The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
I write to express my concern regarding the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) efforts to obtain materials gathered by Boston College’s Belfast Project, an oral history archive documenting the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
I commend you for your continuous leadership and support for reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland. After decades of violence, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has greatly improved security in the region and established a clear blueprint for a peaceful and enduring settlement. However, challenges still remain in fully implementing this Agreement and I am troubled that the release of the Belfast Project materials could upset the tremendous progress that has already been made.
Additionally, the participants in the Belfast Project are justifiably concerned about their safety should these interviews be turned over to the U.K. The interviews were recorded under an agreement that they would be kept confidential while the participants are alive. The participants and their families have raised concerns about possible retribution should these materials be released. In addition, this effort could put the future of sensitive academic research projects like the Belfast Project at risk, sending a signal to participants that their confidentiality may not be protected.
I understand the U.K. has made this request under the U.S.-U.K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and I fully respect the U.S.’s commitment to this treaty. However, given the negative impact the release of these materials could have on the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, the safety of the participants, and the integrity of and participation in similar oral history projects, I respectfully urge you to work with the U.K. government to have this request withdrawn.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Frank R. Lautenberg
Cc: The Honorable Eric Holder, United States Attorney General