parties. Boston College appears to have offered only a pro forma defence and declined to appeal the judge’s order. However, the researchers were successful in getting the Federal Appeal court to allow them to intervene and to receive further argument. The hearing is scheduled for March but the judge has set a timetable for disclosure that effectively pre-empts the opportunity for Supreme Court review, if the researchers lose the appeal. These actions have been widely criticised in the US press, which sees the low threshold set by the judge as a threat to their own constitutional protections.

The case, however, raises wider issues about the problems of social research in corporate universities. Writing in the Times Higher Education, the outgoing President of the British Sociological Association castigates the Boston researchers for not recognizing that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed – ‘informed consent forms always explain that confidentiality will be maintained only to the full extent provided under the law.’ In doing so, he fails to acknowledge the impact of the change from professional to organizational responsibility that has occurred during the last 35 years. The scholars who trained me were men and women of great integrity and insisted on the personal responsibility of the researcher. You did what was required to protect your informants. In the US, graduate students like Mario Brajuha and Rik Scarce accepted imprisonment for contempt of court rather than disclose their field notes. Laud Humphreys moved the data from Tearoom Trade out of state and eventually destroyed it when law enforcement agencies became interested in gaining access to support the criminal prosecution of the homosexual men he had observed.

The corporate university’s regulation of research transfers legal accountability to the institution. Once the research is licenced by the university’s internal review procedures, the university is necessarily associated with it. I gather, for example, that it is now not uncommon for UK institutions to demand that copies of all original data should be deposited with them in case of litigation. The original researcher has no effective veto on access, regardless of the risks to themselves or to their informants. Universities may still make principled decisions. Stirling’s resistance to the Freedom of Information case brought by Philip Morris is a good example. However, the stakes for them are fundamentally different. Corporate actors have reputations to manage and deep pockets to drain in fines and legal costs. Their responses to litigation are necessarily more pragmatic, as the behaviour of Boston College shows. It is enough simply to go through the ritual of establishing that compliance with a disclosure request is not voluntary but made under a court order, without considering the wider implications of that order for the safety of investigators and the long-term societal benefit of free inquiry.

The key points are well made by Harvey Silvergate writing on the Boston case in Forbes magazine, not usually considered a mouthpiece for irresponsible subversion:

…in the interests of protecting freedom of scholarly inquiry, the extraordinary step of subpoenaing confidential academic research must be avoided if at all possible, a step to be taken only in the most exigent of situations and as a last resort. Academics play an important role in society for the enlightenment of current and future generations; they are not mere detectives bedecked in tweed and working for governments…

Academics are not used to standing up to courts… But reporters take the drastic step of almost welcoming jail sentences for a reason; if they do not make it tremendously inconvenient, and embarrassing, for the government to seek information from them, then investigative journalism would not exist, for confidentiality would be impossible.

We could leave social investigation to journalists but would we not be poorer as a society, if we were unable to place ‘deviant behaviour’ in a wider theoretical framework than that permitted by the constraints of everyday media production? Social researchers can properly inconvenience and embarrass governments. Do corporate universities have the same interests?

Boston IRA Tapes in the Courts

Boston IRA Tapes in the Courts
by Jim Clifford
Jan 30th, 2012

Northern Ireland experienced three decades of violent conflict until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Many of perpetrators never faced justice and some of these individuals have been brought into the political system as a part of the peace deal. This past creates multiple tensions in the present and leaves significant questions about how the judicial system should approach the numerous unsolved murders. Historians and those interested in truth and reconciliation have their own desires to better understand this past. Why did so many otherwise normal individuals become involved in mass murder? Can a greater knowledge of the individual motivation of IRA members help us better understand these kinds of conflicts in the future? All this leads to significant tensions between the desires of victims’ families for justice and the demands of a political settlement and power sharing agreement that might fall apart if too many reformed political leaders are brought up on charges. An academic project to record oral histories with living IRA members, which were then to be locked away at the archives in Boston College until the interviewee passed away, has brought these tensions between the demands of justice and a search for historical understanding into the news. The Belfast Project for Boston College preformed the interviews with republicans for five years beginning in 2001. Last year, after details from the late Brenden Hughes interviews were published, the Police Service of Northern Ireland began court proceedings in the United States requesting access to the remaining interviews.

An appeals court in the United States will now have to decide between the demands for justice and the value of this kind of historical project, which might become impossible in the future if academics cannot find a way to deposit transcripts beyond the reach of a subpoena. The issues are further complicated, as some suggest these interview transcripts might confirm Gerry Adams’ role in some of the violent attacks and potentially could lead to criminal charges for the current President of Sinn Féin (something Adams denies). Beyond the legal implications, this could damage Adam’s political career, as he claims he was never a part of the IRA. This creates a very difficult situation for the American appeals courts, as their decision might lead to a potential political crisis in Norther Ireland. Academics and journalists will now have the opportunity to intervene in the court case and make arguments that the importance of creating this kind of historical archive outweighs the demands of justice for the unsolved crimes from the troubles. Are they right? Does our quest to better understand the past supersede the rights of all of the victims?

