Congressman Sires’ letter to Secretary of State Clinton and Attorney General Holder

April 12, 2012

The Honorable Hilary Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

I write to express my concerns regarding the United Kingdom’s efforts to obtain documents and recordings from Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I believe that such an action could seriously endanger the peace process in Northern Ireland and jeopardize academic freedom in the United States and abroad.

While I fully respect the U.S.’s commitment to the U.S.-U.K Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, under which the U.K. has made this request, I urge you to consider the broad public policy implications of releasing these documents and recordings. In particular, releasing testimonies with sensitive information breaches the confidentiality guarantees that were provided to participants who were told that any information they provided towards the project would not be released until their death. Additionally, this effort could put the future of sensitive research projects at home and abroad at risk by sending a signal to participants that their confidentiality may not be protected.

Furthermore, releasing sensitive materials involved in this project could upset the fragile peace process and reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland achieved by the Good Friday Accords. After decades of violence, the Accords, established in 1998, have improved security in the region and allowed the people of Belfast to rebuild their lives. However, challenges still remain, and the release of these documents and recordings may disrupt the tremendous progress made in the region.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.


Albio Sires
Member of Congress

Cc: The Honorable Eric Holder, United States Attorney General