Ken Taylor, Canada's ambassador to Iran from 1977 to 1980, will answer a selection of reader questions on Monday in response to the revelations made in a new book, Our Man in Tehran , by Trent University historian Robert Wright.
The book reveals that Mr. Taylor worked as "de facto station chief for the CIA" following the taking of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in 1979, spying on the Iranians for the U.S.
Mr. Taylor became a household name in the United States in 1980 when he was credited for spiriting six American diplomats out of Iran. In an engaging interview with The Globe's Michael Valpy, Mr. Taylor redresses the record of that critical period in the fractious history of U.S.-Iranian relations, shedding new light on both on his role, and the role of the CIA, in that celebrated escape.
Due to time constraints, Mr. Taylor will answer a selection of reader questions, sent in advance, on Monday.
His responses appear below. Preference was given to questions submitted with real names, and locations. We apologize in advance for not being able to answer all questions.
Ken Taylor Q&A
Sasha Nagy: Good morning Mr. Taylor, thank you for taking some time to answer reader questions on what has been an interesting series of stories stemming from the release of Robert Wright's book Our Man in Tehran. First off, can you tell us how this came to be? Were there any difficult personal reservations about making the revelations in the book?
Ken Taylor: Robert Wright approached me after talking to Foreign Affairs. I gave him a call, and his proposal was that he was about to write a book marking the 30th anniversary of the taking of the embassy in Tehran. He was going to be contacting a number of people, and was wondering since I was one of the principal players if I would be prepared to exchange views with him and answers some of his questions. I had no reluctance, since I have done innumerable interviews particularly after it happened. Thirty years did mark a milestone in a sense.
Sasha Nagy: Great. Let's move into the reader questions.
Scott Thomas writes: Mr. Taylor, perhaps you could speak about the politicization of the civil service. I'm referring specifically to the fact that the lawyer for the whistle-blower in the Afghan detainee issue says Richard Colvin has a "reasonable belief" that the Conservative government is retaliating against him for his damaging torture testimony late last year.
Ken Taylor: I resigned from the foreign service almost 25 years ago, so I am really not in a position to comment today on the politicization of the public service or how it differs from the time that I was a member. A lot can change in 25 years. I can only comment on my own time during thee period as a foreign service office. As any public servant does, I respect the guidelines set out by the minister and the prime minister, I at no time, felt during my career that was about 25 years, that there was any undue interference or influence. Whether or not that is the case now, I am not in the position to definitely reply.
Michael Hum, from Toronto asks: Was the CIA involved in the release of the Americans?
Ken Taylor: There are two parts to that question. First, was the CIA involved in the release of the six that were hidden in our homes, or was the CIA involved in the remainder of the diplomats approximately 50, and three in the foreign ministry, eventually after 444 days? During the departure of the six, who were with us in our homes, yes we co-operated very closely with the CIA. It was a matter of the Canadians having the ultimate veto on what form or what scenario would be carried out. However, the diplomats were U.S. diplomats and we had to co-operate and we certainly did so very willingly with the U.S. government, particularly the CIA, to see that they departed safely.
It was a joint operation. Since the diplomats were in our hands, the final consensus was shared one. It was [U.S. President Jimmy]Carter who had to give approval for the execution to be under way and we, on the Canadian side, had to be comfortable with the scenario that would take place.
Eric Newson, from the United Arab Emirates writes: The "Canadian Caper" has always fascinated me and it is an honour to take part in trying to dissect this latest chapter. Was your decision to collect intelligence for the Americans based on;