A former RCMP intelligence director, facing charges for allegedly sharing secrets with targets of international criminal investigations, recently testified that the scale of U.S. agencies working on national security is like “a big bowling ball” compared with Canada’s “small marble.”
Cameron Ortis, 51, is on trial facing six charges, including four for allegedly breaching the Security of Information Act. He also faces a computer-related charge and another allegation of breach of trust. Mr. Ortis has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mr. Ortis began testifying last week but members of the public, including journalists, were barred from the courtroom pursuant to a court order. A consortium of media outlets opposed this measure.
A partial transcript of Mr. Ortis’s testimony delivered to jurors last week was released late Thursday, in which he said he absolutely did not betray his former employer. Hundreds of additional pages of Mr. Ortis’s testimony were released by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada late Friday.
According to the newly released transcripts, Mr. Ortis was asked by one of his lawyers, Mark Ertel, to describe agencies in the United States participating in national-security issues to the scale of Canada.
“Picture a small marble,” he said, “and then a big bowling ball. That’s the difference in scale.”
Mr. Ortis said the U.S. has a “much, much” larger network that is “larger than all the other Five Eyes agencies combined.”
Five Eyes is an intelligence pact involving Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Last week, in his opening remarks to the 12-member jury at the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa, Mr. Ertel said his client acted on information from a “foreign agency.” Mr. Ertel also said that Mr. Ortis is forbidden from revealing the information or the foreign agency but argued that his client “protected Canada from serious and imminent threats.”
According to the Friday transcripts, Mr. Ortis told jurors that he was contacted by a counterpart with a “foreign agency” in 2014. Mr. Ortis testified that “I had sensitive information from multiple sources” that subjects had “compromised or penetrated” Canadian law-enforcement agencies.
When Mr. Ertel asked what compromised or penetrated meant, Mr. Ortis said that he thought “they had moles.”
In his testimony, Mr. Ortis also told jurors there was a general understanding in the Five Eyes community that Canada consumed and used more intelligence than it gave back to the system.
“The RCMP specifically was a much greater consumer and produced very little to be provided back into the Five Eyes,” he said. “So, one of my jobs was to try and rectify that over time.”
Mr. Ortis was appointed as the “officer in charge” of a specialized unit in the RCMP focused on national security, known as operations research (OR), in September, 2012. He was promoted to director of the unit in April, 2013.
Mr. Ertel asked whether, as director of operations research, Mr. Ortis began the process of trying to contribute more information.
“We did,” Mr. Ortis said, adding that there were different types of information sent back in to the Five Eyes system on a regular basis.
Mr. Ortis explained that this included infographics along with any information, such as a name, e-mail address or a phone number, that could be used to identify a particular entity in some way.
The RCMP also gathered information from work overseas, he said.
“Operations research began to travel abroad and we would meet with partners, work with the RCMP liaison officers overseas, as well as the analyst deployed overseas,” Mr. Ortis said.
He said the unit would return often with information “that we could send back into the Five Eyes community.”
Intelligence information was used to help those in the RCMP responsible for criminal investigations so they could make decisions, Mr. Ortis said.
A major issue in Mr. Ortis’s trial is whether he in fact had authority to carry out the actions that he did, which involved contacting the subjects of international police investigations. Crown prosecutors have said Mr. Ortis did not have such authority.
Mr. Ortis is charged, among other things, for communicating with Vincent Ramos, who headed a company called Phantom Secure that produced encrypted phones. Prosecutors say e-mail evidence shows that Mr. Ortis contacted Mr. Ramos and that their exchanges culminated in a request in May, 2015, for a $20,000 payment in exchange for full copies of classified documents.
The jury has heard that the RCMP found no evidence of a payment to Mr. Ortis.
Mr. Ramos pleaded guilty in the U.S. to providing Phantom Secure devices to assist in the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to Canada, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Thailand and Europe. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.
Mr. Ortis also faces charges for communicating with Greater Toronto Area businessmen Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf and attempting to communicate with another individual, Farzam Mehdizadeh. The agreed statement of facts in the Ortis trial says Mr. Henareh, Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Mehdizadeh and their companies were subjects of investigation in Canada.
During Mr. Ortis’s trial, the jury has heard about an investigation called Project Oryx that investigated money-services businesses in the GTA.
The statement of facts said that from at least 2014, the RCMP, along with multiple Five Eyes law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, investigated money-laundering activities conducted by various entities believed to be associated with Altaf Khanani.
Mr. Khanani, a Dubai-based owner of money-services businesses and the head of an international money-laundering network, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in October, 2015, and was sentenced to 68 months in prison.