Monday, June 2, 2014

Yeah, It's Casual, We Don't Need to Protect All That, Like, Murder Investigation Stuff

At the bottom of this post, consolidated into one PDF file, are legal briefs filed today with the U.S. District Court in Boston regarding the request from NBC News to make public the Belfast Project interviews turned over by the Department of Justice to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The government's brief is just plain odd, and seems to undercut the narrative about the PSNI pursuing a serious murder investigation rather than a political effort against the head of Sinn Fein.

But first, BC. The Boston College brief starts with a critical procedural point that the government somehow doesn't bother to make: "On May 20, 2014, a letter dated May 6, 2014, from NBC News to the Court was entered on the docket in this matter. That letter is not a motion, was not signed by a lawyer admitted to practice before this Court, and the Trustees of Boston College (Boston College) were not served with the letter but only became aware of it when counsel received notice that it had been entered on the docket."

And, I mean, yes: NBC News wants to unseal federal court records, so it dropped the judge a line. They don't have lawyers at NBC?

BC's outside lawyer, Jeffrey Swope, goes on to say exactly what you would hope and expect a university to say about confidential archival material, objecting to the release of Belfast Project interviews and interviewee identities.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston, on the other hand, doesn't object to the unsealing of some of the Belfast Project interviews handed over to the PSNI, all of which are supposedly evidence in an ongoing murder investigation:

"The government has no objection to the unsealing of D.10 (7/5/11)1, D.28 (10/3/11), and D.36 (12/27/11). In addition, the government does not object to the unsealing of the sealed sidebar transcript from the hearing on February 1, 2012, except that the names of those persons identified during that sidebar conference should remain under seal. [Sealed Tr. 2/1/12 at pg. 15]. The government opposes the unsealing of D.15 (8/25/11), as it contains interview materials and other documents which were produced by Boston College in response to the MLAT subpoenas but are not otherwise publicly available."

So these are materials subpoenaed as evidence of a deadly serious murder investigation, and the investigation is ongoing, but go ahead and put a bunch of the material (that apparently damns Gerry Adams, cough cough) out on the street?

The government does oppose the unsealing of "certain pleadings filed by the United States which outline the nature and scope of the investigation which gave rise to the MLAT subpoenas," but they object to revealing the nature and scope of the investigation directly over a sentence that says the investigation "involves credible allegations of murder and kidnapping." Don't tell anyone what I'm doing, but I'm investigating a murder. That's a secret, though, so I'm not going to mention it.

The second set of subpoenas delivered back in 2011 were for every interview that mentioned the murder of Jean McConville, and then the PSNI arrested Gerry Adams and Ivor Bell over the murder of Jean McConville and interrogated them -- as Adams said when he was released -- using the Belfast Project interviews. The nature and scope of the investigation would not seem to be terribly secret, at this point, though it would be awfully interesting to see precisely how the British government framed the PSNI's request.

A hearing is scheduled for the courtroom of Judge William Young tomorrow. Here are the BC and DOJ briefs:

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