The NBC News Bid For Archived Interviews

Ed Moloney writes about the NBC attempt to pirate the Boston College oral history archive. It featured in The Broken Elbow on 21 May 2014.

For understandable reasons the disclosure that two weeks ago NBC News wrote to Judge William Young of the Federal District Court in Boston asking him to hand over subpoenaed interviews has created some excitement and comment elsewhere in the media.

But there is a simple reality to this story which may make it less dramatic or impactful than it appears at first glance. Judge Young cannot hand over that which he does not have. When he selected the interviews that were responsive to the subpoena the material was handed over to the Department of Justice for safekeeping until the legal arguments were ended. When that happened the PSNI sent over detectives to collect it and transport it back to Belfast.

Judge Young no longer has the material, nor does the DoJ or any government body. In that sense the NBC bid is moot. Copies were returned to Boston College and if NBC is to get its way then the interviews will have to be extracted from the college. Now, that would be interesting to watch.

Legal sources also tell me that on the grounds that this material is being used in criminal proceedings in which, in some cases, charges have not even been laid, it is highly unlikely that any court in the U.S. would agree to make it available to the media.

An interesting development but it may be much ado about very little.


  1. Just heard on BBC NI that the PSNI are now going to go after all the tapes!!!!

  2. "PSNI calls on Boston College to hand over all Belfast Project tapes".

    It seems like the British government are determined to maximize the negative impact that the archive can give it by virtue of it's special relationship with the U.S. government and Boston College. MLAT and NBC have declared the Irish struggle for civil rights and freedom to be nothing more than criminal and terrorism in their legal drafts. The nature of the British government is obvious to anyone who has lived through its actions in Ireland, but one the other side of the pond, where is the outcry from liberals, academics, and Irish Americans. At least where is the outcry from those not vested in modern day colonialism.