Saturday, December 26, 2020

CANUKUS Planning Conference, March 1953

This photo shows the participants in the CANUKUS (Canada-United Kingdom-United States) Planning Conference held in Washington from March 20th to the 25th, 1953 (click photo for higher resolution; source). The conference took place immediately after a BRUSA conference held at the same location, involving the same U.S. and British delegates, from March 2nd to the 19th. (BRUSA was renamed UKUSA later in 1953.)

The photo shows the conference participants assembled at the main entrance of the Naval Security Station building on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, which was still serving as one of the headquarters buildings of the new National Security Agency before its move to Fort Meade. Although dated March 31st, the photo was probably taken earlier in the month while the CANUKUS conference was still underway.

From left to right, front to back, the attendees are: Lieutenant Colonel Glen C. Long, U.S. Army; Major Dolas M. Grosjean, Women's Army Corps, U.S. Army; Clive (Joe) Loehnis, Deputy Director, GCHQ; Rear Admiral Joseph N. Wenger, USN, Vice Director, NSA; Group Captain Douglas M. Edwards, RCAF, Director of Air Intelligence; Brigadier John H. Tiltman, GCHQ, Senior British Liaison Officer at NSA; Edward M. Drake, Director, CBNRC; Victor P. Keay, FBI; Charles P. Collins, CIA; Commander James C. Pratt, RCN, Director of Naval Intelligence; Lieutenant Colonel Layton E. (Joe) Sarantos, Canadian Army, Director of Military Intelligence; Lieutenant Commander Arthur R. Hewitt, RCN, Director of Supplementary Radio Activities; Captain Bernard F. Roeder, USN; Henry J. Dryden, GCHQ; Commander Herbert H. Ridler, RN; Colonel Robert Gifford Yolland, British Army; Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Townsend, USAF; T. Jaffray Wilkins, CBNRC, Communications Branch Senior Liaison Officer at NSA; Inspector Cecil H. Bayfield, RCMP liaison officer to the FBI; Dr. Louis W. Tordella, NSA; Arthur W. (Bill) Bonsall, GCHQ; Douglas A. P. Davidson, CBNRC; Robert F. Packard, U.S. State Department; William (Bill) Millward, GCHQ; N. Kevin O'Neill, Coordinator Production, CBNRC; and Wing Commander Frederick W. Hudson, RAF. Of the 26 participants shown in the CANUKUS photo, nine were from Canada, eight from Britain, and nine from the United States. The British and American participants had all also attended the earlier BRUSA conference.

Kevin O'Neill, who later became the second Director of CBNRC and the first to hold the title of Chief following the agency's transfer to DND as the Communications Security Establishment, began his SIGINT career at Bletchley Park and served as part of the British liaison team in Washington just after the war. This late 1945 photo shows him sitting in an office probably no more than 30 metres from where he is standing in the CANUKUS photo.

Rival conferences

O'Neill was also the author of the SIGINT section of The History of CBNRC. That document describes the two back-to-back meetings in March 1953 as "rival" conferences.

What was at stake was governance of the UKUSA/CANUKUS partnership — in particular, how the agreements specifying the details of those partnerships were to be modified over time.

The 1946 BRUSA Agreement was strictly a U.S.-U.K. accord. But the 1949 signing of the CANUSA Agreement by Canada and the United States complicated matters. The CANUSA Agreement was modeled closely on BRUSA, and its appendices, which spelled out the details of COMINT cooperation, were based on many of the BRUSA Agreement's appendices. This was especially true of the crucial Appendix B, which specified security procedures and standards for handling and disseminating COMINT. Except for the names of the parties involved, the two Appendix Bs were identical, and the intent of all parties was to keep it that way. But this created the question of which parties would get to decide when changes were to be made.

