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Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Q&A

Ken Taylor takes your questions Add to ...

  • A) a general feeling of loyalty to our neighbours to the south/closest allies;
  • B) a need to help hostages whom you knew personally; or
  • C) a desire to respond to a blatant violation of the extraterritorial status usually enjoyed by diplomatic missions?

Ken Taylor: That's an intriguing question. The decision was essentially based on all three. A, B, and C. In particular, with respect to the violation of diplomatic status, a sense that small and medium countries benefit particularly with diplomatic protocol, that gives an embassy sovereign rights over their own grounds. I found that we had to one way or another seek a rebalance of that. In response to Mr. Newsom, that would be a positive response to all three, but clearly underlining Part C, violation of the extraterritorial status. That to me was acting to the disadvantage to counties the size of Canada and Iran and smaller countries.

Pejman Loghmani, from Toronto writes: Dear Mr. Ambassador, I'm an Iranian-Canadian living in Toronto now; I would be thankful if you can answer this question. What was the role of then Iran's president (Mr. Banisadr) and the Iranian army (Air force) during the American rescue effort operation on April, 1980 (Eagle's Claw Operation), during the hostage crisis in Tehran ? Were there any secret deals and co-ordination, for this operation?

Thank you again for clarification in advance.

Ken Taylor: As far as I know, Mr. Banisadr was not involved, nor was the Iranian Air Force involved in the American rescue operation. The initiative was a deeply held secret. And the U.S. was particularly careful not to involve in Iranians because of the jeopardy that it would have put them in.

D. Dayton, from Toronto writes: I am extremely distressed to discover that a man on our government's payroll, meant to be representing the interests of our country, was really working for a different nation all along. I would like to ask him if it is common that Canadian diplomats are really working for the USA? To which country did he, or do they, owe their primary allegiance?

Ken Taylor: In no sense of the word was I working for the United States. I was a Canadian diplomat working in conjunction with Ottawa to one way or another resolve, possibly in a modest way, the Iranian hostage crisis. Canadian diplomats abroad are paid for, evaluated by and instructed by their colleagues in Ottawa. Our primary allegiance is to Canada and that was the case during the entire period in Iran.

What the embassy did, in one way or another, assisted in seeing six U.S. diplomats leave Tehran safely. We tried to be helpful to the U.S. in framing their efforts to secure the release of those in the U.S. compound.

Doug Heighes, from Owen Sound, Ont. writes: What was your rationale in agreeing to be a spy for the CIA? Did you have a choice?

Ken Taylor: My role in Canada was not to spy directly for the CIA, my role was in co-ordinating for the U.S. government, intelligence with respect to what was going on in Tehran, and the implications that it would hold for the Eagle Claw raid. It was under the umbrella and the context of the Canadian government. All the information went directly to Ottawa. Authorities in Ottawa would pass on the information to the appropriate agency or body or state department or pentagon in Washington. As for did I have a choice. The work I and my colleagues did in Tehran was in general to help seek a resolution to the hostage crisis. The work we did in relation to Eagle Claw was part of that endeavour.

Alfie Lee asks: Was your wife Patricia aware of your spying activities for the Americans? If so, did she contribute any information obtained from her walks around the streets of Tehran going to and from work each day, or shopping, for inclusion in your reports to the CIA in Langley?

Ken Taylor: My wife Pat was not involved in the intelligence gathering for the U.S. Eagle Claw raid. However, she was very involved with the six diplomats that were hiding in our homes. She was, of course, working at the Iranian blood transfusion service as a consultant with the Pasteur Institute, and an occasional lecture to the University of Tehran medical post-graduate group. She was very busy. One way or another in many different was contributing to the smooth functioning of the embassy. However, given the little time that was available, any discretionary time that was available, which was very rare, didn't allow her, nor was that intended to be, that she would be involved.

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