RCMP head says allies concerned, but supportive in wake of spy charges

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said today the national police force is working to limit security risks among Canada's intelligence allies and assess potential operational damage in the wake of charges laid against one of its top intelligence officers.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki declines to comment on motive in Cameron Ortis case

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks at RCMP Depot in Regina, Sask. (CBC)

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said today the national police force is working to limit security risks among Canada's intelligence allies and assess potential operational damage in the wake of charges laid against one of its top intelligence officers.

"I would definitely imagine that there is concern among our Five Eyes community, as well as within Canada," Lucki told a news conference at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa.

"Right now there is great support from those communities, both in Canada and abroad, and of course we are concerned as well. But until we know what we're dealing with specifically, our risk assessment is fluid and the measure of severity of such an event is fluid as well, depending on what we find as the investigation furthers."

RCMP says spy case allegations 'extremely unsettling'

3 years ago
Duration 0:54
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki calls the allegations against former high-level civilian employee Cameron Ortis "extremely unsettling" during a press conference at the RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

Late last week, Cameron Ortis, 47, was charged under a section of the Security of Information Act that applies to individuals "permanently bound to secrecy" as a condition of their work. The director general of the RCMP's national intelligence co-ordination centre is accused of preparing to share sensitive information with a foreign entity or terrorist organization.

"Once the RCMP became aware of the alleged activities, we worked with partners to take immediate steps to safeguard the information. Together, we are working to assess the level of impact to operations, if any," she said.

The commissioner said she could not comment on possible motives. She said Ortis has been employed in various roles by the RCMP since 2007.

Lucki also said no Canadian ally has made any moves to limit or suspend intelligence-sharing with Canada.

"We haven't had any restrictions at this point, and again, it's early on in the investigation," she said.

Lucki said that at this point it appears Ortis allegedly acted alone, adding witnesses will be interviewed. 

In a written statement issued yesterday, Lucki confirmed that Ortis had access to domestic and foreign intelligence.

She called the allegations "extremely unsettling."

Cameron Ortis at his first court appearance in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The civilian employee with an RCMP intelligence team faces several charges under the Security of Information Act. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod for CBC News)

Leak could cause 'devastating' damage: documents

According to documents viewed by CBC, the cache of classified intelligence material Ortis allegedly was preparing to share is so vital to Canada's national security that the country's intelligence agencies say its misuse would strike at the heart of Canada's security.

"CSE's preliminary assessment is that damage caused by the release of these reports and intelligence is HIGH and potentially devastating in that it would cause grave injury to Canada's national interests," say the documents.

The documents reveal that investigators covertly searched Ortis's condo last month and found a number of handwritten notes providing instructions on how to share documents without leaving a paper trail.

They also reveal that Ortis was just over $90,000 in debt.

The documents allege the security services first got wind of Ortis through a separate investigation of Phantom Secure Communications, a B.C.-based company under investigation for providing encrypted communication devices to international criminals.

In March of last year, the FBI revealed that it had taken down an international criminal communications service based in Canada that had revenue of $80 million over the last decade.

The documents seen by CBC News say the FBI investigation discovered in 2018 that a person was sending emails to Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, offering to provide valuable information.

The documents allege that person was Ortis.

"You don't know me. I have information that I am confident you will find very valuable," one email contained in the documents reads.

A subsequent email promised to provide "intel about your associates and individuals using their network internationally."

Ortis is expected back in court later this week.

With files from Kathleen Harris


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