BOSTON — A judge abused his discretion when he ordered Boston College to release interviews that academic researchers had recorded with former Irish Republic Army members, a school lawyer argued Friday.
In January, U.S. District Court Judge William Young ordered the school to give the U.S. Department of Justice portions of recorded interviews with seven former IRA members so that the agency could hand them over to police in Northern Ireland investigating the IRA’s 1972 killing of a Belfast woman.
The interviews were conducted as part of an oral history project, and participants said they were supposed to be kept secret until their deaths. The researchers who ran the project and conducted the interviews have argued that the participants’ lives could be endangered if their identities are revealed publicly because they could be branded as informants.
In arguments before a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, Jeffrey Swope, an attorney for Boston College, said any interviews turned over must be “directly related” to the subject of a subpoena — the 40-year-old killing of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 whom the IRA suspected was spying for the British.
Young, who reviewed the recordings and made the decision on which interviews should be turned over, applied the wrong standard when making his decision, Swope said. He also said Young, who cited portions of interviews with seven people in his ruling, actually ordered eight interviews to be turned over because one interview was mislabeled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Kromm argued that Young only had to decide that the interviews had “ordinary relevance” to the subpoena. He said the subpoena was very broad and called for any and all materials related to McConville’s abduction and killing.
The appeals court did not immediately rule.