Forget Gerry Adams. By formally requesting the transcripts from Boston College’s Belfast Project, which includes interviews with dozens of paramilitaries from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), NBC has the ability to cause chaos in the Irish peace process.
It would rip the skin off numerous atrocities on all sides and catapult the entire process in an uncertain direction. In Northern Ireland, NBC should know, the past is never past and they seem determined to resurrect it.
It is dangerous ground. That is because there are likely hundreds of accusations against members of both the Loyalist and Republican communities involving hundreds of deaths on the tapes.
NBC is crying fire in a crowded theater.
These are unsubstantiated claims, many made perhaps to settle old scores by men and women who thought the testimony would not be released until after their death and were getting their licks in.
None of such unsworn testimony stands up in court, NBC knows that. Some of it is likely fabricated “J’accuse” allegations without any corroborating evidence which would be released.
Little wonder that tapes researcher and interviewer Anthony McIntyre fears the worst.
He told the BBC “I am furious that a news agency is trying to expose sources," he said. "I am extremely hostile to this action.” Not surprising, he himself is in likely jeopardy if they are released.
NBC tries to argue, spuriously in my opinion, that the public good is served.
They are arguing that American citizens have the right under a Supreme Court judgment in 1978 to gain access to judicial documents, NBC also maintains that: “This case or any case involving incidents of terrorism and criminality committed by several and various parties representing diverse ideologies both political and religious is a matter of great public interest.”
But to who? The right to know has to be balanced by the need for responsibility. Will some dark forces use the tapes to conduct assassinations on those accused?
How will NBC feel if someone is murdered as a result of these tapes and releasing them?
It will be on their heads if it happens.
The US government should have blocked the release of these tapes originally, as then-Senator John Kerry requested. He said no good would come of them, and he has been right. Hopefully, the judiciary will be able to balance the same reality a bit better.