Boston College: Someone Learned to Read

Boston College: Someone Learned to Read
Chris Bray
Monday, January 30, 2012

On Wednesday afternoon, Judge William Young will hold yet another hearing in the matter of the PSNI’s fishing expedition in the Boston College archives. This latest development follows Young’s recent order that BC hand over a new set of IRA interviews to the government, and the DOJ’s argument that the judge hadn’t gone far enough and there were possibly still more archived materials that BC should be compelled to surrender.

In response to the DOJ’s declaration of endless hunger, BC’s outside lawyer has offered a short and remarkable document (see below). Remember that BC gave the court every IRA interview in its Belfast Project collection for in camera review, after telling Young that no one at the university had any idea which archived materials were responsive to the government’s subpoenas. But they did not give the court the other half of that collection, which is made up of interviews with members of loyalist paramilitaries that were active in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Arguing for reconsideration of Young’s most recent ruling, the DOJ argued that the judge shouldn’t finalize his order until the court was certain that no materials among the interviews with loyalists discussed the murder of Jean McConville by the IRA.

In his brief filed on Jan. 26, BC’s lawyer offered this in response:

“Finally, the Government’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration asks that the Court modify the statement that its Order is a ‘final order,’ in light of the fact that Boston College is reviewing, at the Government’s request, the ‘non-IRA’ interview materials to determine if any are responsive to the second subpoenas. Boston College has completed that review and has found no relevant materials, as explained in its Report filed under seal.”

So a few weeks ago, pronouncing themselves unable to determine what was in their own archives, BC officials were forced to give the court every IRA interview in a protected collection. But now we discover that they can find out what’s in the collection, and can use that knowledge to push back against government overreaching.

How and why did they complete a review, and determine what materials among the loyalist interviews were responsive to the subpoenas, a short time after telling the same court they were unable to conduct a review to determine what materials among the republican interviews were responsive to the same subpoenas?

The latest brief follows.

WBAI: Radio Free Eireann interview with Ed Moloney and Carrie Twomey

Interview with Ed Moloney and Carrie Twomey
Radio Free Eireann WBAI Radio New York City
Radio Free Eireann
28 January 2012

(1:38PM EST)

John McDonagh (JM) and Sandy Boyer (SB) interview Ed Moloney (EM) and Carrie Twomey (CT) both via telephone about the recent hearing concerning the PSNI subpoena sent to Boston College for The Belfast Project, the Oral History archive collected from former combatants in The Troubles.

Sandy Boyer (SB): And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.

We’re talking about The Belfast Project, the Oral History of The Troubles that the Police Service of Northern Ireland wants to get their hands on with the assistance, unfortunately, of our Justice Department. We’re going to be talking to Ed Moloney, the director of the project who is also the author of Voices From the Grave, and Carrie Twomey, whose husband, Anthony McIntyre, did the interviews with the members of the Provisional IRA. And Carrie was over here to spread the word and actually this week there was a hearing in Boston and Carrie was at it and is going to tell us about it. But first Ed, tell us very quickly: what is The Belfast Project?

Ed Moloney (EM): The Belfast Project was an Oral History project based at Boston College, financed by Boston College and enthusiastically adopted by Boston College back in 2000. The idea behind it was that over a number of years we would go out and try to interview as many people as we could who had been involved at the cutting edge of The Troubles on all sides. The first part of the project that got underway almost immediately was dealing with Republicans and not just the IRA, but other Republicans as well. The second part was the Ulster Volunteer Force, the UVF, which was the major Loyalist group in Northern Ireland. And a third part which got underway but sort of faltered a little bit because of the quality of the material was dealing with the RUC, with the police side of it. We decided to go down this road because The Troubles had lasted something like 30-35 years by the time we got going. A lot of the people who had been involved throughout The Troubles were getting on in years and some had already died. This was not a project that you could leave for another twenty years or so as happened after the Anglo-Irish War when the Irish government did a similar sort of Oral History project. The Anglo-Irish War lasted, what, a matter of three or four years and then they could sit and wait for twenty years for passions to calm somewhat and then go out and interview people. We didn’t have that time. So it was either do it now or it would be lost possibly forever. The important aspect of the archives and the project was that we were interviewing ordinary foot soldiers, if you’d like, the people who normally don’t figure in the history books, not the leaders but the people that actually did the business, if you’d like. And their stories, therefore, would be all the more valuable and also, we thought, in terms of getting a look inside the minds of people who indulge or take up political violence and it would be very valuable for conflict research people and so on and so forth. So, from all points of view it was regarded as very valuable project, and that’s the way that Boston College regarded it up until very recently when they started to, unfortunately, disown it.

