Senator John Kerry’s letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

January 23, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC 20521

Dear Madam Secretary:

I write today with concern about the ongoing court efforts on behalf of the United Kingdom to obtain documents and recordings from Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

I know you’ll understand that this matter is of interest to me for a number of reasons. First, it has a profound impact on Boston College, a highly respected university in Massachusetts, as well as implications for the confidentiality of other research projects of this nature. More broadly, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am obviously concerned about the impact that it may have on the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.

It is possible that some former parties to the conflict may perceive the effort by the U.K. authorities to obtain this information as contravening the spirit of the Good Friday Accords. I am proud of the role our government – and the Clinton Administration specifically – played to bring about that fragile peace. I am equally impressed by the courage and tenacity of the people of Belfast to rebuild their lives and their city. It would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past fourteen years.

Given my deep concern, I spoke to Attorney General Holder about this matter late last year. I fully recognize that the United Kingdom has invoked the provisions of our Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and that this is clearly a factor which affects our flexibility dealing with such a request. Nonetheless, given the close relationship we have with the United Kingdom and the deep and enduring interest all of us share in seeing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, I would urge you to work with the British authorities to reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke their request.

I would like to thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


John F. Kerry

Cc: The Honorable Eric Holder, Attorney General