New charges claim RCMP official 'intentionally' shared operational information back in 2015
Director general of the national intelligence co-ordination back in court Friday for a judicial pretrial
The new charges facing RCMP intelligence official Cameron Ortis are linked to events in 2015 — four years before he was actually arrested — according to newly filed court documents.
Ortis, who served as director general of the RCMP's national intelligence co-ordination centre, was first arrested in September and charged with preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization. At the time, he also was charged with sharing operational information back in 2015.
The Public Prosecution Service announced Monday that he faces three more charges relating to leaks of operational information during the same period in 2015.
All of those charges proceeded in Ontario Superior Court by way of direct indictment on Tuesday.
Most of the details in the case so far have been covered by a publication ban, but the new indictment documents allege Ortis, who was permanently bound to secrecy, "intentionally and without authority" communicated special operational information to four people between February and the end of May of 2015. Those people are identified only by their initials on the indictment sheet.
Most of the charges Ortis faced immediately after his arrest relate to the period between September of 2018 and his arrest on Sept. 12, 2019. Ortis continued to work in the upper echelons of RCMP intelligence during that time.
According to documents viewed by CBC in the immediate aftermath of his arrest, the classified intelligence material Ortis is accused of preparing to share includes some of the most closely protected of Canada's national security assets, and its dissemination would have threatened Canada's relations with its allies.
Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to talk about the ongoing court case, also have said Ortis kept a large number of encrypted computers at his home, making the investigation harder to pursue.
Ortis is due back in Ontario Superior Court on Friday for a judicial pretrial.
Ian Carter, Ortis's lawyer, said one of the first things he needs to sort out with Superior Court Justice Justice Robert Maranger is how to talk to his client about the nature of the case.
A complicated case
"Given the very nature of these charges and the highly sensitive information involved, I cannot have communications with my client about the charges right now for fear that he would be in breach of the Security of Information Act in telling me anything that relates to these matters," Carter said outside the courtroom on Friday.
Another complicating factor, said Carter, is the prospect of running up against the Canada Evidence Act — which sets out rules to prevent the disclosure of information that could be sensitive or potentially injurious without the approval of the attorney general or a Federal Court judge.
"So we are also going to have to undertake that, which obviously [is] complicating how this case is unfolding," he said.
Carter said he's expecting to receive another tranche of disclosure documents — roughly 30,000 pages — next week.
Lead Crown Prosecutor Judy Kliewer said they moved the case to Superior Court "in order to ensure that the trial proceeds in an expeditious manner."
Internal investigations 'ongoing'
As the court case continues its slow march, the RCMP is still trying to figure out if there are gaps in its security policies.
At the time of Ortis's arrest — part of an investigation dubbed Project Ace — RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki released a statement saying the RCMP would assess the impact of his alleged activities. By virtue of his position, Ortis, 47, had access to intelligence gathered by both Canadian authorities and foreign allies.
A memo sent to RCMP staff a week after his arrest in the fall, obtained through access to information, outlined two internal investigations.
The first is a federal policing post-incident analysis of "organizational behaviours" meant to flag any immediate lessons-learned, says the document.
The force also told its chief security officer to look into whether the organization needs to do more to protect sensitive information.
"I would also, once again, remind everyone of the importance of your responsibilities to protect sensitive information under your control," says the unsigned memo.
Both internal reviews are still ongoing, said an RCMP spokesperson.
"All internal reviews are ongoing and, once complete, will determine whether there are any gaps in our security processes or policies," said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval in an email.
The criminal investigation also continues, she said.
Ortis was briefly released on bail and ordered to live with his parents in Abbotsford, B.C., in October, before his bail was revoked. He's been in custody ever since.