SB: And we’re also joined by Carrie Twomey, who is married to Anthony McIntyre who did the research on the Republican participants. And Carrie has come out from Ireland to attempt to mobilise support to stop the PSNI from getting their hands on this. So Carrie, thanks for being with us.

Carrie Twomey (CT): Thank you, Sandy. Good to talk with you again.

SB: And Carrie, this Tuesday there was a hearing, actually in Boston actually in Boston College, about whether the tapes would have to be handed over and you were at that hearing. Can you tell us about it?

CT: Yes, I was at the hearing in Boston and it was very emotional for me to be there and sit directly in front of the Judge and listen to our lawyer put our case forward and hear the Judge dismiss it. We had anticipated that and we are appealing it and we’ll be taking it as far as we possibly can. But it was still…you know…this is people’s lives on the line here and that’s very hard to hear it in person.

SB: And Carrie, what did the Judge actually finally say?

CT: Well, one thing that he said that was positive that came out of this was that in reading the transcripts that the project itself was a very academic work full of intellectual rigor and that was good to have that validated in court. But he didn’t think that Anthony or Ed had standing to be able to file their own complaint. Of course, we completely disagree and that’s why we’re appealing his ruling.

SB: And he essentially said that the tapes and the interviews would have to handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

CT: Yes. An interestingly enough there’s a very significant article today carried by Reuters by Ross Kerber in which he has the PSNI quoted as saying that they want all of the material at Boston College. Now obviously, it’s a complete fishing expedition that they’re going on; it’s not specific as it was presented in the sealed subpoena. Again, we don’t know the full details of what’s in the sealed subpoena but that statement that was issued by the PSNI this week really seems to contradict everything up to this point. They’re going for everything. That’s a fishing expedition. The US courts should not be supporting that on behalf of a foreign government.

John McDonagh (JM): And Carrie, who was actually in the court room, any Irish-American groups, what types of press were there and how were you treated?

CT: The Irish-American support has been terrific and I really want to give a shout out and a thanks to all the Irish-American groups: the Irish-American Unity Conference, The Brehon Society, The Ancient Order of Hibernians, they treated me great in New York. Thank you so much you guys for all the help that you did. O’Dwyer and Bernstein’s offices…I could not have asked for a better reception. In Boston, I had John Foley with me, Dick Wall from the AOH was very, very supportive…Jim Cohan came down from New York. Irish-America has pulled behind us in such a fantastic way and we owe a big thanks to them because this is why people like Senator Kerry are moving this forward and challenging the British on this. So thank you to those guys; all that support is fabulous. And I’m meeting Irish-American Unity Conference President tomorrow, Thomas Burke, here in Colorado and again, I just am so grateful for all the support that the Irish-American groups have given us. I also ran into the spokesman for Boston College, Jack Dunn, who was extremely rude to me and turned his back on me and would not even allow me to introduce myself which I just don’t understand the rudeness. It wouldn’t have cost him anything to be polite. He treated me like dirt.

SB: I think the Boston College security guards sort of hustled you out of there.

CT: They did. And as I said on the day: Boston College are cowards. And they’re putting my family’s life in danger and to be treated so rudely on top of that is just disgraceful. I have not enough words to describe my disgust for Boston College and the way they’re handling this.

SB: Ed, at long last you’re really starting to get some very, very significant support: Senator John Kerry, who’s the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a letter to the State Department on your behalf. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

EM: Yes, yes. This is again is thanks to the work of the Irish-American groups primarily who’ve been lobbying his office. He’s Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a very powerful figure and thanks to their efforts he issued a letter which could not have been better had we written it ourselves essentially pointing out the damage this could do to Oral History in the United States of America and also the damage that this could to the Northern Ireland peace process. He’s hinting very broadly that the aim of this subpoena exercise is really to nail Gerry Adams and he knows full well what damage that would do. He’s calling on Hillary Clinton to intercede with the British to get them to withdraw. And I understand from a piece that was in, that was written by Reuters yesterday, that he’s also had meetings with British officials in an effort to try to persuade them to withdraw the subpoenas. Now, that’s very heavy-weight support. It’s all due to the fact that we decided at a reasonably early stage to break legally from Boston College’s case, to get our own lawyers, Eamonn Dornan and Jim Cotter; Eamonn of Belfast and Queens (NY) and Jim of Boston have done an absolutely magnificent job. What they have done is that they have given this whole legal process extra life, extra months which left to Boston College we wouldn’t have had. And those extra months have given the space and the time for Irish-America to organise and to get people like Senator Kerry backing this project. And the significance of Senator Kerry doing this is that where he goes others will follow and they will certainly not oppose him, certainly not in the Democratic Party. So, this is really excellent, excellent news. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, obviously.

