Cameron Ortis, convicted RCMP leaker, will serve 7 years in prison

Click to play video: 'Ex-RCMP intelligence official Cameron Ortis sentenced to 14 years in prison'
Ex-RCMP intelligence official Cameron Ortis sentenced to 14 years in prison
WATCH: Cameron Ortis, a former high-level RCMP intelligence official found guilty of leaking top secret information to police targets, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, which includes the time he has already served before his trial. Touria Izri reports on the judge's reasons for the sentence; how the judge even praised Ortis; and why this case may have permanently damaged Canada's reputation with its Five Eyes allies – Feb 7, 2024

Cameron Ortis, the ex-RCMP intelligence official found guilty of attempting to sell secrets, will serve seven years behind bars as part of a 14-year sentence with time served handed down on Wednesday.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger delivered the sentence in an Ottawa courtroom Wednesday, after Ortis was found guilty of breaching Canada’s official secrets law.

The seven-year sentence – which took into account the time Ortis spent behind bars and on bail since his 2019 arrest – was well short of the 20-plus years sought by Crown attorneys. Ortis’ defence team suggested he should be released based on his time already served.

Maranger, calling the trial “unprecedented,” said the sentence reflected both the severity of Ortis’ actions and the damage to Canada’s reputation with close security partners.

“Cameron Ortis was in a position of extreme trust … He, more than most, knew the potential consequences of what he was doing,” Maranger said in his ruling.

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“His actions potentially put lives at risk … His actions undermined Canada’s reputation in the intelligence community internationally. This is especially so given the position he was in, as he was the director and one of the highest-ranking civilian members (of the RCMP).”

“Our reputation among Five Eyes partners may never be the same,” Maranger added.

Click to play video: 'Ex-RCMP director Cameron Ortis takes stand at his criminal trial'
Ex-RCMP director Cameron Ortis takes stand at his criminal trial

Ortis is the first person to be convicted in a trial under Canada’s Security of Information Act, the country’s official secrets law.

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As the head of the RCMP’s “Operations Research” group, Ortis had access to highly-sensitive intelligence gathered by both Canadian authorities as well as Five Eyes security partners, including the United States and United Kingdom.

During his trial, Crown prosecutors alleged that he used that access to dangle secrets to targets of law enforcement and intelligence investigations. That included Vincent Ramos, the former head of encrypted communications company Phantom Secure.

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While no money appears to have ultimately changed hands, the Crown alleged Ortis intended to sell top secret intelligence. Ortis, who pleaded not guilty, maintained that he was running an undercover operation aimed at luring criminals onto an encrypted email service, which he alleged was accessible to Western intelligence.

It was an unusual trial. Given the nature of some of the evidence, the public was excluded from much of the testimony both by former RCMP officials and Ortis himself, with partially-censored transcripts being released after national security secrets were scrubbed form the record.

Ortis’ defence maintained that he also wasn’t able to share with the jury certain information – including the identity of a foreign counterpart who allegedly asked him to keep his activities secret from other RCMP members.

Click to play video: 'Email chain released in trial of ex-RCMP director Cameron Ortis'
Email chain released in trial of ex-RCMP director Cameron Ortis

In November, the jury found him guilty of three charges of violating the Security of Information Act and one count of attempting to do so. He was also found guilty of breach of trust and the improper use of a computer system.

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“(Ortis) betrayed the RCMP. He betrayed the Five Eyes community and in failing to abide by his oath to protect sensitive information … (he) effectively compromised the trust that Canada has earned in protecting information,” Crown attorney Judy Kliewer told reporters.

Jon Doody, one of Ortis’ defence lawyers, said they will be appealing the sentence.

“(We’re) obviously disappointed. We were hoping to have a significantly lower sentence, but I understand where Justice Maranger came from. He was given a difficult task to choose between two very different extremes,” Doody said.

“(Ortis is) obviously very disappointed by the conviction. He is troubled by that. He’s very optimistic to continue the appeal and pursue this. He stands by his innocence.”

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