RCMP mole Ortis may still have Five Eyes intel 'in the cloud' new records suggest
Cameron Ortis faces sentencing next week and could still be an asset to foreign entities Crown is expected to argue
Canada’s director of Cyber Defence has warned of the “very real possibility” that former RCMP intelligence boss Cameron Ortis could have used cloud computing to stash away Five Eyes signals intelligence for his future use, according to new court records reviewed by The Bureau.
Ortis, 51, faces hearings next Thursday in which Crown will seek a 20 year sentence, after a jury in Ottawa found him guilty of a national security compromise which “irreparably harmed” the RCMP and betrayed Canada’s allies, court heard in November.
“He is not only a flight risk, but an asset,” prosecutor Judy Kliewer told the judge after Ortis was convicted. “He has so much information. This is not a usual case.”
The trial is among the most sensitive in Canadian history, but ironically, not because of the charges proven against Ortis.
The University of B.C. graduate, an expert on Chinese cyber-hackers, was convicted for leaking Five Eyes investigation plans to Iranian terror-financing networks that used organized crime in Toronto to launder billions through Canadian banks. He also tipped off a Vancouver-based tech CEO that sold “uncrackable” Blackberries to Hezbollah-associated money launderers and drug-traffickers worldwide.
The organized crime intelligence that Ortis leaked to these RCMP targets in Toronto and Vancouver, he collected in 2014 and 2015.
What sends this case off the charts in sensitivity, is the espionage-related “Orcon and Gamma” intelligence that Ortis stole after 2015, including U.S. signals intelligence that police and prosecutors believe Ortis was poised to share with Chinese diplomats in September 2019, The Bureau’s review of recently unsealed court records shows.
Additionally, as Canadian Press and CBC first reported, a newly released RCMP warrant document, says the force’s mole-hunting detectives probed the RCMP database searches that Ortis made from June to September 2019.
"Among his queries were subjects that related to China, embassies, and something that appears to be a national security investigation," RCMP documents said.
Unless prosecutors offer more details on the RCMP’s case against Ortis next week, Canadians may never know which national security investigation Ortis was researching in 2019, and what sort of documents police believe Ortis planned to share with Chinese embassy officials in September 2019.
A review of unsealed court records shows that Ortis collected hundreds of top secret signals intelligence records from unidentified Canadian allies starting in 2014, and many of these reports were judged by Canadian intelligence to present a “severe” risk if released to foreign agencies.
However, RCMP’s description of Ortis’ database searches in 2019 — on topics related to Chinese embassies and a particular national security investigation — raises the distinct possibility that Ortis may have been gathering details on CSIS’s top counter-intelligence investigation of that time: a high-profile, sensitive probe into China’s 2019 federal election interference run by “confirmed intelligence actors” in China’s Toronto Consulate.
In that particular probe, started in January 2019, CSIS was wire-tapping Toronto Consulate officials and following them to clandestine meetings with a Canadian politician and a Mandarin-language journalist in Toronto, according toThe Bureau’s national security sources.
Ortis didn’t face charges on his suspected plan to share classified intelligence with China because a judge decided exposing the type information that Ortis stole to the scrutiny of a public trial would be too damaging to Canada’s interests.
But there could be additional unknown compromises.