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

Jennifer Rice MLA for the North Coast said on International Women’s Day March 8, that thousands of frontline superheroes in health, education, childcare, food, and community services who help us daily through the pandemic should be celebrated. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
British Columbia North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice spoke with The Northern View on Jan. 7, 2021, at a proper social distancing length to explain the goals and focuses in the riding and for the provincial government for the upcoming year. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
International Women’s Day celebrates leadership in 2021

Celebrate the thousands of frontline superheroes … who help daily - North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

Haida Gwaii man, Keifer Collinson is shown in his audition video for T.V. reality show Big Brother where he promoted the Haida language in the March 3 episode. (Photo: supplied)
Haida man promotes First Nations language on national T.V. show

Haida Gwaii born Keifer Collinson promotes the importance of language preservation on Big Brother

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, prepares a dose of the Moderna vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Almost two in three Canadians surveyed recently said they trust COVID-19 vaccines to be both safe and effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors

Health authority says it plans to vaccinate nearly 15,000 people in Phase Two

Prince Rupert’s Bobby Brown celebrated his 95th birthday milestone on March 5 with family across the country in an online celebration. (Photo: supplied by Jodi Brown)
Prince Rupert man celebrates 95th birthday milestone online

Five generations come together COVID-19 style in Prince Rupert to say “Happy Birthday”

Main door at Cranes Crossing, Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter, on March 5. Northern Health issued a public notice of potential exposure occurring at the shelter between Feb. 22 and 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 Public Exposure Notice issued for Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter

Northern Health said possible exposure between Feb. 22 and 24

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read