SB: So Ed, you’re finally getting some really significant media attention. Forbes Magazine had an article, I saw something in The Washington Post today and The Atlantic did something. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

EM: Yeah, right. I’d really like point people towards the article written by an imitable Libertarian, attorney and academic called Harvey Silverglate in which he excoriates the people behind this case and lashes the Judge, William Young, for the way that he has handled the case in a way which no one else has done so far. Pointing out the enormous damage that this case can do to and will do, if we don’t prevail in the court. The enormous damage that will be done to American academic life and he’s pointing out a number of things that the Judge ruled that are beyond rational explanation, for example: denying us intervention. Anthony McIntyre’s life is in danger if these subpoenas succeed. If I am forced by the authorities in Britain to validate and authenticate any of the interviews for evidential purposes that transforms me from a journalist into a Crown witness and makes me a target. Not that I’m going to do that but let’s say I succumb to the pressure that will come then that puts my life in danger. And the Judge is saying these people don’t have any right to intervene, they have no interest at stake. Well, we do, we have our lives at stake. He’s also ordered that if the Stay is lifted, within three days these documents, these interviews and tapes, have to be handed over to the British. Well, if you’ve only got three days that limits your time to take the next stage of appeal. We would, I think, like to take this all the way to the Supreme Court but Judge Young has rigged the game in such a way that it’s going to make it very difficult for us to do that. And he also ruled against our case on the grounds that there were no other sources available to the Police Service of Northern Ireland other than the Boston College tapes which is absolute nonsense. Given that this case started with a taped interview that was given to a Belfast newspaper back in February, 2010. A taped interview that was used in two newspaper articles; that material is available, the person who gave that interview is available, and none of these, as we’ve discovered, were followed up by the police at the time. They could have gone to interview the journalist involved in The Irish News and The Sunday Life, they could have asked to interrogate the person who gave the interviews. They have done none of that. They only went to The Irish News newspaper after we highlighted all of this in our very first affidavit fighting these subpoenas in June. In other words, more than thirteen months after these newspaper interviews the PSNI finally exert themselves to go around and interview the primary source for this. Now what sort of investigation is that? That’s a scandalous investigation! And for the Judge to know all of this, and he knows it because it’s in the affidavits, and to utterly and totally ignore it is nothing short of shameful.

SB: Ed, thank you and Carrie, we want to close here with you. First of all, you’ve been in this country how long and how long will you still be here?

CT: I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m extending my visit another week. I hope to be meeting some influential Senators and Congress people in California next week to keep pressing home this issue. We’ve got the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate on board; they’re very concerned about this as evidenced by the statements from the Chairman, Senator Kerry. And I’m hoping to start meeting with House Representatives on the other side of the Foreign Relations Committee. So, we’re going to keep pressing this politically, we’re going to keep fighting this as hard as we can. This is a very important issue for history and for people’s lives. And I’m doing everything that I possibly can here, while I’m here in The States, to raise this issue everywhere. And again I’ll reiterate, I’ll meet with anybody, any time, anybody who can help. And I’m so grateful for all the help that everybody has been giving us so far.

SB: And Carrie, if anybody wants to get in touch with you, they’ve got suggestions, they’ve got leads for you…how can they do that?

CT: The best thing is to get a message through to Anthony: Contact him via his Facebook page, send him a direct message there; he can get it to me. Or you can follow the Boston College Subpoena News which is: Sign up for our Facebook account and sign up for our Twitter account. You can send me a direct message on Twitter and I’ll be able to get back to you.

SB: Okay, so the easiest way is to send an email to thepensivequill – p-e-n-s-i-v-e- quill- dot- a-m, is that right?

CT: Yes. anthony mcintyre at the pensive quill dot am

SB: anthony mcintyre at the pensive quill and Anthony, of course, is your husband and will immediately get the word to you. Ed, Carrie, thank you both very much and we’ll be following this, of course.

(Interview ends 1:52:52)

Kerry reaches out on Northern Ireland “Troubles” records

Kerry reaches out on Northern Ireland “Troubles” records
By Ross Kerber
BOSTON | Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:47pm EST

(Reuters) – Senator John Kerry said on Friday he had contacted British officials, hoping to end their quest to subpoena confidential interviews of Irish Republican Army (IRA) veterans kept under seal at Boston College in Massachusetts.

Kerry, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading voice on U.S. policy toward Ireland, said the probe risks upsetting the 1998 peace deal that ended fighting in Northern Ireland if it leads to prosecutions of current political leaders.

“If you start now to chase after some of those people who are governing, you wind up creating a whole set of retro-tensions that are contrary to this reconciliation,” Kerry said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

The interviews are part of an oral history project on Northern Ireland and include talks with IRA figures and veterans of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Many were subpoenaed at the request of Northern Ireland’s police by the Justice Department last year.

