A top Canadian police intelligence officer has been charged with leaking secret information, authorities said on Friday, while offering few details about the alleged crimes.
Cameron Ortis, a director general with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s intelligence unit, faces three charges under a little-used 2012 security of information law.
One section of the law used to charge Ortis refers to a person with security clearance who “intentionally and without authority, communicates or confirms special operational information.” He also faces charges of breach of trust and misuse of a credit card.
“I can assure you the authorities are taking this extremely seriously but you might understand I have no comment to make,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters, soon after the charges against Ortis were made public.
The RCMP said in a statement that the alleged offences had taken place when Ortis was a member of the force.
Neither Ortis, who is in custody, nor a lawyer for him could be reached for immediate comment. A court hearing in the case has been set for Sept. 20.
Sources with knowledge of national security investigations described Ortis as former RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s most elite adviser on issues related to national security. Paulson was in office from 2011-2017.
“Operationally, this could be very, very bad,” said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor and security expert at Ottawa’s Carleton University.
Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network with United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia.
A brief LinkedIn profile for Ortis shows he speaks Mandarin and has both a certificate in internet systems administration and a doctorate in international relations from the University of British Columbia in western Canada.
The 2012 law was used to prosecute a Canadian naval officer who handed over secrets to Russia for more than four years. Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle was jailed for 20 years in 2013 but released on parole in 2018.
Canadian officials told a sentencing hearing in 2013 that allies had threatened to withhold intelligence from Canada unless it tightened security procedures.