Former head of intelligence at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Cameron Jay Ortis, arrives in court in Ottawa on November 3, 2023.
The Canadian Press
L& #x27;former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) official Cameron Jay Ortis, accused of disclosing top-secret information, claims he was in fact leading a clandestine intelligence operation.
He says it was an operation that had to remain ultra-discreet due to moles within Canadian law enforcement.
Mr. Ortis testified in Ontario Superior Court that he was trying to deceive the targets of the investigation into using a new, supposedly secure email service that would allow police officers to information to access their private communications.
Journalists and the general public were excluded from the courtroom for Mr. Ortis' testimony on November 2, but a redacted transcript has now been made public.
The Crown alleges Ortis anonymously sent classified documents in 2015 to people who were of interest to an RCMP investigation.
The accused, aged 51, has pleaded not guilty to violating the Protection of Information Act by revealing secrets to three people and attempting to do so in a fourth case.
The Crown argues that Mr. Ortis did not have the authority to disclose classified documents and that he did not do so in part of some sort of undercover operation.
But Mr. Ortis told the jury that he had not committed a crime and had not lost sight of his mission.
On the contrary, he said, he was acting to protect Canadians.
Mr. Ortis was director of the RCMP Operations Research Group, which compiled and developed classified information on terrorist cells, transnational criminal networks, cybercrime actors and commercial espionage.
He said that in September 2014 he was contacted by a counterpart at a foreign agency who informed him of a particularly serious threat.
It was very convincing, and it clearly demonstrated a direct and serious threat, Mr. Ortis said during questioning by his lawyer, Mark Ertel. I have been strictly prohibited from sharing this information with anyone.
Mr. Ortis said the foreign ally, which he is not at liberty to name, spoke of a plan to encourage criminal targets to start using an encryption service online store called Tutanota – a front operation created by intelligence agents to spy on bad people.
Without telling anyone, Mr. Ortis decided to act, by drawing up a list of four possible recipients as part of the “
Nudge ” operation. attention, Editor's note], to push these targets to adopt the new messaging service.
That's when Mr. Ortis says he began luring targets of the investigation with promises of secret information — including tantalizing portions of documents — with the aim of real to get them to communicate with him through Tutanota.
There was another intriguing twist.
I had sensitive information from multiple sources that each of the subjects had compromised or penetrated Canadian law enforcement agencies, Mr. Ortis said.
I think… they had moles.
Mr. Ortis told the jury that this was one of the reasons he did not inform his superiors about Operation Nudge. em>» – highlighting his great concern about the information about insider threats that I was told.
I was concerned that this could enable #x27;one to thwart my efforts, he said.
The RCMP has detailed protocols for conducting undercover operations , the jury learned during the trial.
Mr. Ortis said he decided that the covert operations policy did not apply to “
Nudge,” because, unlike a traditional undercover mission, there was no intention to collect evidence or criminal intelligence.
On Mr. Ortis's first day on the witness stand, Mr. Ertel asked him if he had betrayed the RCMP.
Absolutely not, he replied.
Defense counsel also asked Mr. Ortis if he regretted his actions.
In some sense I regret everything that happened to everyone in the last four years, but what I did wasn't bad, replied Mr. Ortis.
Mr. Ortis was arrested in September 2019 and several electronic devices were seized from his Ottawa apartment.
He told the court that his arrest had been devastating to his career and that his public reputation had been completely destroyed.
Mr. Ortis said his family, as well as his old-time friends in British Columbia where he lived and studied, supported him, but not his friends and colleagues in Ottawa and his professional contacts.