Ken Taylor, in an interview with Toronto's Globe and Mail, said his own government, or at least then-Prime Minister Joe Clark and Foreign Minister Flora MacDonald, knew what he was up to. Clark apparently agreed to a request from then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in November 1979, shortly after the revolution against the ruling shah and held 52 hostages there for 444 days. Six U.S. diplomats spent several months as "house guests" in the Canadian Embassy before being smuggled out of the country with Canadian passports.
Robert Wright of Trent University described Taylor as the "de facto CIA station chief" in Tehran in his book, "Our Man in Tehran," which was released Saturday. The CIA sent an agent to work out of the Canadian Embassy under Taylor's direction.
Intelligence Taylor gathered was sent to the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa where the cables were passed to Clark and MacDonald and then to the U.S. ambassador of Canada.
While this was going on, the six "house guests" in the Canadian Embassy were something of an irritation, Taylor said, because U.S. officials, focused on the hostages, appeared to have forgotten about them. MacDonald once told her U.S. counterpart, Cyrus Vance, they would be sent across the border on donkeys if the United States did not get involved in moving them.