As O'Neill related it,
1953 started off with some more rumblings about the desirability of Canada attending UK/US planning conferences where common subjects were involved. The UKUSA partners were planning to discuss their Appendix B on Security, as well as such lesser matters as SACLANT, Weather SIGINT, and counter-intelligence support, some time in March. Canada heard about this in January, and Mr. Glazebrook [the External Affairs officer who chaired the committee in charge of SIGINT policy] took up the question of whether it would not be simpler to deal with changes to Appendix B on a tripartite basis rather than have to handle them in two bilaterals, with the possibility of having to go back and forth between CANUSA and UKUSA Appendices ad nauseam. The Americans (Gen. Canine and V/Adm. Wenger) took the view that since this was a Commonwealth matter, it was up to the UK to decide, and for Britain Sir Eric Jones was adamant that Canada should not be present unless Australia was also.
The question had already been under discussion between the U.S. and Britain during the previous fall as the agenda for the BRUSA conference was being determined. In December, NSA Director Canine asked GCHQ Director Jones for his informal views on the possibility of moving Item 1 of the agenda (Revision of Appendix B - Security) to the "agenda for discussion at tripartite conferences with Canada."

Jones's reply gave two reasons for opposing the inclusion of Canada, one of which was fully redacted from the released record. The second reason, partially redacted, stated: "As the subject matter of Appendix B to the basic BRUSA Agreement has in the past been a matter for discussion between USCIB and LSIB only, it is preferable to maintain that principle and to continue with the arrangement". (USCIB and LSIB, the United States Communications Intelligence Board and the London Signals Intelligence Board, were the policy committees that directed SIGINT policy in the two countries at this time.)

The second reason seems to point to the primary British concern. Avoiding unequal treatment of the Dominions may have been a legitimate concern of the British, but if the exclusion of Australia were really the issue, it seems likely that it could have been resolved by including Australian participation in the conferences. (New Zealand was unmentioned presumably because, although it contributed personnel to the joint British-Australian-New Zealand COMINT centre in Melbourne, it had no COMINT processing organization of its own at this time.)

The real issue for Britain was almost certainly its reluctance to be, in effect, demoted from primary SIGINT partner of the United States to one of two partners of the U.S. having — in nominal terms at least — an equal say over the future evolution of the partnership. Given the importance of the UKUSA partnership to Britain and the great disparity in actual capabilities between GCHQ and CBNRC, this was not a development that the British would have considered either welcome or appropriate.

Britain did agree, however, to consider "the implementation in respect of Canada of paragraphs 11 to 16 inclusive of Appendix Q to the BRUSA SIGINT Agreement" at the tripartite conference to follow, noting that this "particular wording has been agreed in discussions between U.K. and Canadian authorities, and U.K. has already promised Canada to propose it to U.S. as item for discussion at a tripartite conference." (Appendix Q concerned COMINT Collaboration in War.)

The result, according to the History of CBNRC, was
a compromise whereby Washington was the scene of a UKUSA Conference from March 2-19, revising their Appendices B, H, N, P and Q, and reviewing D and O, and a CANUKUS Conference from March 20-25, which dealt with the "lesser" matters such [one line redacted] SACLANT, Wartime Collaboration and Counter-Clandestine SIGINT.
But it was not much of a solution as far as Canada was concerned.
The second lot of proceedings seemed pretty unrealistic, especially since SACLANT and Wartime Collaboration between the US and the Commonwealth had already been dealt with at the UKUSA Conference in their discussions of Appendices P and Q, and the revisions to UKUSA Appendix B had later to be sent to Canada for agreement and incorporation into the corresponding CANUSA Appendix.
Indeed, the tandem-conference experience seems to have been satisfactory to none of the parties. Many tripartite conferences were held among Canada, the United States, and Britain in later years on specific subjects of interest, but the back-to-back UKUSA/CANUKUS conference experiment does not seem to have been repeated.

Subsequent revisions of Appendix B in 1955, 1956, and 1959 were decided by the United States and Britain. Formal or informal consultations on these revisions were sometimes held with Canada ahead of time, but the British position against direct Canadian participation held firm: "Mr. Southam in December 1958 and Mr. Starnes in March/April 1959 took up again the Canadian desire to make Appendix B tripartite; but to no avail, since the British authorities were resolutely opposed to 'triparticity'."


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