BC and the Belfast Project: A Scholar’s Privilege to Disobey

July 23, 2012

Much ink has been spilled, but little insight exhibited, in the ongoing imbroglio stemming from Boston College'sthe news media's and the federal courts' failure to accord robust First Amendment protection to oral history scholars who have recorded their interviews of participants in the Irish "Troubles" and who thereby seek to preserve for posterity nothing less than the lessons of war and peace. Now, a federal appeals court in Boston has issued an opinion that holds that the interview recordings and transcripts compiled by scholars and housed in BC's library under a seal of confidentiality for the lifetime of each interviewee must be turned over to the Department of Justice for transmission to the Northern Irish investigative authorities. This is a profoundly reckless and short-sighted ruling, the consequences of which are likely to roil a broad range of scholarly, as well as journalistic activities...