RCMP feared Chinese exfiltration risks with Ortis, bail documents suggest
Foreign entities "may facilitate Mr. Ortis’ leaving Canadian legal jurisdiction" RCMP document assessed
Cameron Ortis stole and processed United States signals intelligence documents of such value to Beijing, that when he was released on bail in October 2019, the RCMP feared “foreign entities” might exfiltrate Ortis before his trial, new legal records suggest.
Hundreds of pages of documents related to a Canadian judge’s urgent overturning of Ortis’ release to his parent’s home in British Columbia were covered by publication ban to protect the former RCMP intelligence director’s right to a fair jury trial.
Now that Ortis has been convicted these records — which shed light on why Crown prosecutors recently called Ortis an “asset” and previously argued that Ortis could seek asylum in a foreign embassy — can be reported on.
“Mr. Ortis has access to information that would be extremely valuable to domestic and foreign entities, who wish to exploit or harm Canadian interest,” an RCMP investigative report says. “This poses a significant risk of not only the unauthorized release of classified information, but also raises concerns that such entities may facilitate Mr. Ortis’ leaving Canadian legal jurisdiction.”
The Bureau’s review of these court records indicates a level of shock that reverberated in Washington in September 2019, after several covert RCMP searches of Ortis’ downtown Ottawa apartment discovered 500 highly-classified national security records.
They included 100 so-called “Gamma Special Intelligence” national security documents from the Five Eyes — so sensitive and protected that few intelligence officials among Canada’s closest allies had access.
Ortis had meticulously processed some of these records on September 9, 2019 — three days before his arrest — in a folder called "First Meeting Files.”
Handwritten notes discovered by the RCMP suggest Ortis may have already contacted whomever he planned to meet in downtown Ottawa, on the third Thursday of that September.
Perhaps considered the brightest mind in the RCMP at the time, it was the intelligence director’s obsessively logical “To Do” lists that helped secure his conviction.
“Set up first meet location and files,” said one of his notes regarding a longterm plan only called “The Project.”
The typed line is followed by Ortis’ handwritten and bracketed note, which said at “the Senate Pub, not actual Senate.”
An earlier step-by-step note on “The Project” listed Point C, which was “start to plan first contact.” And this led to the Ortis thought, “What does that look like?”
Followed by his options.
“A) at a social event. B) direct via texting. C) direct via email.”
As first reported by the Canadian Press, an unsealed RCMP warrant application explains in September 2019, Mounties found evidence that Ortis had collected contact information for two officials in the Chinese embassy in Ottawa.
And Ortis’ search history in Canada’s secured intelligence databases showed probes for subjects related to China and a national security investigation.
And within the electronic “First Meeting Files” discovered on Ortis’ devices, was the first record RCMP believed Ortis planned to share at the Senate Pub: a U.S. National Security Agency document relevant to Five Eyes national security.
An RCMP investigation report — no longer covered by publication ban — says documents found on one of Ortis’ laptops contained Gamma-level records from “numerous” Five Eyes agencies, and “these documents would present a SEVERE injury to Canada’s national security,” if disclosed to the wrong people.