The jury will hear closing arguments today in the trial of a former top RCMP intelligence officer accused of offering top-secret information to police targets in exchange for money.
Cameron Ortis pleaded not guilty in Ontario Superior Court to six charges, including four charges under the Information Security Act, the law intended to protect Canada’s secrets.
The Crown alleges the former civilian member used his position within the RCMP (heading an intelligence unit that had access to Canadian and allied intelligence) to attempt to sell secrets to individuals on the RCMP’s radar.
Ortis is accused of leaking special operational information to Phantom Secure CEO Vincent Ramos, who sold encrypted cell phones to members of organized crime, and Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf, two police officers suspected of being agents of an international money laundering ring. with links to terrorists.
He is also accused of trying to leak information to Farzam Mehdizadeh. An RCMP witness told Ortis’ trial that he believes Mehdizadeh worked with “the biggest money launderers in the world.”
Ortis, however, told the court that he never intended to sell information to anyone, that he was actually working on a secret mission for a foreign agency. Ortis said the plan was to lure criminals into an encrypted email service to allow authorities to collect information about them. The email service called Ortis’ claims “completely false.”
Ortis said he forwarded the information to law enforcement targets to demonstrate his “good faith.”
The defendant said he did not inform his superiors about what he had heard from the foreign agency because he had accepted the strict warnings requested by his foreign contact.
He also said he was concerned about moles within law enforcement.
“I had confidential information from multiple sources that each of the subjects had compromised or penetrated Canadian law enforcement agencies,” Ortis testified earlier this month.
Crown accuses Ortis of ‘facilitating’ targets
During cross-examination, prosecutor John MacFarlane accused Ortis of helping the very people police were surveilling.
“You were enabling them. Sending them RCMP information so they could avoid detection by the RCMP. Isn’t that right?” he said.
Ortis said his operation, which he called Project Nudge, was “simply designed to push” law enforcement targets toward the encrypted email service.
“That’s it. No disruptions, no enablements, no criminal investigations. It was simply an intelligence operation to push them toward a secure email provider,” he said.
Hundreds of pages have been entered into evidence in Ortis’ trial. They include emails Ortis said he sent to police targets.
In emails to Ramos, he presented a “business proposal” and asked for $20,000 “in firm cash” in exchange for police intelligence. The jury has heard there is no evidence Ortis received money for the information.
The Crown also read Ortis’ web searches into the record. They include a search for “top 10 tips for countersurveillance while walking” and “how to avoid video surveillance cameras and avoid facial expressions.” [recognition]”.
Ortis said those searches were for a training program he was putting together for members of his team.
MacFarlane also asked Ortis why he was searching online for information about Kim Philby, a British intelligence officer who was a double agent. He was part of the Cambridge Five, a spy network that provided intelligence to the Russians during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
“Are all of these web searches conducted at the exact time that special operational information is being communicated to the suspected criminals?” MacFarlane asked.
Ortis said he was doing a “risk assessment” for the RCMP on Edward Snowden, who leaked highly classified National Security Agency information in 2013.
The unprecedented trial has taken nearly eight weeks to reach this point. It is the first time that Information Security Act charges have been tried in court.