British authorities want the records to help solve one of the most notorious killings of Ireland’s so-called sectarian “Troubles,” the death of Jean McConville.

A widowed mother of 10, McConville was abducted and murdered in 1972 by the IRA on suspicion of being a government informer – something her family has denied. Her body was recovered in 2003.

The case got new attention in 2010 following interviews of IRA members who connected Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams to McConville’s death. Adams has always denied being part of the IRA or that he had anything to do with McConville’s case.

One of the IRA members, Brendan Hughes, died in 2008, freeing researchers affiliated with Boston College to publish the interviews Hughes had granted as part of what is known as the “Belfast Project.”

The details from Hughes and another IRA member led to new interest in the collection, and eventually the subpoenas filed by the U.S. Justice Department at the request of British authorities under international criminal treaties.


In a statement on Friday, The Police Service of Northern Ireland said that “Detectives have a legal responsibility to investigate all murders and pursue any and all lines of inquiry – for the victims, for the next-of-kin and for justice. As a result, detectives from the PSNI’S serious crime branch have asked for all the material held by Boston College.”

Asked about Kerry’s views, a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office referred questions about the case to other ministries, who were not immediately available to comment on Friday evening in London.

The subpoenas are now the subject of an ongoing battle in U.S. courts over how far the college and researchers can go to protect the materials, and exactly what promises of confidentiality and control the college allowed the researchers to make to the interviewees.

On January 20 U.S. District Court Judge William Young ordered the school to turn over material from a half-dozen or so interviewees, but the order has been stayed pending an appeal on which a hearing is expected in March.

Hoping to defuse tensions, Kerry said he is “reaching out at the highest levels” to British officials, who he declined to specify, and may meet with some soon about the case.

In a January 23 letter to the U.S. State Department about the subpoenas, Kerry said “it would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past fourteen years” since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that became the basis for peace in Northern Ireland.

One weakness of the peace deal is that it lacked a formal process for airing out all the details of the country’s violent past, as have been set up in other war-torn nations like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Kerry said such a process might be possible in Northern Ireland some day, but not just yet. “I don’t think things are far enough along as far as resolving some of the issues,” he said.

The work of such a commission, Kerry said, “would be a little raw right now.”

(Reporting By Ross Kerber in Boston; Additional reporting by Ivan Little in Belfast and Adrian Croft in London; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Obvious Lying Tends to be a Bad Public Relations Tactic

Obvious Lying Tends to be a Bad Public Relations Tactic
Friday, January 27, 2012
Chris Bray

Yesterday, in this post, I discussed a videotaped interview that RTÉ conducted with Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn, who babbled an unusually large amount of vicious bullshit, even by his usual standards.

Today, that video is gone. Go look.

RTÉ apparently figured out that they had been used as a vessel for a series of dishonest and personally nasty claims that were easily disproved. Good for them, but if only they had figured it out before they posted the video in the first place.

Or, better yet, if only Jack Dunn hadn’t told such obvious lies in the first place. But let’s not hope for the impossible.

Bottom line: Boston College is scrambling, because their position is crumbling. They are becoming reckless, and their PR maneuvers are becoming untenable. They should stop. They should just stop. They are trying to control the damage done to the institution by a series of their own failures, and they are, I think, trying to protect themselves from their own perception of their failures. That effort to push away the perception of failure is causing the failure to metastasize. They should face it, concede it, and examine it.

The point has come at which nothing is more harmful than the institutional insistence on seeing a significant failure as primarily a public relations problem that can be massaged through messaging.

WBUR: Boston College Caught In Dispute Over Belfast Project

Boston College Caught In Dispute Over Belfast Project
By Sacha Pfeiffer and Lynn Jolicoeur
Jan 27, 2012

Listen Now

BOSTON — For 30 years, the so-called Troubles in Northern Ireland between Irish nationalists and British loyalists led to regular bombings, shootings and killings.

A decade after the historic peace accord there, Boston College began assembling the stories of people on both sides of the conflict.

Now British law enforcement wants the recordings of interviews conducted for that oral history research, known as the Belfast Project. Britain claims the recordings may contain information about the killings of several people, including a Belfast mother of 10. One former IRA member has claimed that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams ordered that murder.

A federal judge in Boston has ruled that BC must surrender some of the recordings because of a U.S. treaty with Britain, and the school is now deciding whether to appeal.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with the director of the Belfast Project, Irish journalist Ed Moloney and the man who did the IRA interviews, Anthony McIntyre, who are appealing the judge’s ruling together.

McIntyre said he promised confidentiality to his interviewees until their death — but only because that’s what BC promised.

Anthony McIntyre: It seems to me that Boston College did not have the terra firma on which to stand legally when they stated that the ultimate power of release of the interviews lay with the interviewee, not anybody else.

