Cameron Ortis, a senior intelligence official at the RCMP, leaves the courthouse in Ottawa, on Oct. 22, 2019. (JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Cameron Ortis, a senior intelligence official at the RCMP, leaves the courthouse in Ottawa, on Oct. 22, 2019. (JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Suspected RCMP secrecy breach fallout upgraded to ‘severe’: documents

Senior intelligence Cameron Ortis charged with Security of Information Act violations

New documents show Canada’s cyberspy agency was so alarmed by the potential fallout from an alleged secrecy breach by a senior RCMP employee that it revised a damage assessment to “severe” from “high” in the days after his arrest.

Cameron Jay Ortis was taken into custody on Sept. 12, 2019, for allegedly revealing secrets to an unnamed recipient and planning to give additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity.

Ortis, who led the RCMP’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, is charged with Security of Information Act violations, breach of trust and a computer-related offence.

The federal Communications Security Establishment initially judged potential damage from the incident as “high” given Ortis’ access to some of the most sensitive information in Canada.

A CSE memo, newly obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, says the assessment was bumped up to “severe” after the cybersecurity agency conducted “a more in-depth analysis.”

The Sept. 24, 2019, memo says Ortis had access to information designated Top Secret Special Intelligence, or SI. He was also allowed to use the Canadian Top Secret Network, which holds a range of information including SI.

An unauthorized disclosure of information designated Top Secret SI “could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave injury to the national interest,” the memo says.

“Much of the information, if improperly disclosed, could provide significant insight into Canada’s intelligence operations and those of its closest allies,” it adds.

“Given the training required to properly access and handle SI information, Mr. Ortis would have been fully aware of the potential harm that unauthorized disclosure would bring to existing intelligence capabilities.”

The memo indicates the RCMP provided the CSE with relevant documentation to help with the damage assessment.

READ MORE: RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

“The documents reviewed by CSE to date are all classified (up to Top Secret) with SI handling caveats designed to restrict their distribution to only officially Top Secret-cleared and SI-indoctrinated individuals within Canadian and allied governments.”

The memo makes it clear the harm from disclosure of the documents in question would go well beyond just the content, exposing crucial classified sources and methods.

“The loss of such hard-won and costly capabilities would render Canadian and allied agencies less able to produce valued intelligence for national decision makers.

“Analysis of the content of these documents could reasonably produce significant conclusions about allied and Canadian intelligence targets, techniques, methods and capabilities.”

Countermeasures taken as a result of these insights by people seeking to evade authorities could be “extremely damaging” to a broad range of intelligence efforts, the memo adds.

“Furthermore, the unauthorized disclosure of such information would undermine the confidence of Canada’s allies in sharing sensitive intelligence, including SI, with Canadian security and intelligence partners, limiting Canada’s ability to support key government priorities, with negative repercussions for Canadian national security.”

CSE spokesman Evan Koronewski said Monday the agency was unable to comment on the memo because the matter is still before the courts.

Ortis is being held in an Ottawa jail as his complex case proceeds.

Federal prosecutors served notice in June that sensitive or potentially injurious information might be disclosed during the case.

That prompted an application to the Federal Court the next month to shield materials that could harm Canada’s security, defence or international relations if revealed.

PoliceRCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

The intersection at Dogwood Street and 13th Avenue, next to the No. 1 Firehall, will see some improvements over the next six weeks or so, according to the city. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Intersection improvements coming to Dogwood and 13th Avenue

Expect delays for up to six weeks once work begins, city says

Oyster River fire has responded to 56 calls so far in 2021. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Department
Oyster River Fire averaged one call per day in busy February

One weekend saw 12 calls for service from crew

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Timberline Musical Theatre hoping for last minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to put on. They’ve sold $750 in tickets

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read