A director general of an intelligence unit within the RCMP has been arrested and charged, Global News has confirmed.
Cameron Ortis is facing seven charges dating back to 2015 under both the Criminal Code and the Security of Information Act.
A statement from the RCMP confirmed those charges “stem from activities alleged to have occurred during his tenure as an RCMP employee.”
Sources with knowledge of national security investigations described Ortis as former RCMP Comm. Bob Paulson’s most elite adviser on issues related to national security and sensitive investigations, and likely the only civilian to ever achieve the position of director general of intelligence, with control over RCMP counter-intelligence operations.
Ortis is described as an Ottawa intellectual and an academic that was seen as arrogant by some in Canada’s national security establishment.
Global News’ early source information indicates that Ortis’ expertise in computers and cyberspace, the level of sensitive high-tech information he would have access to as a long-time government advisor, as well as his connections to East Asia and China, are some of the areas that could have concerned this multi-pronged national security information.
As a civilian member of the RCMP’s strategic intelligence unit, Ortis had a lynchpin role that gave him unparalleled access to operation intelligence, according to a source.
At times, he worked extensively with FINTRAC, and once focused on Somalia, one of the countries that has attracted Canadian extremists to fight in the terrorist group Al-Shabab, the source said.
The source described him as professional and competent.
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Ortis is charged with:
- Section 14(1) of the Security of Information Act
- Section 22(1)(b) of the Security of Information Act
- Section 22(1)(e) of the Security of Information Act
- Section 122 of the Criminal Code
- Section 342.1(1) of the Criminal Code
Those charges relate specifically with unauthorized leaking of sensitive operational information and breach of trust, as well as unauthorized use of a computer.
The other counts refer to “obtaining, retaining or gaining access” to information and possessing a device “useful for concealing the content of information or surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information.”
Two of the charges are based on a section of the Security of Information Act that relates to preparatory acts towards “communications to a foreign entity.”
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He faces up to 33 years imprisonment if convicted.
Ortis appeared briefly in the Ottawa courthouse on Friday where the Crown announced it was in fact laying seven charges against him.
It’s not clear at this time what the additional charges are.
John MacFarlane with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada alleged in court that the Crown suspected Ortis of having “obtained, stored, processed sensitive information we believe with the intent to communicate it to people that he shouldn’t be communicating it to.”
The court adjourned and is set to resume on Sept. 20 at 9:30 AM after Ortis has had time to obtain a lawyer.
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Sources tell Global News the investigation was extensive and that Ortis was arrested on Thursday in Ottawa.
He holds a Ph.D from the University of British Columbia focusing on cybersecurity in East Asia and is listed on his LinkedIn profile as speaking Mandarin and having worked as an advisor to the Government of Canada for 12 years.
Global News reached out to CSIS asking if the spy agency had been involved in the investigation but was referred to the RCMP.
Heather Bradley, director of communications for the Speaker’s office with the House of Commons, also referred matters to the RCMP when asked whether any further assessments of administration infrastructure security or risks was ongoing.
Stephanie Carvin, a national security expert and assistant professor at Carleton University, said
The arrest is the latest in Canada stemming from what it is sometimes called the insider threat.
In 2011, a navy intelligence officer, Jeffrey Delisle, was caught selling secrets to the Russian embassy in Ottawa. He was sentenced to 20 years but has already been paroled.
The RCMP arrested Quin Quentin Huang in 2013 for allegedly trying to pass secrets about Canadian patrol ships to the Chinese government.
He worked at Lloyd’s Register Canada, which was subcontracted by Irving Shipbuilding to work on the design phase of Canada’s Arctic patrol vessels.
The case has not yet gone to trial.
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