Chris Bray: An Aside

An Aside
Chris Bray
FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2012

I warn you in advance: I’m mostly repeating myself, here, on a matter of personal concern that you will only want to know about if you’re closely interested in the saga of the Boston College subpoenas. If that’s not you, then here, watch this soothing music video instead:

Okay, still reading? Then here we go. Remember how Boston College spokesdork Jack Dunn keeps spitballing bullshit descriptions of the Belfast Project’s inception, particularly trying to muddy the waters with regard to the crucial matter of the contractual warnings interviewees got about the legal limits of confidentiality?

Here’s the thing about that: No one on earth is stupid enough to believe anything this dude says. I mention this again because we have a new example in the government’s latest appellate filing, delivered to the First Circuit this week with the steam still rising from it. Like everyone else, the government’s lawyers know who signed the contracts with Belfast Project interviewees, and they know what was in those contracts. Look at pg. 53 of the government’s brief (which is pg. 65 of the PDF file):

“First, Boston College was party to the principal agreement with Moloney that included the terms of confidentiality that applied to the interviews, and Boston College, through the Burns Librarian, not appellants, signed the donation agreements with the interviewees. It was Boston College, not appellants, that had custody of and title to the subpoenaed materials.”

The government is fudging, there, by not mentioning the language of the donation agreements, but they know perfectly well what happened at the start of the project: The Burns Librarian signed contracts with the Belfast Project interviewees. (Which is actually kind of a shame, because if the contract was directly between Moloney or McIntyre and the interviewees, the researchers would probably have an easier time fighting the subpoenas in court.)

Anyway, pg. 6 of the brief (pg. 18 of the PDF file):

“There were no separate written agreements between Moloney or McIntyre and the interviewees.”

Pg. 35 of the brief (pg. 47 of the PDF file), with citations omitted and emphasis added:

“That agreement, Moloney’s agreement with McIntyre, and the ‘Agreement for Donation’ between the interviewees and Boston College provided that all transcripts and recordings of interviews would be transferred to Boston College. Moloney is not the custodian of the materials. He was an agent of Boston College at the time he participated in the Belfast Project, an association that ended in 2006…Moreover, disclosure of information by Boston College in compliance with the subpoena and court orders does not violate Moloney’s duty of confidentiality. He has no independent rights or obligations under the agreements between Boston College and the interviewees, which were executed by the Burns Librarian at Boston College, and through which ‘absolute title’ to the recordings and transcripts was assigned to the Trustees of Boston College.”

So, again, here’s Jack Dunn in late January, describing the inception and organization of the Belfast Project: 

“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.”

This is, I never tire of saying, a string of recklessly untenable lies. Boston College was in from the opening bell. The Burns Librarian, Robert K. O’Neill, signed donation agreements with Belfast Project interviewees. Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre had no involvement in the creation of those agreements, which were not agreements between them and their interviewees; they were agreements between the interviewees and Boston College, full stop.

Those donor agreements, and any failures in their language and form, belong to Boston College. As the latest evidence reminds us, no one doubts it.