Congressman Joe Crowley’s letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Dear Secretary Clinton,

In recent months, British authorities have sought to invoke the United States – United Kingdom Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to obtain materials from Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the struggles in Northern Ireland.

I am deeply concerned about the implications of this matter, as some observers believe it is a request of a political nature made by a party to the conflict and intended to damage the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and progress toward peace in the North.

As someone like you who has actively followed the struggles in the North as well as the peace process, I believe there have been many important achievements. However, attempts such as this may appear to be aimed at undermining the courage and patience shown by those committed to change through peaceful means. The MLAT was intended to facilitate investigations into crimes – not to call into question the hard-won steps toward peace emanating from the Belfast Agreement.

The issues underpinning this situation are longstanding, and for that reason the United States Congress has long made clear in our dealings with the British government that treaties between our two countries should not be used toward political ends in the North.

For example, a proviso in the Senate resolution of ratification on our extradition treaty adopted in 2007 states that “The Senate understands that the purpose of the Treaty is to strengthen law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom by modernizing the extradition process for all serious offenses and that the Treaty is not intended to reopen issues addressed in the Belfast Agreement, or to impede any further efforts to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland.”

In the interest of maintaining peace and avoiding any diminishment in trust between all parties involved, I hope the British authorities will withdraw this attempt to invoke the MLAT. I hope you will convey the feelings of Congress to the British authorities and urge them to desist from this request.


Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx)