Friday, July 1, 2016

Jean McConville, Ivor Bell, and the Denouement that Never Comes


There's nothing there. It's a shadow of a shadow of a shadow.

Prosecutors in Belfast have now presented their case against Ivor Bell, in a preliminary inquiry meant to show that their evidence is strong enough to be advanced to trial. The Public Prosecution Service alleges that Bell aided and abetted in the 1972 murder of the Belfast widow and mother Jean McConville, joining others in the solicitation of murder.

Don't take my word for what I'm about to say: Take a few minutes to review some of the news stories about the preliminary inquiry. Here's a story from the Belfast Telegraph. Here's another story from the same newspaper. Here's a story from the BBC. Here's a story from the Times of London. (Remarkably, I can't find any stories about the preliminary inquiry from the Irish Times.)

The preliminary inquiry lasted two days, and the testimony covered in news stories all focused on the Boston College tapes. Notice what testimony doesn't appear in the news stories, and what kind of facts were apparently absent from the courtroom:

What are the names of the people Ivor Bell allegedly aided and abetted?

Specifically, what are the criminal events, in sequence, in which Bell allegedly participated?

What is the name of the person who is alleged to have actually ordered the kidnapping, murder, and disappearance of Jean McConville?

Other than Ivor Bell, what are the names of the Provisional IRA leaders who allegedly discussed the subject of McConville's murder and disappearance? There was a meeting: Who was there?

Previous accounts of McConville's kidnapping from her home in Divis Flats suggest that about a dozen members of the Provisional IRA participated in the abduction. What were their names?

McConville was buried on a beach in the Republic of Ireland. What are the names of the people who dug her grave?

Who shot Jean McConville? 

Quite simply, unless it happened but the reporters in the courtroom completely missed it, prosecutors have outlined no crime at all. They have laid out no charges, advanced no facts, and described no events. They have not said who did the things that Ivor Bell is alleged to have assisted with; indeed, they have not said in any particular detail what actions he aided. They have no theory of the case they wish to advance in court, can publicly offer no timeline, and have named no names but one. They do not fully describe a plot and its procedure, placing Bell inside well-explained events in his particular context. They do not appear with witnesses who can testify firsthand about what they saw, heard, and did as McConville was carried from her home, killed and buried.

All they have – five years later – is the tapes. Which they present with a shrug, and some general testimony from a librarian about the project to record them.

Who ordered the murder of Jean McConville, and who shot her? It wasn't Ivor Bell. To prosecute him for aiding and abetting without clearly and convincingly answering those two questions in an open courtroom is a sham and an embarrassment.

More than five years after the first subpoenas arrived at Boston College, we still have not seen the police or prosecutors in Northern Ireland venture a public answer to the most obvious questions of all.

This is a sideshow, staged by circus clowns who stand over the grave of a murdered woman.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Long Game of Blindfolded Darts


I've been arguing for years that the Belfast Project subpoenas aren't an example of a police investigation, but rather offer proof that police in Northern Ireland are engaged in a theatrical performance and refusing to perform real detective work. Events in Belfast courts this week prove the point.

First, in a hearing regarding an American subpoena requested by the PSNI for Belfast Project interviews conducted with Anthony McIntyre, lawyers for McIntyre argued that the International Letter of Request (ILOR) sent by the British government to the U.S. government was "replete with errors, and that’s putting it mildly.” Among the errors alleged by McIntyre's lawyers were claims made in the ILOR that McIntyre had previously been convicted for offenses for which he had actually been acquitted or never charged.

In response, lawyers for the police and the prosecution service made no argument at all, neither conceding nor rejecting the claim; instead, they told the judges hearing the case that they would have to look into it. "Counsel for the respondents were unable to confirm the claim, insisting archives would have to be checked," the Irish News reported (emphasis added). Here's what comes next in that newspaper story:
Lord Justice Weatherup, sitting with Lord Justice Weir, described the situation as unsatisfactory.
"It's incredible; you have sent a letter to America... and you don't know whether it was in respect of an offence for which he's already been acquitted," he said.
So the Police Service of Northern Ireland initiated a request for the U.S. Department of Justice to subpoena an academic archive in Boston, and now -- now, after making an international request for legal assistance in a supposed criminal investigation -- have begun to look into the factual background their own case. Oh, yeah, man, we'll go, like, check the archives and stuff.

