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

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

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Liam and Tyler Spaans, (L-R), are two of the current lifeguards at the Houston Leisure Facility. (Houston Leisure Services file photo)
Leisure facility anticipates need for lifeguards

Has been challenged in the past

Residents rank snow removal as a high priority within District boundaries. (Houston Today file photo)
Road work and snow removal ranked as important in citizen survey

But residents also expressed dissatisfaction with each

The Topley Fire department will be using the funding towards new gear. (File photo)
Topley Fire Protection Society gets a $100,000 grant

Society among 132 recepients of the province’s Community Gaming Grant

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read