Former RCMP Official Convicted of Violating Canada’s Secrets Act

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Closing arguments are underway in the trial of Cameron Ortis. The former senior RCMP intelligence official is accused of leaking top-secret information to a suspected money launderer. The defence says he was part of a covert operation aimed at protecting Canadians based on information from a foreign agency.

Cameron Ortis Found Guilty of Preparing to Pass State Secrets to Foreign Entity

Cameron Ortis, a former high-ranking official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), was convicted Wednesday of violating Canada’s secrets act. According to CBC News, Ortis was arrested in 2019 when he was allegedly “on the cusp” of passing sensitive state secrets to a foreign entity, as stated during his bail hearing.

The Arrest and Initial Allegations

RCMP officers raided Ortis’s condo in August 2019, initially investigating leaks of internal police documents to criminal groups. The probe quickly shifted to international espionage when electronic equipment and documents were seized, revealing Ortis’s involvement in what he referred to as “the project.” This project involved plans to leak state secrets, as noted in several to-do lists found in his condo, alongside mundane activities.

Ortis, who held a doctorate in international relations, was serving as the director of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre, with access to the Top Secret Network (CTSN). This network contained intelligence from the Five Eyes alliance, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

The Crown’s Argument

During the bail hearings in October 2019, federal prosecutor Judy Kliewer alleged that Ortis was in the final stages of a plan to pass state secrets to a foreign entity. Kliewer argued that the consequences of his actions could have been catastrophic for the security of Canada and its allies. “It was like he was holding a loaded gun and about to pull the trigger,” she said.

Crown prosecutor Judy Kliewer, right, speaks to reporters alongside fellow prosecutor John MacFarlane outside of the Ottawa Courthouse after Cameron Jay Ortis, a former RCMP intelligence official charged with breaching Canada’s secrets law, was found guilty on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Ortis’s Defense and Dropped Charges

Testifying in his defense, Ortis claimed he was working on a secret mission to lure criminals using an encrypted email service. However, four charges related to alleged infractions under section 16 of the Security of Information Act were dropped in 2022. The court found that restrictions on the use of classified information would prevent a full defense.

The Investigation and Evidence

Investigators found 488 highly classified documents on Ortis’s computer, believed to be printed at the RCMP offices. Ortis reportedly tried to make documents untraceable by removing headers and footers before converting them into PDFs. These documents were primarily related to national security.

Personal Background and Other Allegations

Ortis, originally from British Columbia, joined the RCMP in 2006. He was implicated in unusual communication with Vincent Ramos, the head of a company selling encrypted phones to organized crime. Ortis offered confidential information in exchange for money, an allegation he rejected during his testimony.

Current Status and Upcoming Sentencing

After his 2019 arrest, Ortis faced numerous restrictions, including limited access to electronic devices. His bail hearing revealed personal details, including an estranged daughter and financial responsibilities. With his conviction, the Crown is seeking a minimum 20-year sentence, with sentencing scheduled for January.