Boston College tapes: US network NBC launches legal bid
BBC Ireland Correspondent
The American news network, NBC, has made a formal request to have transcripts from Boston College’s Belfast Project released.
Its news investigations team made the application to a US Judge, William Young, who is one of the few people to have read the entire archive.
Information from the recordings has led to a series of arrests, including that of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.
The project was designed as an oral history of the Troubles.
Dozens of former paramilitaries from the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force gave candid interviews to researchers employed by the university, on the understanding that their involvement would not be made public until after their deaths.
“I am furious that a news agency is trying to expose sources. I am extremely hostile to this action.”
Lead researcher, Boston College oral project
The course director, journalist Ed Moloney, published a book based on two of the accounts given to the project, after the interviewees had died.
However, the PSNI became aware of the existence of the tapes.
They used a treaty between Britain and the United States to obtain any material that could help their investigation into the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
Mrs McConville is the best known of The Disappeared, a group of people abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans.
The researchers fought the release of the interviews through the US courts, maintaining that it would represent a breach of contract and trust, and violate the ethical code on the protection of sources.
Judge Young, who read the archive in order to determine which testimonies made reference to Mrs McConville, acceded to the PSNI request.
He did, however, describe the project as “a bone fide academic exercise of considerable merit”.
Dr Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews with former IRA members, said he was shocked to learn that a news organisation had attempted to have the documents released.
Mr McIntyre has been made aware of threats to his life as a result of his involvement in the project.
He said he could not understand how a news organisation could be prepared to violate the code on the protection of sources.
“I am furious that a news agency is trying to expose sources,” he said. “I am extremely hostile to this action.”