The laziness, shoddiness, indifference to professional standards, and general halfassedness scream across an ocean at the American prosecutors who are playing along with this nonsense. These worthless idiots sent off an ILOR, then started to think about what they were up to. (A pattern emerges, by the way.) I'm not in Belfast to check, but I assume the PSNI's detectives drool on themselves and shit their pants.

Meanwhile, in another hearing over a different set of Belfast Project interviews, a different judge heard a legal challenge to the evidence obtained in the case of Ivor Bell, who is accused of aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. The federal appeals court in Boston, narrowing the decision of a district court judge, ordered that only two interviews with the interview subject known as "Z" -- who is alleged, but not proven, to be Bell -- be handed over to the PSNI. In fact, Bell's lawyers claim, authorities in Belfast are attempting to go to court with several more of the Belfast Project's "Z" interviews, evidence obtained far beyond the scope of the American court order.

Of course, Bell was charged in early 2014; now, two and a half years later, prosecutors in Belfast can't even get their evidence into the courtroom for a preliminary inquiry, much less a trial.

One week, two shambles.

Meanwhile, note the incredible statement at the conclusion of the Irish News story on the McIntyre hearing, linked above: A lawyer for the PSNI's chief constable "suggested PSNI officers who will be in Boston on Saturday to collect other materials could also bring back the McIntyre recordings and deposit them, still sealed, with the court.

The PSNI has gone back to Boston, in at least one other international request for a subpoena that has not yet been disclosed. They keep churning up garbage with their shoddy trips to Boston, and they keep going back to Boston.

Will anyone ever restrain these idiots? They're embarrassing themselves, damaging the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's political institutions, wasting the DOJ's time, angering Belfast judges, and making a clown show of the rule of law. And the U.S. government keeps shrugging and typing up the subpoenas.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

American Sociological Association Statement on the New Belfast Project Subpoena


The president, past president, and president-elect of the American Sociological Association have signed a public letter denouncing the outrageous new federal subpoena of Belfast Project interviews that were conducted with Dr. Anthony McIntyre:

Monday, April 25, 2016

What the Anthony McIntyre Subpoena is Not


British and Irish newspapers have begun to cover the latest subpoena served on Boston College for Belfast Project materials, and some are getting big parts of the story wrong. Most egregiously, David Lawler writes in the Telegraph that the newly subpoenaed materials "could shed light on the infamous abduction of Jean McConville in 1972."

Doubling down, Lawler's story later ascribes this view to the Police Service of Northern Ireland: "The PSNI believes McIntryre's interviews with former IRA members could indicate what role, if any, Gerry Adams had in the kidnap and murder of McConville."

Not true. Not close to true.

Start with the subpoena itself, which directly declares the categories of crime that are supposedly under investigation:


The subpoena sent to Boston College tells us that police are investigating "alleged violations of the laws of the United Kingdom, namely, attempted murder, possession of explosives with intent to endanger life, possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, and membership of a proscribed organization."

Notice the absence from that list of the crimes of kidnapping and murder, the two things that were done to Jean McConville.

But that's only one of the reasons we know this new subpoena isn't about Jean McConville. Recall that Boston College received two sets of subpoenas back in 2011: A first set for particular interviews undertaken with Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, and a second (and later) set requesting all interviews that described the McConville matter.

Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill, the university official responsible for archiving the Belfast Project, told the federal district court that he was unfamiliar with the collection he had spent years receiving and cataloging. That claim led Judge William Young to perform a complete in camera review of every IRA interview in the collection, personally determining which interview materials were germane to a request for evidence in the McConville case. Young ordered all of those materials sent to the PSNI.

Now: The PSNI has returned to Boston, through the agency of the US Attorney's Office, to seek Anthony McIntyre's interviews, so...

1.) The PSNI doesn't already have McIntyre's interviews, but

2.) Four years ago, every Belfast Project interview with material about the McConville murder was sent to the PSNI.

Therefore, McIntyre's interviews were not among those that contained material about the McConville killing. Because they would already be in Belfast, lodged with the police, if they did.

Anthony McIntyre's interviews don't contain information about the McConville killing, and the new subpoena doesn't mention kidnapping or murder. It's not at all correct to link this new subpoena for McIntyre's interviews to McConville. Stop doing it.

