On December 8, 1981, the correspondent from Toronto, John Honderich filed what he thought was a routine story. A document stamped “Confidential” and sent from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC to Ottawa, saying that the U.S. was cancelling a Canadian-U.S. deal involving Lockheed’s anti-submarine plane, the “Aurora,” which had been in the works. Since so few military deals had been pending between the U.S. and Canada, Canada appeared to have been singled out for persecution by the Pentagon. Anyway, that was the slant that Honderich’s decided that his story was to take. The story went out.
But then Honderich got a call from a long-time source who told him that, “You have much more here than you think.” The document that had been leaked, complete with special numbers, security designations, route markings, was a U.S. electronic intercept. It meant that the top U.S. code-breaking outfit, the NSA, had cracked Canada’s unbreakable” code. It meant that America had been caught reading it ally’s mail. But Honderich didn’t seem to know what he had. When I talked to him, he said he had never heard of the NSA. But he had started calling Canadian officials before any publicity could harden them into silence. In reply to Honderich, the Canadian Exterior Affairs Minister (the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State, said that Canada’s computerized diplomatic code was “very nearly fool-proof and only rarely does it not fit our purpose.”
A very polite brush off.