Congressman Gary Ackerman’s letter to Secretary of State Clinton

February 1, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC

Dear Madam Secretary:

I write to request your intervention in what may appear to be a trivial matter of routine international law enforcement cooperation, but may actually be a grave threat to the fragile peace in Northern Ireland and the continued success of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It has come to my attention that the United Kingdom, acting through our Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) has sought to subpoena oral history records from the “Belfast Project” collected by researchers at Boston College. On its face, an attempt by any foreign government to compel an American academic institution to surrender research documents is troubling. Worse, it appears that the rationale for this legal effort is to pursue in the British courts men and events whose prior acts in 1972 were explicitly set off limits in order to achieve the Good Friday Agreeement. Further, in seeking these subpoenas, the British government seems also to be directly violating a commitment made to your former colleagues in the Senate that the MLAT would not be used in connection with acts prior to the Good Friday Agreement.

am persuaded that there is good reason to believe that these subpoenas represent a clear violation of both the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, the representations made by the British government to key Senators prior to Senate consent to the MLAT and an extremely objectionable effort to implicate our courts in a unseemly political vendetta, rather than any legitimate judicial objective.

It is my nnderstanding that in his letter covering the MLAT exchange, President Bush made clear that the United States would waive the treaty’s application where necessary for public policy reasons. I would argue that just such a circumstance covers these Boston College subpoenas which appear to violate both American interests in the preservation and strengthening of the Good Friday Agreement as well as commitments made by the British government.

I strongly encourage you to work with Attorney General Holder to not only withhold American cooperation on these British requests, but to make clear that we will oppose any effort to use the MLAT for political purposes, particularly with regard to anything that could undermine the peace in Northern Ireland.


Gary L. Ackerman