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

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

The goal of the group is to help women owned businesses recover from the pandemic and to assist women to become angel investors and women owned or co-owned businesses to better access capital.
Okanagan women’s investor fund launched to aid women-owned businesses

Twenty-five women have formed a new Okanagan angel investment fund

It's tick season in South Okanagan.
Tick season has started in South Okanagan

A Penticton adventure company collected 200 ticks last year to be studied for Lyme Disease

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

(File photo)
COLUMN: How to help your young reluctant reader

Library has resources to help children

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

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

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: Royal Dismissal

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

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

(File photo)
RCMP seek witnesses after 2 different reports of man chasing children in Kelowna

Both incidents occured around Dougall Road in Rutland

Most Read