Sacha Pfeiffer: Ed, as the director of this project, is it fair to say that when you received BC’s assurances, you didn’t feel you had to then further research and vet the promise? You simply accepted at face value what the college told you?

Ed Moloney: Yes, indeed, because we were dealing with one of the most prestigious colleges in North America, which had built up a very solid reputation as an intervener in the Northern Ireland peace process. And the thought that we should somehow doubt these people’s word and go away and separately check, to us at that time it would have seemed almost an act of betrayal of the people that we were dealing with.

Anthony, you are a former member of the Irish Republican Army who served 18 years in prison for the murder of a loyalist. You now say that you are afraid for your own safety if the tapes are released. Why?

Anthony McIntyre: Former senior members of the IRA are accusing me of being an informer. I know that they are ratcheting up the [hate] campaign so that I will become a [hate] figure or at least more susceptible to have been attacked in that circumstance.

Ed Moloney: The IRA has this attitude that you may leave the organization, but its secrets stay on forever, and that anyone who’s seen to be party to divulging those secrets — even though it’s for an academic exercise and not to the British — would be deemed by them to be guilty of informing. The penalty is death. So Anthony McIntyre’s life is at stake here, and very possibly mine as well.

Ed, in your appeal, you’re expressing concern that the peace process in Northern Ireland could be jeopardized if the tapes are made public. Why do you fear that?

Ed Moloney: A lot of us, myself included, suspect that one of the motives behind this bid for these interviews is because the police know exactly where the trail is going to end up. It’s going to end up at the door of Gerry Adams. Adams is the leader of Sinn Féin and a former IRA leader. He is responsible for the peace process. The peace process has brought Sinn Féin into government. And if Adams ends up either being accused or being indicted, or being the subject of a civil action as a result of all of this, I don’t have to spell out the damage.

On the other hand, this case has to do with an unsolved murder — the mother of 10 who was murdered by the IRA. How do you make a persuasive argument that that information should not be turned over to law enforcement if it could solve a murder?

Ed Moloney: I would be the first one to applaud you in terms of that sentiment that you just expressed if the same standards were being applied across the board. I have nothing but sympathy for Jean McConville and her family. There are other examples of police agents in Belfast who’ve been exposed, policemen who were running double agents in loyalist or in Republican organizations who allowed those people to murder at will. There have been demands that these policemen who connived other people’s murders be brought to justice. Nothing has happened. The same people who are investigating this case refuse to investigate their own police officers. And when you have double standards, then you’re entitled to say no.

Anthony, you are now appealing the judge’s decision on your own, separate from Boston College. How do you expect this to turn out?

Anthony McIntyre: I am hopeful that reason and logic, both at the political and the judicial level, will prevail. The only reason that those interviews are not now in the hands of the police service of Northern Ireland is because myself and Ed Moloney have been in the courts defending those interviews and doing our utmost not to hand them over.

Both of you are clearly very disappointed with Boston College. On the other hand, the college has fought this. It has tried to stand up for academic freedom. Do you not think that BC has done enough?

Ed Moloney: No, they certainly have not. They could have taken it to a higher court and convinced that court of the merits of their argument. But no, they didn’t. At the first hurdle, they jumped out of the race. I mean, this is a major American college involved in research projects, and it won’t defend its own research projects? So what’s the lesson from that? Don’t do any research projects. At least don’t do any that tackle risky subjects because the college is not going to defend you. Boston College should, on behalf of American academic life, have been in there fighting to the last gasp to defend the values and the principles that lie behind research and academic study. And I’m afraid they didn’t do that, and it’s to their eternal shame.

– BC Responds —

Moloney and McIntyre’s account of legal protections promised by Boston College differs sharply from the account offered by the school. Sacha spoke with Boston College Communications Director Jack Dunn, who says the researchers refuse to accept responsibility.

Jack Dunn: Regrettably, I think Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre have consistently attempted to deflect blame away from themselves. Ed Moloney was hired with the clear understanding that confidentiality was limited to the extent that American law would allow. And for whatever reason, he’s chosen to either ignore it or, worse, he chose not to extend that crucial caveat to the interviewers and the interviewees.

You believe, apparently, that Boston College has reached the end of what American law allows in terms of protection?

Well, what American law allows, we’ve learned from this court proceeding, is that oral history does not trump a criminal investigation with an allied country. From the beginning, we have asked the court to weigh two competing interests: our compelling interests as a university in protecting academic research and the enterprise of oral history with the legitimate compelling interest of the U.S. government to abide by a treaty obligation with the United Kingdom regarding an investigation into a horrific murder. And, to its credit, the court here has weighed those interests.

