The sin of omission was Boston's, not ours

This is a letter published in Times Higher Education on 2 February 2012 in response to Professor John Brewer

Your readers will emerge much better informed about the Boston College-Belfast Project case having read Peter Geoghegan's informed piece rather than John Brewer's speculative letter on the subject (respectively, "If trust is lost, future promises naught but troubles for research", 19 January, and "Inescapable burden of 'guilty knowledge'", 26 January). Geoghegan at least spent considerable time researching before he wrote.

In his letter, Brewer claims that "this is not a tale of researchers betrayed by Boston College", before going on to allege that the research team (of which I was a member) was largely responsible for its own misfortune. Clearly, sense gives way to servility. Don't offend the institution, old chap - what say you?

While admitting that the Belfast Project was laudable to begin with, Brewer switches lanes to charge that it was compromised by project leader Ed Moloney's publication of the book Voices from the Grave (2010). If it were so obvious, as Brewer claims, that the police would come looking for the tapes upon publication of the book, why didn't Boston College with its phalanx of lawyers state this at the time rather than press for publication while securing royalty contracts for two of its senior staff?

Brewer makes the point that "informed-consent forms always explain that confidentiality will be maintained only to the full extent provided under the law". Always ... except when the forms are issued by Boston College. You would imagine that an informed writer would draw attention to the fact that nothing of the sort was explained in the consent form drawn up by the institution and given to the interviewees.

The contract form stated explicitly that the interviewee would have "ultimate power" of release. So when Brewer pleads, "spare a thought for the respondents duped by the reported concealment from them of the risks of participating", he fails to mention it was concealment perpetrated by the institution responsible for drawing up the contract - Boston College.

Moloney was of course right when he suggested that this was one reason why Boston College never made the risks explicit in the contract. That's why he told The Boston Globe newspaper that had the college done so there would have been no Belfast Project. Neither Moloney nor I would have been associated with it.


  1. Its understandable that no interviews would have taken place if the piece, "only to the full extent provided under the law"
    Brewer states that the police would come once publication of any of the interviewees taped interview. Something stinks of CIA/MI5/MI6 in collusion with PSNI/RUC Special Branch, I believe they all knew that people were being interviewed, also the names of the interviewers .ie (Spooks/Touts), and, they knew they just had to bide their time untill one or more of the interviewees had passed on to get information from any publication, but, this information is classed as "Heresay". As for BC, its hard to work that one out, as they have the top notch lawers who should have stated that the interviews would not be legal because of the possible publications of interviewees material could not be protected under the current USA law. I have no Reason to disbelieve Anthony or Ed.
    But i will state again, I honestly believe someone knew about the interviews and passed the info on.
    How long did it take to find out about Donaldson, and the rest, especially those within the Nutting Squad, how many more are still active to this very day?.

  2. Itsjustmacker,

    Your take on this would appear speculative rather than substantive. The same thoughts have crossed my own mind on occasion whenever I go over and over the thing trying to work it out but I have always discarded the notion simply because I could find no substance there. Having said that, BC have been so disreputable it would not surprise me if in the morn it was to come out that they had fed the info out. I simply do not trust them.

  3. Anthony.

    Firstly, the last two lines of my post should have been;

    How long did it take to find out about Donaldson, and the rest, especially those within the Nutting Squad, "and" many more "who" are still active to this very day?.

    I, like yourself and others have been doing a lot of reading on this matter, Now, You could be correct about "BC" outing some info, but i doubt that is the case; because the info would have come out before those deceased interviewee's, also, it may have been the case that they leaked it to CIA or some other inteligence organisation, ie, The British, detailing the interviee's names and the clause within the contract, now if the latter were the case, it would be in the interest of a security service to keep that info as Top Secret, and await the death of one, or, more interviewee's, then jump on the band wagon, you as well as i, and others know how that scum works, famous for putting out disinformation, (LIE'S).
    Some of my comments in my post were Speculative, but working on on ;"Reading between the lines", i would still state that a CIA/MI5/MI6/Special Branch tout got the info and passed it on to their handler.
    That is one of the two scenarios.
    I know I wont be alive when the documents can be released for all to see.

  4. sin of omission


    Reading between the lines ... I simply don’t know. And I might never know. But it is a murky world and your theory can’t be dismissed out of hand.