Soviets Blackmailed Homosexuals in Ottawa

Category:  Historical reprints
SourceThe Toronto Sun, Monday March 30, 1981



New spy revelations

By Bob Reguly, Staff Writer

The prevalence of homosexuals in government enabled the Soviet Union’s KGB spy network to score its greatest post-war successes in Ottawa.

That’s one of the main factors to emerge amid new revelations of Soviet spies in high places in Ottawa and Westminster.

The Sun has learned that two Canadian ambassadors to Moscow — not one, as first reported — were blackmailed through set-up pictures of their homosexual encounters.

The result was a large-scale investigation by the RCMP and U.S. intelligence agencies – part of which was directed at former prime minister Lester Pearson.

John Watkins, Canada’s ambassador to Moscow from 1954-56, was rousted from retirement in Paris in 1963 after a defector revealed the entrapment.  Watkins died of a heart attack while under RCMP interrogation in a Montreal hotel room.

Before he collapsed, Watkins admitted to his questioners, Leslie James Bennett, then directing RCMP counter-intelligence, and Harry Brandeis, now head of CI, that he had worked for the KGB.

Watkins also revealed that his Moscow successor, David Johnson, was a homosexual and had been photographed by the Soviets in homosexual activity.

The RCMP couldn’t prove conclusively that Johnson had surrendered to the Soviets’ blackmail when he was ambassador from 1956-61, but he was quietly eased out of the civil service and died in 1972.

The RCMP also suspected that a third ambassador, his name unrevealed, has also been blackmailed by the KGB through homosexual pictures.

The scandal unleashed a large-scale cleanout of homosexuals in government as security risks, with the hunt focussing on the external affairs department.  The RCMP Security Service identified 3,000 homosexuals in middle and senior positions in the civil service and wanted them all weeded out, but didn’t succeed.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau tried to stem the drain of senior civil service talent by easing up on security restrictions for homosexuals.

“Trudeau saw the end of the External Affairs department with so many top people being investigated and seen at orgies, that he opted for keeping them if they accepted medical treatment,” said a former top-level RCMP officer.

“But the Russians never eased up one bit in balckmailing homosexuals in government.  Many had families to conceal it from.  It’s still a Sodom and Gomorrah in Ottawa.”

The RCMP investigation of the blackmailed ambassadors, helped by the CIA and FBI, delved deeply into the chain in External that had promoted suspect ambassadors, at least four, to sensitive posts.

Part of that investigation was directed at Pearson, a friend of Watkins who had served as external affairs minister before becoming prime minister.

The FBI had 4,000 transcript pages of testimony, interrogation and cross-references from and about Elizabeth Bentley, long-time secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.  Included in the bundle sent to Ottawa was Bentley’s secret testimony before the U.S. Senate Internal Security subcommittee.

She testified that during World War II, Pearson as ambassador to Washington, had fed details of top-secret deliberations among western Allied powers to a Soviet agent, Hazen Size.

LESTER PEARSON Target of probe

Target of probe

Bentley said Pearson knew that Size was a Soviet agent.  Size, an architect, came to Ottawa after the war and worked for the National Capital Commission until his retirement.  He died in Montreal several years ago.

The U.S. spooks were also unnerved by Pearson’s vigorous defence of his colleague, Herbert Norman, ambassador to Egypt who had jumped to his death in Cairo in 1957.

While Pearson was denouncing in Parliament the senate committee’s “witch-hunt” in identifhying Norman as a communist, the U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower held a CIA dispatch from Cairo.

The message told him that on the night before Norman died, he had dined with a doctor friend and, according to the doctor, Norman said he feared that a royal commission would be called into the U.S. allegations.

If called to testify, Norman said he would be forced to implicate “60 or 70” definite and possibly up to 400 Canadians and Americans in a Soviet spy network.  He said he’d rather kill himself.

The RCMP investigation turned up an interesting group photo taken at England’s Cambridge university in the early ’30s.  Side-by-side were Pearson, Norman, Kim Philby and Robert Bryce, who became clerk of the Privy Council.

But the RCMP never could decide whether Pearson worked for the Soviets or that he was just fiercely loyal to old friends like Norman, Size and Bryce, who had been named by the committee as having breen involved with communist party cells on campus in his Harvard days.

– 30 –

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