Keystone Kops III: Stumbling Back to Boston




Incredibly, Boston College has been served with a new Belfast Project subpoena, following a request from the British government to American authorities under the terms of the US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The latest demand for archived materials seeks the interviews that were conducted with a primary researcher on the project, Dr. Anthony McIntyre. A Queen's University history PhD, McIntyre is himself a former member of the Provisional IRA, once imprisoned by the British government for 18 years. McIntyre interviewed former IRA members for the Belfast Project, and was also interviewed himself by an as-yet-unidentified guest researcher.

The absurdity of the new subpoena would be hard to exaggerate. Dated April 21, and signed by First Assistant United States Attorney John McNeil, the subpoena seeks "evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of the United Kingdom," including "membership of a proscribed organization."

This isn't a joke: In 2016, the British and U.S. governments are working together to try to figure out if Anthony McIntyre was ever a member of the IRA.

It's like the FBI suddenly deciding to assemble a major case squad to see if Huey Newton ever had anything to do with that whole Black Panther thing. Was Nathanael Greene somehow involved in the American Revolution? An urgent government investigation is underway!

(Personal aside to Police Service of Northern Ireland: Try looking here. If that's too much reading, this confidential law enforcement source might also help.)

The new subpoena follows several earlier waves of equally ridiculous subpoenas, which began in 2011 and first sought information on the long-ignored 1972 kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville. Several years after receiving subpoenaed interviews that discussed the McConville killing, authorities in Belfast have charged precisely no one with those crimes – and the available evidence strongly suggests that they never will.

The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland did charge a single person, Ivor Bell, with aiding and abetting in the McConville murder, but police and prosecutors have never said who Bell was supposed to have aided and abetted; they have brought charges for helping with a murder, but they have not brought charges for the murder itself. Even that weak and tangential case is evaporating in painful stages: Bell was charged in March of 2014, but -- more than two years later -- has yet to receive so much as a preliminary inquiry, much less a trial. Bell's lawyers now seek to have the charges thrown out of court, an outcome that seems increasingly likely.

More recently, law enforcement officials in Belfast used the MLAT process to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain the Belfast Project interviews of former Loyalist paramilitary commander Winston Rea.  Police in Belfast got the Rea tapes nearly a year ago. The tapes have not been spoken of since, and no charges have been filed.

And so Northern Ireland's Keystone Kops return to the same dry well that has served them so well in the past, demanding tapes that may reveal Anthony McIntyre's involvement in the IRA.

I keep trying to decide if this is a tragedy or a farce. It may be both. One thing that it certainly isn't: A legitimate police investigation.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Message from a Dogged Investigator


I sent an email message to Detective Inspector Neil McGuinness of the PSNI, asking him for comment on his recent letter to Ed Moloney (that he didn't send to Ed Moloney, because he doesn't know how to find him). I got this remarkable message in response:

Mr Bray,

The investigation into the abduction and murder of Jean McConville is on-going. Can you confirm that Mr Maloney has received my request that he contact me in the matter I referred to in the letter you have received? To date I have not received any reply from Mr Maloney.

Regards,

Neil McGuinness
Detective Inspector

So there it is: In August of 2015, the PSNI's detectives are waiting for witnesses to get in touch with them about a 1972 murder. And they haven't quite figured out yet how to spell the names of the people they consider witnesses.

The swift and steady hand of justice, ladies and gentlemen.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charge First, Then Begin to Investigate


Below is an absolutely astounding letter from a Police Service of Northern Ireland detective to the Irish journalist and former Belfast Project director Ed Moloney. The letter is cut off at the top. This is the way it was sent to me, scanned it into digital form this way by the person who has the letter -- not Ed Moloney, who the crack detectives of the PSNI can't find.

This letter is amazing in many, many ways, but start with the date: August 7, 2015.

In the summer of 2015, the PSNI is beginning to ask people to cooperate as witnesses in matters relating to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. That's well over a year after prosecutors in Northern Ireland filed aiding and abetting charges over McConville's murder against Ivor Bell, who is allegedly a former senior figure in the Provisional IRA. And it's well over a year since the PSNI arrested Gerry Adams and questioned him regarding McConville's murder.

This is how law enforcement officials in Northern Ireland are pursuing justice in the murder of Jean McConville: They filed charges last year, and they're trying to find some witnesses this year. I'm embarrassed for them.

Here's the letter: