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.