Gouzenko, White and Pearson

Fraser, Blair. “Backstage at Ottawa: Gouzenko, White and Pearson.” Maclean’s Magazine, 1 January1954

Gouzenko, White and Pearson

NOTHING in recent years has so damaged the friendly relations between Ottawa and Washington as the introduction of Canadian names into the current American spy hunt.

Personal attacks on L. B. Pearson, Minister of External Affairs, are regarded here as an attempt at blackmail by Senator William Jenner’s subcommittee on internal security. They came just after Canada turned down the Jenner committee’s request to come to Canada and examine Igor Gouzenko, the one time Soviet cipher clerk who exposed a Communist spy ring in Canada eight years ago.

Attacks on Pearson were launched by an obscure writer named Victor Lasky in a speech at Mamaroneck, N.Y., but it’s believed here that Lasky was acting as mouthpiece for Jenner or for Robert Morris, the subcommittee’s counsel. Lasky quoted Elizabeth Bentley, the informer who used to be a courier for a Soviet spy ring, as testifying that “while she did not know Mr. Pearson personally, he had always been an excellent source of information when she was a spy queen in Washington.”

Elizabeth Bentley did, on at least one occasion, give some purely hearsay testimony against Pearson. She said she had heard (she didn’t say from whom) that he gave some information (she didn’t say what) to some unnamed third party.

But this particular bit of Bentley testimony had never before been made public. She gave it to the Jenner subcommittee in a closed session. Ottawa takes it for granted that either Jenner or Morris gave Lasky a copy of the transcript, as a way of putting pressure on the Government of Canada.

The day after Lasky uttered his carefully phrased smear against Pearson, the Jenner subcommittee made a second request to come up and hear Gouzenko.

WITH THE WISDOM of hindsight it’s easy to criticize the way that first request was handled in Ottawa. Canada’s reply did not make it clear that Igor Gouzenko is now a free Canadian citizen who can go where he likes and talk to anyone he likes.

Restrictions on Gouzenko’s liberty are purely advisory. The RCMP is still responsible for his personal safety, and it may advise him that a certain course of action would be dangerous. But Gouzenko can and often does ignore its advice.

One such occasion was the interview he gave to this magazine last summer. The Mounties thought it was risky and told him so. Gouzenko didn’t agree. With his new novel almost ready for publication, he thought it would do him good to be back in the public eye after several years of obscurity. [...]

If the Jenner subcommittee merely wanted information from Igor Gouzenko it could easily have sent a man up to talk to him. If on the other hand the Jenner subcommittee wanted publicity—an international junket guaranteed to put it on every American front page—the Canadian Government did not wish to cooperate.

Canadian authorities dislike the methods of Senators Jenner and McCarthy, the techniques that John Diefenbaker recently called “Trial by Television.” They not only felt this strongly as individuals but they also believed—and the cabinet’s mail has tended to confirm—that most Canadian citizens feel the same way.

HOWEVER, the Government had other reasons for not wanting Gouzenko to testify. These explain why the first Canadian reply did not even suggest, let alone encourage, a direct approach to Gouzenko as a free and private citizen.

Ottawa is convinced that Igor Gouzenko has already told every fact he really knows, and everything Gouzenko said had been passed on to the FBI in Washington. Not only the published reports and the public testimony but everything Gouzenko ever said to the Mounties and the Royal Commissioners who questioned him for months on end in 1945 and 1946 have been given to J. Edgar Hoover’s men. [...]

IT’S HARDLY NEWS, though, that Ottawa is annoyed by a congressional committee. What is new, and much more disturbing, is that this time the Canadian Government is also at outs with the United States Administration.

Canadian authorities were more than merely “surprised,” they were furious when Herbert Brownell, U.S. Attorney General, published secret documents as political weapons against the Democrats. One was a letter from J. Edgar Hoover, FBI chief, in which Canada was prominently mentioned. It did nothing to soothe Canadian irritation that Hoover had got his facts innocently but hopelessly muddled. [...]

Source: Blair Fraser, "Gouzenko, White and Pearson," Maclean's Magazine, January 1, 1954

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