Boston College Tapes: NBC News Investigations team seeks subpoenaed interviews from US federal court
NBC News is asking Boston Federal District Court in the United States to unseal all 'transcripts, audio recordings and documents' handed over to the PSNI following subpoenas served on Boston College in relation to the Belfast Project oral history archives.
The US news channel has written to Judge William Young requesting the material is handed over 'as soon as possible' as 'a matter of great public interest'.
The Belfast Project contains dozens of interviews with former republican and loyalist paramilitaries. The project was headed by Irish journalist Ed Moloney, and interviews with former IRA members were conducted by former IRA member Anthony McIntyre.
The PSNI, probing the IRA's 1972 killing of Belfast woman Jean McConville, sought access to the recordings.
Writing on his blog, thebrokenelbow.com, Moloney revealed that Thomas J Winter of NBC News Investigations wrote to Judge Young on May 6 but it is not known if he has responded.
The letter, which can be viewed below, argues that US citizens have the right under a Supreme Court judgement in 1978 to gain access to judicial documents.
In the letter Mr Winter argues: "This case or any case involving incidents of terrorism and criminality committed by several and various parties representing diverse ideologies both political and religious is a matter of great public interest".
Moloney and McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to subpoena the records in 2011.
Their lawyer had argued that McIntyre and others who were part of the project would be branded informants and faced "the real risk of physical harm" if the interviews were turned over. He also said it could have a chilling effect on other academic research projects.
However the PSNI won the legal battle and Boston College was forced to hand over sections of the archive that related to the murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.
Zoom in to read letter above or click the 'full screen' icon
The college which is storing the oral history of the Troubles - part of which was reportedly relied upon by police to quiz Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams about the notorious IRA murder - has said it is willing to hand interviews back to former paramilitaries who took part.
After his release from custody without charge following four days of questioning, Mr Adams claimed that most of the evidence detectives presented to him was based on allegations levelled by interviewees who had given accounts to the oral project.
Mr Adams, 65, vehemently denies any involvement in the crime or that he was ever a member of the IRA.
The 40-plus participants in the oral project had been assured that their accounts would not be made public until their deaths, but that undertaking was undermined by the US court ruling.
Of more than 80 interviews contained in the archive, the court decision saw police obtain sections of 11 tapes.
Belfast Telegraph Digital