This has, in many ways, become a very ugly legal fight with a lot of he-said, he-said going on. I’m wondering if you think this is the kind of case where most people never even assumed anyone would know it was happening. Not that they were trying to hide it, but they certainly never would have expected the British government to be involved and subpoenas to be raining down.

In fairness to Mr. Moloney and Mr. McIntyre and to all of us, I don’t think anyone anticipated that law enforcement within the U.K. would seek a subpoena requesting these materials. Our intentions — all of our intention — was to provide a source of information on a period of great contention in Northern Ireland in which 3,000 people were killed so that historians, scholars, journalists in the future would have a resource to try to sort out the issues behind The Troubles. I think unfortunate circumstances occurred that brought this into the public light in a way that people didn’t anticipate and now all of us have to deal with it.


Security services making a killing from the Troubles

Security services making a killing from the Troubles
By Eamonn McCann
Belfast Telegraph
Friday, 27 January 2012

From the dusty wastelands of Afghanistan to Desertcreat in Co Tyrone, the G-men keep the memory of the B-men alive. The B Specials provided a sizeable percentage of the first recruits to RUC Special Branch. Now the FBI is sending its own recruits over here to learn from the Branch’s experience.

The first wave of G-men and G-women anxious to access local expertise gained in the battle against terrorism is expected to arrive at the £140m emergency services college near Cookstown in spring 2015.

“We have a real product to sell here,” said PSNI deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie last month. Facilities on the 250-acre Desertcreat site will be “world class”, she promised. “The FBI and other international law-enforcement agencies are interested in using the facilities for anti-terrorism and public order training”.

Counter-terrorism lore from the fight against the IRA and other paramilitary organisations will be passed on to FBI operatives in state-of-the-art surroundings, including a mock-up prison where conflict between staff and inmates can be re-enacted and a street complex where US law-enforcers can draw on Northern Ireland experience to practice and perfect their crowd control tactics.

What the paranoid schizophrenic cross-dressing closet queen J Edgar Hoover would have made of it all we can but guess. Irish subversives were by no means top of his target list during 48 years as FBI director. The Reds, the Mob and uppity blacks took priority.

But files released four years after his death, in 1976, contained 2,871 pages recording warrantless wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping and so forth directed against suspected IRA fundraisers and gunrunners. Some local veterans sharing their knowledge of conflict at Desertcreat seminars may find the students well ahead of them.

Experience in subverting republican and loyalist paramilitaries is also proving a valuable commodity elsewhere in the war against miscreants trying to subvert the new world order.

Charismatic Iraq war rhetorician Tim Collins’ New Century group last year won a $45m (£29m) Pentagon contract to train the Afghan army and police how to “find and cultivate informants among the Taliban”.

The Intelligence Online website reports that “most of the instructors are not US, but Northern Irish, former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which for many years was in the frontline of Britain’s combat with the IRA.”

The biography for Collins issued by New Century refers only in passing to his Iraq involvement, highlighting instead his experience as “operations officer of 22 SAS and subsequently commander of the Royal Irish Regiment in east Tyrone (Northern Ireland) . . . has worked closely with the Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch . . . assumed command of 1R[oyal] Irish in Jan[uary] 2001, where he led the battalion on operations again in Northern Ireland, for which he was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.”

Three years ago, Collins wrote in the Daily Mail that, “the PSNI . . . is so riddled with political correctness that many good, old-fashioned coppers – who were expert in terrorism and the communities they worked in – have simply been sidelined.”

He will have had in mind such old-fashioned coppers as retired chief superintendant Norman Baxter, formerly chief liaison officer between Special Branch and MI5, now New Century’s director of doctrine, standards, audit and training.

Mark Cochrane, consultant programme manager (training and compliance) served for 28 years in the RUC/PSNI.

“For over 20 years, he was employed in counter-terrorism duties . . . was the officer in charge of covert police training within the PSNI.”

Human resources manager Steve Smith is a former commando who has “served on eight operational tours in Northern Ireland in support of the RUC/PSNI in areas as diverse as south Armagh and west Belfast”.

New Century’s training co-ordinator in Afghanistan is Mike Wilkins who, from September 2006 to September 2010, was based in Belfast as senior investigating officer with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

The company’s roster of political advisers is headed by Nancy Soderberg, her intelligence credentials apparently established during her stint as Bill Clinton’s point-woman on the north.

The $45m success of New Century shows what a tradable commodity experience gained in the fight against the IRA and other paramilitaries has become.

Now DCC Gillespie is bringing it all back home and making it available, at competitive rates no doubt, to the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies worldwide.

The two main parties, which together have spearheaded the drive for the Desertcreat facility, will be chuffed at how favourable the auguries now seem.

Gives the lie to begrudgers who claim that the struggle wasn’t worth it and brought nothing worthwhile.

