Cameron Ortis trial: Ex-RCMP officer’s job description revealed

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OTTAWA –


Evidence at the trial of a former RCMP intelligence official charged with breaching Canada’s secrets law reveals he led a unit expected to work in a complex, high-pressure environment.


A detailed job description for Cameron Jay Ortis says he became director of the national police force’s Operations Research group in 2013. The unit had the task of assembling and developing classified information on terror cells, transnational criminal networks, cybercrime actors and commercial espionage.


“Given the perspective of imminent national security threats, the unit must evolve in a no fail operational environment that demands that its outputs lead to significant outcomes,” says the job description, filed in Ontario Superior Court as part of a statement of agreed facts in the case.


The director is expected to manage a high-risk program that provides actionable packages of information to senior RCMP executives, the description says.


It adds the director is key to helping provide intelligence that will support a strategic or tactical response by the RCMP and, on occasion, “could run in parallel to an ongoing national security criminal investigation.”


Ortis has pleaded not guilty to violating the Security of Information Act by allegedly revealing secrets to three individuals in 2015 and trying to do so in a fourth instance, as well as breach of trust and a computer-related offence.


Lawyers for Ortis have indicated they will argue in court he had authority to take the actions he did.


In early 2015, Ortis went on annual leave, then took French-language training. Upon his return in 2016, he became director general of the RCMP’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre.


He was arrested in September 2019.


The trail that led police to Ortis began the previous year when the Mounties were asked by U.S. authorities to analyze the contents of the laptop computer of Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure Communications, who had been arrested in Nevada.


An RCMP effort known as Project Saturation determined that members of criminal organizations were known to use Phantom Secure’s encrypted communication devices.


Ramos would later plead guilty to using his Phantom Secure devices to help facilitate the distribution of cocaine and other illicit drugs to countries including Canada.


A former RCMP staff sergeant has told the court he was shocked to find an email to Ramos from an unknown sender with parts of 10 sensitive documents, including mention of material from Canada’s anti-money laundering agency. The sender would later offer to provide Ramos with the full documents in exchange for $20,000.


The Crown is expected to spend the next several days of the trial trying to persuade the jury that Ortis was behind the overture and other anonymous messages to investigative targets.


Upon the arrest of Ortis, search warrants were executed at his apartment in Ottawa’s Byward Market neighbourhood and at his office at RCMP headquarters, says the statement of agreed facts.


Investigators unscrambled portions of an encrypted memory key found along with numerous other digital devices at his home. The key had a folder named The Project which contained several subfolders.


RCMP Sgt. David Proulx, who was involved in the investigation, known as Project Ace, answered the Crown’s questions Thursday about the fruits of the searches carried out by police.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.

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