Closely Guarded

Closely Guarded: A Life in Canadian Security and Intelligence

JOHN STARNES
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442673021
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Closely Guarded
    Book Description:

    Starnes's memoir offers a fascinating look at Canada's security and intelligence work from the point of view of an official deeply involved in many covert government activities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7302-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Part One: Intelligence Officer, 1939-1945

    • 1 Joining Up
      (pp. 3-13)

      It was the beginning of the Second World War. I spent the first weekend of September 1939 with my wife-to-be, Helen Robinson, and her parents at their cottage in St Andrews, New Brunswick. The next week I had to get back to my job in Montreal (a proofreader with the MontrealGazette). I recall driving back with my wifeʼs cousin, Allan Magee. We were close friends, having been together at Bishopʼs University. On the long journey we talked about the things that young men talk about - sex, booze, and the future. In particular, we talked about ʻjoining up.ʼ Allan...

    • 2 Secret Intelligence Work
      (pp. 14-29)

      Shortly after we learned our results, the course broke up. We reported to Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) in London to be given our marching orders. We were received in what was known as the Military Operations and Intelligence Section (MO&I) by Captain Hugh Halbert, who was in the process of assuming command of the section from Major John Page (Toronto Scottish). To my surprise and pleasure, it turned out that Hugh was a member of the Canadian Black Watch. When we met he did not know the results and asked us what they were. From London I wrote to Helen...

    • 3 War Staff College
      (pp. 30-34)

      Returning to Canada in 1943 proved an unexpected cultural shock. Though there was some rationing in Canada, the contrast with England was startling. Canadian shops and markets were cornucopias by comparison with Englandʼs. The lack of blackout restrictions and the absence of serious rationing for gasoline, tires, and oil products accentuated the differences.

      With some difficulty Helen and I found a small place to rent in Kingston. Whatever the shortcomings of the apartment, we were happy simply to be together again. Our landlady was a harridan, but, since she appeared to like young officers, we got along quite well. Sitting...

    • 4 On Foot in the Blackout
      (pp. 35-52)

      Being seconded to the Canadian Legation to the Allied Governments-in-Exile in London, which I was on 25 May 1944, appeared not much different from being seconded to the main headquarters of 21 Army Group (Air) on the western outskirts of London. Both involved administrative work in intelligence, and neither brought me any closer to action at the very moment when it was obvious that the Allies were about to launch an all-out attack against the Germans in Europe. The preparations for ʻOverlordʼ were everywhere to be seen, and as a recent member of the intelligence staff at 21 Army Group...

    • 5 Chargé d’ Affaires
      (pp. 53-64)

      After Tommy Stone’s departure in January 1945, the work of the Canadian Legation to the Allied Governments-in-Exile in London continued apace. On 29 January, ‘just as I was leaving, John Holmes, who has taken Charlie Ritchie’s place at Canada House, turned up. We had a good dinner at the Traveller’s Club where we were joined by a laddie who was in Canada working as a vice-consul and doing work for the Ministry of Information. He knew almost everybody in the club and many people in Canada. Somewhat like a walking encyclopedia - very amusing bloke.’

      My friendship with Holmes lasted...

  5. Part Two: External Affairs, 1945-1969

    • 6 Robertson, Pearson, St Laurent
      (pp. 67-81)

      I could hardly have had a better vantage point from which to learn the ropes at External Affairs and to meet the small coterie of officers then working in the East Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa in 1945. I formed many friendships at this time, some of which lasted a lifetime, with people such as Bill Crean, Evan Gill, George Glazebrook, Terry MacDermot, Bert Mackay, Gerry Riddell, John Teakles, and John Watkins.

      While External Affairs was still actively recruiting, it was probably Felix Walter who first suggested Watkins as a likely recruit. I believe that Walter, through his...

    • 7 New York and Frisco, Bonn and Paris
      (pp. 82-91)

      It proved to be an exciting time serving on the fledgling Canadian delegation to the United Nations. George Ignatieff was the senior adviser, doing an extraordinarily good job keeping McNaughton happy and out of trouble - a time-consuming task since the general did not always agree with the instructions he received continuously from Ottawa. There were relatively junior advisers from External Affairs, including Harry Carter, Sidney Friefeld, and George Grande, and me, and special advisers Harry Lewis (from National Defence) and Jack Babbitt (from the National Research Council). External Affairs provided administrative support. Fortunately, from time to time the delegation...

    • 8 A Rotten, Stinking, Depressing Job
      (pp. 92-106)

      Though I had acquired quite a bit of background in intelligence and security affairs, heading Defence Liaison Division (2) meant that I would be taking over security and intelligence in External Affairs at the height of the Cold War, at a time when the Russians and their allies had mounted a series of successful intelligence operations against NATO countries, including Canada. As we are now aware, those operations were even more extensive and damaging than we imagined.

      I was pleased that I would be reporting directly to Norman Robertson, who had become deputy minister earlier in 1958. Knowing the strains...

