Did you think the CIA did not care?

Back in the midst of Cold War concerns in North America, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was hardly going to ignore Canada.  Why are people surprised about some of their reports on Canada of the time coming to light?  They were probably well reasoned, in depth and nothing new.  Canada hardly made it difficult to gather the information.

What made the difference in the reports of the American CIA and the Russian KGB operatives of the time, we expect was just the perspective.  In a rambling, cocktail-type conversation with the CIA Station Chief in Quebec City in the late 1970s, we asked him what gave him a particular insight.  He answered simply that it was in a local newspaper. We came away from that session with the impression that the CIA was doing a better job reporting on Quebec than any of our English-language news media groups.  The CIA could be objective.  We cannot.

The CIA did not need to spy back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Their Royal Canadian Mounted Police counterparts of that time were, in the main, relaxed and cooperative.  Even the British Secret Intelligence Service obviously kept a relaxed eye on specific areas of interest.  Why not?  Canada is a relatively open society and there is no need for the cloak and dagger stuff that carried on during the Second World War.  Of course, we could not be unaware of the growing problems of industrial espionage but that was carried out in a generally gentlemanly fashion.

But the relaxed attitude went into the dumpster after 9/11.  The World Trade Center came tumbling down and paranoia replaced it.  Canada had already given the counter-intelligence role of the RCMP to the new Canadian Security Intelligence Service.   Cee-Sis, as it is called, has hardly endeared itself to Canadians.  Homeland Security in the United States has also acted irrationally and with a heavy hand and Canadians have been convenient scapegoats for their ineptness.

What we can expect in future releases of CIA documents on Canada is a certain circumspectness that was not in the earlier documents.  When you know that what you write might come to light eventually, you write to your audience.


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