This letter was forwarded by Senator Lugar to the Department of Justice and the State Department with a request for a response to the issues raised.
January 18, 2012
The Honorable Richard Lugar
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1401
Dear Senator Lugar,
My name is Carrie Twomey. I am writing to you regarding the Boston College subpoena case, which involves an oral history collection housed in the Burns Library at Boston College. The ‘Belfast Project’ oral history is a series of interviews conducted with former republican and loyalist paramilitary members, collected between 2001 and 2006, in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). It was an academic, historical project created to allow future generations to better understand what drives people to conflict and is a valuable archive that should be protected. Interviews were given on the basis of strict confidentiality promised by Boston College. The contents of the archive were only to be released after the death of an interviewee, unless written permission from that interviewee was given. The Attorney General, under the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), has issued subpoenas for specified materials on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). No attempt has been made by the PSNI to get the information which it seeks on subpoena, information which is in the public domain, by utilizing their own domestic law enforcement methods.
My interest in this case is personal. Anthony McIntyre, the lead researcher for the project who conducted the interviews with republicans, is my husband. I am an American citizen, as are our two children, who are 10 and 6 years of age. As I have set forth in my affidavit to the United States District Court in Massachusetts, the subpoena request for this archive, if successful, will turn historical material into criminal evidence. This has put our family in grave danger. If the subpoena requests are successful, and the archive material handed over to the British authorities, I believe we will be placed in even greater danger, as will all the participants in the project. My husband, in particular, because of his association with the project, is being characterized as an informer and I fear that he is being set up for assassination by significant people affiliated with the IRA, who are very unhappy with the existence of this oral history.
In addition to the threat our family faces over this, the subpoenas have the potential to undo all the good work achieved by American foreign policy efforts in the contribution towards creating and maintaining the peace in Northern Ireland. The work of the Clinton and Bush administrations, Senator George Mitchell, Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss and our current Secretary of State, as well as Senators such as yourself and others was vital to securing the Good Friday Agreement and enabling its implementation.
While the peace process itself has taken place over a decade, the peace is still fragile, and the institutions underpinning it are not fully embedded. Currently, the battle over the past and how to deal with the setting up of a ‘truth commission’ is rumbling alongside the foundations of that peace. The GFA drew a line under offenses committed during the conflict, with the release of political prisoners and an end to a discredited justice system which was necessary in order to move the process ahead. Today the institutions created by the GFA are run by people who in many cases were heavily involved in the conflict. If the PSNI were to arrest and charge those people, it would create a huge destabilizing effect.
The United States Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations recognized this under your chairmanship. In considering the 2003/2004 US-UK law enforcement treaties, the clear intent of the Senate was that the United Kingdom would not employ the US-UK Extradition Treaty (and by extension the companion law enforcement provisions of the US-UK MLAT) to reopen issues addressed in the GFA, or to impede any further efforts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland. [See Proviso to Extradition Treaty between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and related exchanges of letters, signed at Washington on March 31, 2003 (US-UK Extradition Treaty) (Treaty Doc. 108-23).]
In light of this, I respectfully request your assistance with some questions I have for the Department of Justice regarding the origin of these subpoenas. I believe it is incumbent on the U.S. Department of Justice to explain specifically why this information has been requested, and to address the following:
• Did the UK Requesting Authority advise the Department of Justice of the admissibility of the use of the archive as evidence in a Northern Ireland court?
• Had the UK Authorities attempted to obtain this information from less sensitive sources?
• Has the Department of Justice considered the risk to people’s safety and lives, including those of U.S. citizens, if this action is pursued?
• Did the Department of Justice consult with the State Department about the implications in this for American foreign policy?
• Did the Department of Justice consider the language in the proviso of the Extradition Treaty?
As you are no doubt aware, concern has been expressed at the highest levels of government in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland regarding the deposit by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) of its papers under a 30 year embargo at the Burns Library. The concerns expressed are that those papers may no longer be protected, if the PSNI can readily access other sensitive materials from the Burns Library.
Whereas the treatment of past offenses is still contentious, confidentiality is a recognized, vital ingredient in enabling the outworkings of the peace process to proceed, whether it is in the area of decommissioning weapons, in locating victims’ remains, or in other areas such as the International Monitoring Commission, whose work also depended heavily on confidential information.
The Irish Republic and the United Kingdom decided the answer to the question of how to handle the past when they signed the GFA. Both countries, as well as the United States, determined that the politics of peace required compromises. The governments granted a de facto amnesty by releasing political prisoners from jail, and limited prosecutions because it was deemed to be more important to bring about peace to Ireland.
It seems that none of this, nor the implications for the future, was considered by the Department of Justice in issuing these subpoenas. This case has far reaching implications not only for history but for the lives of real people today – including myself and my American children.
One driving factor in the creation of this oral history, one reason why people from the republican and loyalist communities both participated in it, is because they did not want their children to grow up fighting the same war. They wanted to leave their record so that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.
The issues around this subpoena concern many important ideals: academic freedom, freedom of speech, historical narrative, victims’ rights and the duty of journalists to protect their sources. However, the most important issue seems to have been forgotten: the right to life.
I would like to thank you, Senator Lugar, and also Marik String, for your time and help with this matter.
Senator Lugar’s follow up letter to the Department of Justice 16 Apr 2012
Department of Justice response 24 Apr 2012