February 22, 2012
The Honorable Hilary Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20521
Dear Madam Secretary:
I write today out of concern about the efforts of the United Kingdom to compel the production of documents and recordings from Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
While I appreciate the need for the United States to abide by the terms of our Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United Kingdom, in that context, I urge you to consider the broad public policy implications of releasing these documents and recordings. In addition to breaching the confidentiality guarantees provided to participants, the release will most certainly have a chilling effect on the academic study of sensitive events and participation in oral history projects.
The release may also upset the fragile peace and delicate political balance achieved through the Good Friday Accords. After thirty years of violence, the historical Accords have for the last fourteen years governed a relative peace that has allowed the people of Belfast to rebuild their lives. Time, however, has not erased political and social fractures between parties and in communities, and the release of these documents and recordings may disrupt this tenuous peace.
I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
United States Senator
CC: Attorney General Eric Holder
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530