Trent Alum and Instructor Uncovers Cold War Wiretapping Docs Kept Under Wraps

Phot of Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University.

Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University has found documents detailing the RCMP's secret Cold War wiretapping program, code-named Picnic. (Photo courtesy of CBC)

After a significant discovery of government surveillance, Trent University alumnus and current History professor Dr. Dennis Molinaro revealed that he recently uncovered top secret documents which prove that Canadian officials had been secretly wiretapping suspected spies during the Cold War era.

For more information on this story, please see coverage from CBC News.

“I was researching the Gouzenko Affair, the spy scandal that's been linked to starting the Cold War, primarily because I'm interested in knowing why people supported using emergency powers in peacetime and I think that how people interpreted security would play a role in figuring that out,” noted Prof. Molinaro. “I made new discoveries about the British role in it, which is being published in Labour/Le Travail, (an academic journal which publishes articles on the Canadian Committee of Labour History). That led me to investigate the Official Secrets Act since the Royal Commission that was set up after the Gouzenko scandal recommended changes to it. That's when I discovered that in 1953, there were media reports about the government passing a secret law.”

Professor Molinaro, a current faculty member in Trent’s History department, teaching courses at both the Durham and the Peterborough campuses, said that he discovered that the Cold War wiretapping program had continued, even during peacetime. “I'm working on a book with the University of Toronto Press about this and when I discovered this secret longstanding wiretapping program, I couldn't wait for the book to be done. I thought people had to know now,” he continued. He noted that his research found that there was never, in fact, an end date posted on the wiretapping documentation.

A graduate of Trent’s Durham – GTA campus in 2007, Prof. Molinaro credits his success as a historian today to the time he spent studying at Trent. “We cannot know who we are today or where we are heading next if we don't critically examine our past in an open and transparent way, however fraught with mistakes and missteps it may be.  Trent was and still is a university that understands that.”

Naming several faculty members as influential to his studies at Trent, Prof. Molinaro noted, “the tight knit community at both Oshawa and Peterborough was a great place to learn and discover the importance of the past and its significance for our present and future. I chose Trent for exactly that reason in my undergrad years and am proud to contribute to that environment as an instructor today.”

Prof. Molinaro is set to release a new book this spring, entitled An Exceptional Law: Section 98 and the Emergency State, 1919-1936.

This story originally appeared on the Trent University news feed.

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