Congressman Brian Higgins’ Letter Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder

October 11, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Secretary Clinton and Attorney General Holder,

I write regarding the request by the government of the United Kingdom to subpoena the Trustees of Boston College. The information request was authorized by the Department of Justice per a standing legal treaty with the United Kingdom known as the U.S.-U.K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The request was for specific interviews conducted as an academic project on Northern Ireland. It is my understanding that at least 11 members of the House of Representatives and 9 members of the U.S. Senate have indicated their concern for the release of sensitive information in connection with this case, and I would like to add my own note of concern on this issue. As a member of the European Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee I find it necessary to voice my strong opposition to these requests.

My objection to this assistance is ground in the targeted request in the subpoena. The United Kingdom has requested information from oral histories of the conflict in Northern Ireland by those that witnessed the decades of unrest. These interviews were given with confidentiality agreements in order to protect the identities and contributions of those that gave their accounts. These oral histories became part of an academic collection created to further the understanding of the conflict and its history.

The efforts by the government of the United Kingdom are taken toward prosecution of individuals involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement settled many long standing issues including a renouncement of violence, a commitment to better policing, and the eventual disarmament of paramilitary groups. Continued prosecution of political opponents in Northern Ireland is not in the spirit of the Belfast Agreement and is in direct contravention of the treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate which specifically states, “the treaty is not intended to reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement, or to impede any further efforts to resolve conflicts in Northern Ireland.”

The release of these documents would jeopardize the great strides that have been made towards peace in Northern Ireland. On October 1, 2012, the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay delaying the release of information to the United Kingdom related to the oral histories provided to Boston College. The researchers have requested that the Department of Justice hold off on releasing this information until the Supreme Court has a chance to rule on the case.

In the interest of avoiding further conflict and maintaining a strong relationship between the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, I respectfully encourage you to persuade the United Kingdom to withdraw this request because of its sensitive nature and potential to be in violation of the terms of the U.S.-U.K> MLAT, and to take all necessary steps to stop the release of this information to the government of the United Kingdom.


Brian Higgins
Member of of Congress