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

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 80+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

Deane Gorsline, is a former Burns Lake resident who has been diagnosed with ALS. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
ALS Action Canada group ropes in political leaders

Hopes to get more support and ultimately better treatment options for Canadians

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

Most Read