The Boston Globe has called on Boston College to release tapes form an Irish oral history project that they claim could help solve an old murder case in Northern Ireland.
The tape sought is one of Dolours Price, now a leading dissident and being held on suspicion of helping cause the death of two British soldiers last year.
However, the Boston College tapes being sought do not refer to that murder but events long ago in Northern Ireland.
The college has refused to produce the tapes,saying they were made on the understanding that they would be kep strictly confidential and open only to researchers
The Globe disagrees.“Boston College argues that releasing Price’s testimony could having a chilling effect on oral historians everywhere. But carving out a special legal exception for oral history isn’t consistent with judicial interpretations of the First Amendment,” the editorial wrote.
“ The courts have set high standards for issuing subpoenas to journalists - whose role is specifically protected by the First Amendment and who serve a watchdog function in our democracy - but even reporters must testify under certain conditions. The benefits of oral history are more diffuse. And if the US government refuses to honor this British request, it could reasonably expect
Britain to put up similar roadblocks down the line - at a time when all forms of international cooperation on terrorism are matters of life and death.
Supporters of Boston College say the subpoena itself could be politically motivated, since Price’s testimony might contain information damaging to Northern Ireland nationalist leader Gerry Adams.
And the college suggests that Price and her interviewer could be in danger of retribution for talking at all. If those dangers are real, the British government should offer reasonable security.
But potential threats and conspiracy theories don’t change the fact that murders, no matter how old, are worth pursuing. If a university in Ireland had information that could help solve, say, a cold-case murder from civil rights-era Mississippi, American authorities would want access to those file - and would be justified in seeking them.” the editorial concludes