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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 ...

Kevin Tuggey, from Rouyn-Noranda, Que. asks: Was your Canadian staff at the time put in danger by actions taken under direct order from the CIA?

Ken Taylor: It's fair to say that during the entire time that the U.S. diplomats were hidden, and when we became involved in our further extension of our support of the U.S. efforts, the Canadian staff was always in danger. As a closing note to that. At no time were any actions that the Canadian government was involved in Tehran were taken under direct order from the CIA.

Tom Keep asks: Did you receive any renumeration from the Americans for your efforts?

Ken Taylor: Anything I did in Tehran was totally separate from the American embassy, the American state department and CIA in terms of renumeration, performance evaluation and what have you. I solely an employee reporting to External Affairs, now Foreign Affairs exclusively.

Alireza Panahi, from Toronto, Ont. asks: I am very puzzled about the fact that Mr. Taylor reveals his secret at this time, considering the events in Iran after the June 12 election. Hardliners in Iran have repeatedly accused the foreign embassies in Tehran as being involved in movement of the Iranian people for democracy. This comes as good news for the fanatics in Iran. Is there any connection between the timing of the events in Iran and publishing this book now?

Ken Taylor: I had no intention of revealing our involvement with regard to Eagle Claw. It had been a secret for 30 years, and I had intended it to remain a secret for another 30 years. However, events through diligent reporting or research, become known. The story, had a documented framework to it, and I was responded to the contents of the book. Iran is probably one of the most complex countries that Western governments are involved with or confronted with at the moment. It may well be, as the questioner asks and identifies, the fanatics in Iran may take advantage of the story that Professor Robert Wright unfolds in his book, but it is purely a coincidence.

Unnamed Reader comment: I commend the harbouring of the American fugitives by our diplomats after the illegal take-over of their embassy. Allowing the CIA agent to operate from the Canadian embassy is debatable but understandable under the circumstances. But working directly with CIA and giving them information so that they can attack is deplorable. Mr. Taylor, you talk about the risks to you and your colleagues; did you ever consider the risk to the hundreds of innocent Iranians who would have been in the line of fire, had the Americans invaded Tehran and bungled up their so-called perfect rescue plans?

Ken Taylor: During the planning of the Eagle Claw initiative, I was certainly aware, as were my colleagues in Ottawa that were involved in it, of the risk to the Canadian embassy employees. We were also very aware to the possible risk to innocent Iranians. The responsibility of Iranian innocents, rested solely on the Iranian government's shoulders at that time. The U.S. embassy was taken over by students, who I think had in mind 2-3 days. The embassy situation was eventually manipulated by the Iranian government. If there would have been innocent people caught in the crossfire, it would be seen as something that was provoked by the stance of the Iranian government at that time.

Monique Lamoureux, from Ottawa asks: To what extent do you think the revelation of your work as "de facto station chief for the CIA" will affect our diplomats currently working abroad? Do you think that this revelation will cause Canadian diplomats to lose the trust and faith of their counterparts in other countries? And if so, how would you suggest we might be able to regain that trust?

Ken Taylor: I think that there is always the possibility that this may put into question some activities of some Canadian embassies abroad. However, I don't see this as a residual or ongoing concern. The Canadian embassy, and colleagues in Ottawa and obviously the prime minister and minister acted in response to people in desperate situation, their lives were at risk. After consideration, it was universal that Canada and the Canadian embassy respond in a way that might alleviate or resolve a situation that those diplomats found themselves in. If it did jeopardize the future operations of Canadian embassies, which I think it may momentarily but not universally, I think that it was a small price to pay in the sense that Canadians followed their own values and instincts in doing what they did.

Sasha Nagy: Thanks Mr. Taylor for time.

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