Belfast Project: The Known Unknowns

Bill Belichick
What a game! Congratulations to the world champion Patriots. Credit: lolpats
Something is going on in the Belfast Project case. But it’s difficult to say exactly what. As I noted a few days ago, Winston “Winkie” Rae has obtained an injunction in Belfast preventing the Northern Irish authorities from traveling to Boston to obtain a copy of his Belfast Project interview. Friend of Letters Blogatory Chris Bray has obtained a copy of the order (or at least a draft of the order—it’s unsigned). The reference to the “United States Central Authority” and an “International Letter of Request dated the 11th September 2014” seems to make it clear that the UK has made a second MLAT request to the United States for evidence relating to the Belfast Project. I also understand from correspondence with someone involved in the case that a new subpoena has issued—presumably a subpoena to Boston College pursuant to the new MLAT request.

In order to obtain a subpoena, the US government would have to seek approval of a US court, presumably the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. But if there are any such proceedings, I can’t find them. That’s not surprising: the original MLAT proceedings themselves were sealed and unavailable to the public for several months.

Chris has wondered why, apparently, BC did not challenge the subpoenas. Is BC now cooperating with the government? The short answer is: we don’t know. But it seems to me that BC would be unlikely to mount the same kind of challenge to this subpoena that it mounted the last time, for the simple reason that there is now a precedent holding that the arguments it made last time lack merit. On the other hand, it seems from Chris’s reporting of an article in The Heights that BC did agree to the US Attorney’s request that the matter be kept confidential. Ordinary subpoenas do not carry a gag order with them, so as far as I can tell BC has no legal obligation of confidentiality.

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