Trial of Ex-RCMP Official Accused of Leaking Secrets Nears Conclusion

Cameron Ortis, a former RCMP intelligence director accused of disclosing classified information, returns to the Ottawa courthouse during a break in proceedings in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

Today, the Ontario Superior Court hears the closing arguments in the high-profile case against Cameron Ortis, a former senior RCMP intelligence official charged with attempting to sell top-secret information.

Ortis faces six charges, including four under the Security of Information Act, designed to protect Canada’s national secrets. The prosecution claims Ortis used his access as head of an RCMP intelligence unit to approach individuals on the RCMP’s radar, including Phantom Secure CEO Vincent Ramos, suspected of dealing in encrypted devices for organized crime, and Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf, believed to be part of a global money-laundering network with terrorist links.

A key allegation involves Ortis’s interaction with Farzam Mehdizadeh, considered by one RCMP witness as linked to top-tier money launderers. The prosecution contends Ortis offered operational information to these individuals to evade RCMP detection.

Contradicting these allegations, Ortis maintains his innocence, asserting that his actions were part of a covert mission from a foreign agency, aiming to entice criminals into using an encrypted email service for intelligence gathering. Ortis’s claim, however, has been refuted by the email service, labeling his statements as “completely false.”

In a surprising twist, Ortis told the court he deliberately avoided informing his superiors due to strict confidentiality required by his foreign contact and concerns about infiltrators within law enforcement. He testified, “I had sensitive information from multiple sources that each of the subjects had compromised or penetrated Canadian law enforcement agencies.”

Cameron Jay Ortis, right, a former RCMP intelligence director accused of disclosing classified information, returns to the Ottawa Courthouse during a break in proceedings in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Prosecutor John MacFarlane, in cross-examination, challenged Ortis’s narrative, suggesting his actions actually aided the suspects. “You were enabling them. Sending them RCMP information so they could avoid detection from the RCMP. Isn’t that right?” he questioned.

Ortis defended his actions as part of “Project Nudge,” intended solely to push suspects towards the secure email provider without disrupting criminal investigations or enabling their activities.

The trial, which has spanned nearly eight weeks, is groundbreaking as it’s the first trial under the Security of Information Act. Hundreds of pages of evidence, including emails and Ortis’s web searches, have been scrutinized. Notably, searches included “top 10 tips for counter-surveillance” and details on avoiding video surveillance, coinciding with the period Ortis communicated with the alleged criminals.

Ortis also addressed his research on Kim Philby, a notorious British double agent, explaining it as part of a risk assessment for the RCMP regarding Edward Snowden, the infamous NSA whistleblower.

As the trial moves to its closing stages, the jury faces the complex task of unraveling a narrative filled with espionage, alleged corruption, and the intricate world of intelligence operations. The outcome of this unprecedented trial will not only determine Ortis’s fate but also potentially reshape the handling of sensitive security information in Canada.