The RCMP is still gauging the scope of an alleged leak of classified information and the damage caused to law-enforcement agencies in Canada and abroad after an act of “internal corruption” was first identified 18 months ago by the national police force, Commissioner Brenda Lucki said.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Commissioner Lucki said the RCMP is working with Canadian and international agencies affected by the alleged leak, including the other countries in the intelligence-sharing network known as Five Eyes – the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
So far, she said, allies have not imposed restrictions on the information they share with the RCMP over fears of a continuing security breach.
“Right now, there is great support from those communities, both in Canada and abroad. … But until we know what we’re dealing with specifically, our risk assessment is fluid and the measure of severity of such an event is fluid as well,” she said.
Last week, the RCMP arrested Cameron Ortis, who was the head of the force’s national intelligence co-ordination centre. In that capacity, the 47-year-old civilian had access to domestic and international databases of classified information on police operations.
The RCMP laid seven charges against Mr. Ortis under the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code, including communicating special operational information and preparing information for the purpose of communicating with a foreign entity or terrorist group.
Experts said the comments by Commissioner Lucki suggest the RCMP has yet to determine whether any classified information ended up in the wrong hands and what could be the consequences of the alleged infractions for various law-enforcement authorities.
“She was attempting to reassure people that mitigation had been put in place, but given that she wasn’t able to talk about whether or not that mitigation had been successful, I don’t know how reassuring her statements actually were,” said Leah West, a former federal lawyer who is now a lecturer on national-security issues at Carleton University.
Ms. West added that it appears the RCMP is still analyzing information, including material obtained through search warrants that were recently executed.
“The implications are simply too vast to know and [Commissioner Lucki] didn’t narrow the scope at all in terms of what we’re actually dealing with. It doesn’t seem to me they fully know yet given the fact they seem to be still in the midst of the investigation,” Ms. West said.
Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a former deputy commissioner of the RCMP, said the fact the alleged infractions occurred between 2015 and 2019 means that four years of intelligence and operations need to be analyzed.
“It’s a huge challenge for the organization and other partners,” he said.
Mr. Bourduas added the alleged leak raises questions about the need to reinforce internal security at the RCMP. He called for random polygraph testing of employees in highly sensitive areas as well as measures to make it harder for individuals to unilaterally obtain access to highly classified information.
“There is always room for improvement,” he said.
Mr. Ortis is scheduled to appear in court on Friday. He did not enter a plea during his first appearance via video-link last week.
Commissioner Lucki refused to speculate on the motive for the alleged leak or who stood to receive the information. However, she confirmed the investigation into Mr. Ortis started in 2018 as part of a joint operation with the FBI in another matter.
“During that investigation, we came across certain documents that led us to believe that there might be some internal corruption," she said.
Another federal official has told The Globe and Mail the documents were found on a laptop seized by American authorities in March, 2018, from Vincent Ramos, a Vancouver-area businessman who was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this year in the U.S. after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute narcotics and racketeering.
The Globe is keeping the official’s name confidential because the individual was not allowed to speak publicly about the matter that is before the court.