In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer charged for at­tempted es­pi­onage

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Jim BRONSKILL

OT­TAWA — Cameron Jay Or­tis, a se­nior RCMP in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, made a brief court ap­pear­ance Fri­day on charges of breach­ing Canada’s se­crets law.

Or­tis, 47, was charged un­der three sec­tions of the Se­cu­rity of In­for­ma­tion Act as well as two Crim­i­nal Code pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing breach of trust, for al­legedly try­ing to dis­close clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to a for­eign en­tity or ter­ror­ist group.

The al­leged re­cip­i­ent, or po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ent, isn’t spec­i­fied in the charges.

“In broad strokes, the al­le­ga­tions are that he ob­tained, stored, pro­cessed sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, we be­lieve with the in­tent to com­mu­ni­cate it to peo­ple that he shouldn’t be com­mu­ni­cat­ing it to,” pros­e­cu­tor John Mac­Far­lane said af­ter the On­tario court hear­ing in Ot­tawa.

“I won’t be com­ment­ing in any more de­tail other than that at this stage.”

An in­sider fa­mil­iar with the case, but not au­tho­rized to speak about it pub­licly, said Or­tis had served as di­rec­tor gen­eral of an RCMP in­tel­li­gence unit, a civil­ian po­si­tion.

He earned a doc­tor­ate in po­lit­i­cal science from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, com­plet­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on the in­ter­na­tional di­men­sions of in­ter­net se­cu­rity.

Brian Job, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the univer­sity, said by email that he’s seen Or­tis very oc­ca­sion­ally since Or­tis left UBC.

“Cameron never pro­vided de­tails of his em­ploy­ment with the RCMP. Noth­ing in my ex­pe­ri­ence with Cameron would lead me to sus­pect his al­leged in­volve­ment in the ac­tiv­i­ties for which he charged. In­deed, the ex­act op­po­site is true,” Job said.

“I am deeply shocked by the news and will have no fur­ther com­ment, as the mat­ter pro­ceeds through the courts.”

Or­tis, wear­ing a blue dress shirt, ap­peared in court by video link.

Mac­Far­lane said the Crown will ar­gue at a com­ing bail pro­ceed­ing that Or­tis should re­main in custody while his case is be­fore the courts.

The charge sheet lists a to­tal of seven counts against Or­tis un­der the var­i­ous pro­vi­sions, dat­ing from as early as Jan. 1, 2015, through to Thurs­day, when he was ar­rested.

The RCMP said the charges stem from ac­tiv­i­ties al­leged to have oc­curred dur­ing his time with the force, sug­gest­ing he was ac­tive with Moun­ties upon be­ing taken into custody. How­ever, nei­ther the RCMP nor Mac­Far­lane would clar­ify whether he was em­ployed by the force when he was charged, or if he still is.

The Moun­ties de­clined to make fur­ther com­ment, say­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau also said lit­tle about the events dur­ing a stop on the Lib­eral elec­tion cam­paign.

“I was of course made aware of the ar­rest,” he said. “I can as­sure you that the au­thor­i­ties are tak­ing this ex­tremely se­ri­ously.”

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer tweeted that the ar­rest was ex­tremely con­cern­ing. There is no in­di­ca­tion of the re­cip­i­ent of the in­for­ma­tion Or­tis al­legedly in­tended to share, but Scheer said the de­vel­op­ment was “another re­minder of the threats we face from for­eign ac­tors.”

“As prime min­is­ter, I will not hes­i­tate to iden­tify these threats and act ac­cord­ingly.”

The Se­cu­rity of In­for­ma­tion Act, ush­ered in fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tacks in the United States, is in­tended to safe­guard sen­si­tive gov­ern­ment se­crets. Charges have been rare but Jef­frey Paul Delisle, a naval of­fi­cer who gave clas­si­fied ma­te­rial to Rus­sia, pleaded guilty to of­fences un­der the act in 2012.

The law for­bids dis­cus­sion or re­lease of “spe­cial op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion,” in­clud­ing past and cur­rent con­fi­den­tial sources, tar­gets of in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions, names of spies, mil­i­tary at­tack plans, and en­cryp­tion or other means of pro­tect­ing data.

The penalty for re­veal­ing such in­for­ma­tion is up to life in prison.

Be­ing a se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, Or­tis was des­ig­nated as “per­ma­nently bound to se­crecy.” Such in­di­vid­u­als are held to a higher level of ac­count­abil­ity than oth­ers un­der the se­crecy law.

It means unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sures are sub­ject to penalty whether the in­for­ma­tion is true or not and even if it was ob­tained af­ter the em­ployee left a sen­si­tive post.

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