Not Acceptable

Globe and Mail, 24 August 1957

The United States’ note in reply to Canada’s official protest over the Herbert Norman case is a thoroughly unsatisfactory document. In the first place, it was presented nearly five months after the protest—a discourteously long delay, but rather typical of the State Department’s attitude toward this country.

In the second place, it completely evades the main issue. Our Government asked for assurances that security information given by Canadian authorities to the U.S. Administration would not be passed on to “any committee, body or organization over which the executive branch of the U.S. Government has not executive control, without the express consent of the Canadian Government in each case”. The State Department’s response was as follows:

The procedures which have been followed by the security agencies of my Government in the past and which they will continue to follow in the future ... are consistent with the assurances you seek. These agencies operate under a directive which provides that any agency receiving information from another may not transmit such information outside its organization without the consent of the originating agency. (...)

This is certainly not the guarantee required. In its bland assurance that all is, and always has been, well, it ignores the salient fact brought to light in the Norman case: that information about the late Ambassador to Egypt, furnished to the United States Government by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was “leaked” to a Senate subcommittee which used it as the basis for an attack on him. It is probably a fair deduction that the Eisenhower Administration is unwilling to give the assurance asked for, for fear of antagonizing Congress.

This being the case, Prime Minister Diefenbaker should reconsider the whole matter of security exchanges with the United States. Last spring, the Liberal Government, very reluctantly, lifted the curtain of secrecy a little and disclosed a most disturbing state of affairs. It appears that back in 1940 the RCMP received a report from “an unidentified sub-source” alleging that Mr. Norman was a Communist. This was later discovered to be without foundation. Yet it remained in the police files, uninvestigated, for ten years, and then, in 1950, it was sent, still uninvestigated, to Washington, where it became the basis of the subsequent attacks against the unfortunate ambassador.

If this sort of thing could happen to a high public official, it could happen, even more easily, to Canadians less prominent. In how many other cases has the RCMP picked up accusations from “unidentified sub-sources”— perhaps little more than malicious gossip—and sent them on without checking to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, perhaps to be publicised years later and to destroy the accused man’s good name? Anyone in Canada could be the victim of this ugly across-border technique.

There are two things the Cabinet ought to do to correct the situation. First, it should take the RCMP in hand. The security branch should be given strict instructions to investigate promptly and thoroughly all charges of communism or subversive activities brought by informers. If they prove without foundation, they should be dropped from the files.

Secondly, the transmission of such material to the United States ought to be restricted. At present there seems to be a regular and automatic exchange of tips and gossip. It is questionable if this stuff is of any real value in the protection of Canada against espionage and subversion, and it carries with it the possibility of gross injustice to loyal and honorable men and women. Canada should “export” derogatory information about its citizens only when it is borne out by full investigation, when it is asked for specifically by the United States, when the public interest of this country seems to require it, and when precise guarantees are given against abuse.

Source: No author, "Not Acceptable," Globe and Mail, August 24, 1957

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