    • 9 Intense Midday Heat
      (pp. 107-124)

      I thoroughly enjoyed my time as ambassador in the Federal Republic of Germany, which covered an intensely interesting period (1962-6), when the Germans were casting off the role of being ‘occupied,’ gradually assuming sovereignty, and becoming a potentially important member of the Western alliance. Our embassy’s mission, moreover, had taken on a special flavour, owing to the presence on German soil of so many Canadian army and air force units and their families. The Canadian military units did their difficult jobs with great professionalism, thus earning the respect of the Germans and of the other Allied forces with whom they...

    • 10 Winds of Change
      (pp. 125-128)

      I was not sorry when word came in the spring of 1967 from Marcel Cadieux that I was to return to Ottawa as assistant under-secretary of state for External Affairs, in charge of administration and personnel. Certainly, my time in Egypt and Sudan had been stimulating, challenging, and exciting, not least because of the fracas over the enforced withdrawal of the Canadian contingent to UNEF. While we were in London, en route to Ottawa, David Owen, secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, asked me to see him so that he could express his government’s appreciation of the way...

  6. Part Three: Rethinking Security, 1970-1994

    • 11 Compromise Candidate
      (pp. 131-146)

      Out of the blue, on 23 September 1969,1 received a telephone call from Gordon Robertson, secretary to the cabinet, asking me to meet him for lunch that day at the Rideau Club to discuss a ‘matter of some urgency.’ I can outline the event by referring to a slightly expurgated and declassified version of a fifty-seven-page written submission that I made to the McDonald Commission on 16 December 1977, which has been made public (excluding the appendices) and describes the meeting. I quote from it at several places below.

      When we met, Robertson quickly came to the point. The prime...

    • 12 Tough Cases
      (pp. 147-157)

      Preliminary briefings of all kinds had been completed by the time I took over as director-general of the RCMP Security Service on 1 January 1970. In fact, however, my position and rank as a public servant meant that I was subject to the same rules and regulations and code of discipline as ‘regular members’ of the RCMP, except that I lacked certain of their powers. For example, I was not a ‘peace officer’ or a ‘justice of the peace’ under the terms of the RCMP act and thus was unable to sign warrants for submission to the minister - for...

    • 13 October 1970
      (pp. 158-163)

      Much has been written about Canada’s October Crisis of 1970. Without doubt it was the most momentous event that occurred during my career with the RCMP, but I was unable to be an active player, for the simple reason that I was struck down with a severe bout of pneumonia on 8 October and remained out of the picture until 23 November, when my doctor pronounced me sufficiently recovered to return to work.

      Apart from the illness itself, which turned out to be an unpleasant form of lumbar pneumonia, I found the unfortunate circumstances very frustrating. It was rather like...

    • 14 McDonald, Keable, CSIS
      (pp. 164-176)

      Between 1977 and 1984 Canada thoroughly examined and carefully reconstructed its security and intelligence system. Two investigative efforts - the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (McDonald Commission, 1977-81) and the Commission of Inquiry into Police Operations on Quebec Territory (Keable Commission, 1977-81) - helped lay the groundwork for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, established in 1984.

      I would be a hypocrite if I pretended that what I write about the McDonald Commission is without bias. In all I spent about one hundred and twenty hours under oath as a witness before the Keable...

    • 15 Spy Novelist
      (pp. 177-182)

      After retiring in April 1973, I began tentatively to write my first novel, but I was soon asked to take on a number of quite different jobs, some involving personal service contracts with government departments or agencies and some in the private sector. Between June 1973 and March 1977 I received about thirty-five such approaches. The majority I refused. Some I was quite unsuited to perform - such as managing a well-known linen specialty shop in Montreal. I accepted a personal service contract with the Department of Justice, at the behest of Mr Justice Gerard La Forest, to prepare a...

  7. Epilogue: Security and Democracy
    (pp. 183-188)

    This memoir is a very personal commentary principally concerning my experience of security and intelligence work as functions of the military, foreign affairs, and diplomacy during a period of more than fiftyfive years. I have found writing it demanding, but the task has enabled me to look back on my life in all its facets, private and professional, and it has taught me something about myself, about others, and about our country. It also has served to remind me of the extraordinary men and women with whom I have worked, who have added so much to my life.

    In retrospect,...

  8. APPENDIX A Documents re Wartime Military Intelligence
    (pp. 189-194)
  9. APPENDIX B My Father’s Memoir (Excerpt)
    (pp. 195-196)
  10. APPENDIX C Planning Assumptions for Exercise Lazarus (1967)
    (pp. 197-199)
  11. APPENDIX D Memoranda re Security and Intelligence (1969)
    (pp. 200-202)
  12. APPENDIX E ‘Current Threats to National Order and Unity- Quebec Separatism’ (1969)
    (pp. 203-206)
  13. APPENDIX F Minutes of Cabinet Meeting (19 December 1969)
    (pp. 207-213)
  14. APPENDIX G Meeting re Stated Aims of 1969 (16 March 1973)
    (pp. 214-218)
  15. APPENDIX H ‘The FLQ and Quebec’ (1970)
    (pp. 219-223)
  16. APPENDIX I CCPP Minutes on ‘Law and Order’ (1970)
    (pp. 224-236)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 237-242)
  18. Index
    (pp. 243-258)