The interviews are part of a larger collection of members of both the Irish Republican Army and the British Ulster Volunteer Force, the Catholic and Protestant groups which clashed in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

The tapes were meant to be made public after the person being interviewed had died, but the interviews under subpoena are with some people who are still alive.

The IAUC, along with Boston College, is resisting the subpoena, arguing that releasing the information would harm the national security of the U.S. by "undermining the peace process which has been an important foreign policy objective of the United States for the past fifteen years."

"While the contents of the subpoenaed materials are unknown to the public, it is likely that they contain material that will result in recriminations and undermine trust among various parties, and could lead to a new round of violence in Northern Ireland," the letter states.

The U.S. attorney's office argues that the library "made promises they could not keep -- that they would conceal evidence of murder and other crimes until the the perpetrators were in their graves."

According to Ned McGinley, a former national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, another group contesting the subpoena, releasing the documents could endanger the people interviewed. 

"Those interviews are not evidence. They were not taken under oath," McGinley said in a phone interview. The subpoenas are "really objectionable for three reasons. The principle reason being of course the subpoenas have nothing to do with foreign policy and national security of the United States. The release of those oral histories could endanger the lives of those who provided them. All of these people were combatants."

McGinley stressed that the lives of the people on the tapes would be in danger if the tapes were made public. He said that the effort to release the documents was to politically discredit a politician in Ireland.

"We just don't think they should go on a fishing expedition here," McGinley said. "We just think it's politically wrong."

He said that it would be appropriate if there was a factual or national security basis for releasing the tapes but, in this case, there is not.

"The IAUC therefore urgently requests that you communicate with Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Senate panel dukes it out over voting rights Progressive groups announce M voting rights effort MORE, regarding the serious national security implications raised by the subject subpoenas, and for that reason request that the subpoenas be withdrawn," Burke concludes in the letter.