See also:


John Kerry Getting Involved in UK Case Over Irish Republican Army Fighters

John Kerry Getting Involved in UK Case Over Irish Republican Army Fighters
The Atlantic
Dan Friedman
JAN 26 2012

The Massachusetts Senator wants to prevent the British government from getting hold of tapes at Boston College

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., has jumped into a complex legal dispute involving Boston College and the United Kingdom this week, asking the State Department to urge the British to back off a push for the university to release tapes that might help prosecute former Irish Republican Army members for murder.

Boston College compiled recordings of interviews with former members of the IRA and related documents as part of an oral-history project on “the troubles” in Northern Ireland. Participants, including former IRA members, were promised anonymity that the British government now contends the school had no right to give.

British authorities want material regarding two cases. However, attention has focused on the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of 10, because Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams–a key architect in the Northern Ireland peace accords–is accused of commanding the IRA unit thought to be responsible. Adams denies any involvement.

The U.K. invoked a mutual legal assistance treaty with the U.S. that requires the two nations to share information that could aid criminal inquiries. In response, the Justice Department subpoenaed and took possession of Boston College’s tapes. A legal fight continues as Irish journalist Ed Moloney, director of the project, and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre fight the handover of the material to British authorities.

Boston College is not part of the suit. An Appeals Court hearing is scheduled for March.

In a Jan. 23 letter, Kerry asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to “work with British authorities to reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke the request.”

Kerry, whose name floats as a potential replacement to Clinton if she leaves the post, says his request stems both from constituent interest and his position as Foreign Relations chairman.

The case “has a profound impact on Boston College, a highly respected University in Massachusetts, as well as implications for the confidentiality of other research projects in the state,” he wrote.

Kerry said he is also “obviously concerned about the impact [the situation] may have on the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.”

According to the letter, Kerry also spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter late last year.

A Kerry spokeswoman said he has yet to receive a reply from the State Department. A department spokeswoman said State “did receive the letter and are reviewing it. We will respond as appropriate.”

Dan Friedman is a staff writer (Senate leadership) for National Journal

A Passive Receptacle

A Passive Receptacle
Chris Bray

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn sat down for an interview with RTÉ this week, and the result is fascinating. I can’t embed the video, so watch it here, and note what Dunn says starting at 2:14 or so:

“From the very beginning of this project, which was conceived by Ed Moloney — he approached Boston College with the idea to record conversations with former paramilitaries from the IRA and the UVF, and he asked if we would be interested in being a repository of these materials. Boston College is America’s leading institution on Irish studies, Irish history, Irish literature. We agreed to add it to our extensive holdings as one more example of something that could be used as a resource for future historians, for journalists, etc., regarding the Troubles.”

So this Moloney guy shows up on campus one day, and he’s doing this project — all his thing, totally his own effort, has nothing to do with anybody on campus — and he asks BC if, you know, could you spare a little shelf space in the library so I have a place to park this stuff? And BC already has a bunch of Irish stuff in the archives, so they figure what the hell, we’ll toss it in there “as one more example” of stuff we already had, yawn. Had nothing to do with us, you understand, we were just a “repository” that the Moloney guy chose for his own work.

Now. The Boston College Chronicle is BC’s internal newsletter, written and produced by the school’s Office of News and Public Affairs. That office is run by, you’ll never guess, Jack Dunn. Yes, he’s the guy from the video.

Here’s page 5 of the March 3, 2011 edition, published two months before the subpoenas arrived for the Belfast Project material:

You can view an html version of the story on BC’s website here, or download a complete PDF file of the eight-page newsletter, with Jack Dunn’s name on the masthead, here.

So before the arrival of subpoenas, it was “a project organized by Boston College,” it was “Administered by the University’s Center for Irish Programs and the Burns Library,” and BC described it in a university publication as “the Boston College Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”

Then came the subpoenas, and a protracted legal struggle, and oh, that old stuff? Yeah, Ed Moloney came by and dropped those off while we were inside watching the game. Not ours — what’s it all about?

If you have LexisNexis access, entertain yourself for a few moments by reading the March 22, 2010 story in the Belfast Newsletter titled, “US-based archive on Ulster Troubles,” by Sam McBride. Thomas Hachey, the director of BC’s Center for Irish Programs and one of the two men pictured on the Chronicle page above, is repeatedly quoted using the word “we” as he describes the Belfast Project: “We began this oral history,” “We’re doing this not for ourselves but for posterity,” “The people that we went out and interviewed.”

Of course, it’s possible that Hachey was experiencing a psychological crisis at the time that caused him to believe he was Ed Moloney. That happened to me at Starbucks, just this morning, and the cashier wouldn’t let me use Chris Bray’s credit card until I returned to my own mental and spiritual interior. But whatever the cause, Thomas Hachey used to believe that he had been somehow involved in Ed Moloney’s scheme to run an oral history project in Northern Ireland.

So did his university.