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Date Posted: 23:34:26 10/29/04 Fri
In reply to: Pitcairner 's message, "Yet another revision" on 22:32:26 10/29/04 Fri
Washington urged Ottawa to buy subs, records suggest
Data about U.S. operations in Canadian waters depended on purchase, papers
By JEFF SALLOT
Thursday, October 28, 2004 - Page A7
OTTAWA -- Senior Pentagon officials lobbied Ottawa to buy four used British
submarines so that the U.S. Navy could play cat-and-mouse war games with
Canada to help train U.S. sailors, declassified defence documents say.
The records also say the Canadian navy couldn't get information from the
United States and other allies about their secret submarine operations in
Canadian waters unless Canada had subs of its own.
The previously secret records raise questions about whether the Canadian
navy needed subs for defence purposes or to please Washington and keep the
Pentagon from cutting off information about U.S. sub patrols off Canadian
The House of Commons defence committee is investigating the Canadian navy's
submarine program, including its rationale, after a fatal fire aboard one of
the British-built boats, HMCS Chicoutimi, this month.
The Liberal government bought the subs in 1998, but the defence documents
show that naval officers were warning cabinet ministers two years earlier
that Canada could be cut out of the loop about secret U.S. submarine
operations if it didn't have subs.
In a 1996 background note sent to the office of the defence minister, the
navy said "the possession of submarines gives Canada access to information
on allied submarine movements in or near Canadian waters, the monitoring of
which is an essential aspect of exercising sovereignty."
A ministerial briefing note, classified secret, said that possessing
submarines gives the navy "leverage with allies for intelligence and
information regarding submarine operations."
A third memo for the minister said membership in the international submarine
club ensures that Canada will get information from other countries about
their "submarines operations, location, movement and capabilities. This
information is not available to countries who do not operate submarines."
Still another "secret -- Canadian eyes only" briefing note from 1996
explained that having submarines made Canada part of a "highly classified"
program known as "waterspace management."
Only through this program could Canada obtain "information on the location
and movement of submarines" from allies.
Canada's three Oberon-class submarines were approaching the end of their
service and the navy wanted to maintain the "combat capability" of
submarines even after the Cold War.
The documents argued that buying four barely used British Upholder-class
subs could keep Canada in the club.
The U.S. Navy, which had its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, was
eager to have Canada operate a different type of submarine for joint
The diesel-electric Upholders were considered extremely quiet and hard to
detect, thus an ideal target for use in underwater sub-hunting exercises.
In October of 1996, Dwight Mason, a former U.S. diplomat in Ottawa who was
the U.S. co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Permanent Joint Board on Defence, wrote
to then-defence-minister Doug Young, saying Washington considered it very
important for Canada to have diesel-electric submarines.
Five months later, the U.S. secretary of defence at the time, William Perry,
wrote the minister a similar letter.
The two letters remain classified. But other documents, released to
Ottawa-based researcher Ken Rubin under the Access to Information Act, refer
to the Mason and Perry letters and the importance the Pentagon put on the
opportunity to train with Canadian diesel-electric subs.
One of the declassified documents argues that without submarines, Canada
would suffer "a loss of allied intelligence data regarding submarine
operations; and a loss of credibility with alliance partners."
Meanwhile, in the Commons yesterday, Defence Minister Bill Graham said the
government depended on the advice of the navy in buying the subs from
"I am proud of the fact that when I said the navy wanted those submarines we
supported them in getting those submarines.
"That is exactly what we should be doing. I do not make strategic decisions
for the military. I take its advice," he said.
Conservative defence critic Gordon O'Connor, a retired army general, said
Mr. Graham "has repeatedly distanced himself from the tragic incident aboard
the Chicoutimi by pointing a finger at our navy. Every time he is asked a
question on submarines his standard answer is, 'the navy made me do it.' "
Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq?
A. George W. Bush knew how to get out of the Vietnam War. -- Alec Englander,
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