Canada and its allies are struggling to assess the damage inflicted by what specialists consider could be the most significant security breach within the country’s past and charges of stealing covert information, a senior federal intelligence official was arrested.
Following a prolonged investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted police, Cameron Ortis the leader of the police force’s intelligence unit was charged on Friday with leaking or offering to share covert information.
On Monday, the RCMP commissioner, Brenda Lucki, acknowledged that Ortis, 47, had access to intelligence from both domestic and international allies.
Lucki didn’t say which Ortis could have exposed foreign organizations; however, Canada alongside the US, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia is a part of an intelligence-sharing alliance known as the Five Eyes, through which specific investigations have a significant degree of overlap between countries.
Security experts mentioned that the case might have a profound impact on Canada’s relationship with its allies.
Officials in other countries are probably “tremendously involved” about the safety and integrity of their investigations, mentioned Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University and former national security analyst for the federal government.
Canada has pretty well-established protocols for dealing with intelligence breaches, stated Jessica Davis, a former intelligence analyst for the Canadian government and head of Insight Threat Intelligence.
However, the arrest has shocked security experts and rattled the broader federal government bureaucracy.
Ortis faces five charges under Canada’s Security of Information Act, in addition to the two under Criminal Code, all about alleged incidents that occurred between 2015 and 2019.
The charges show that Ortis is accused of communicating covert operational information in 2015. He also faces charges of sharing secret information with a terrorist group or foreign entity, but it undoubtedly remains unclear if he had interacted with a state or individual.
Charges under the Security of Information Act meant to prevent those that have access to classified data from leaking it are extremely rare in Canada. If convicted, Ortis might face 14 years in federal prison.
Canadian media outlets have speculated that Ortis might have been speaking with Russian or Chinese state actors, or organized crime rings. However, because so little is known in regards to the scope and content of the information he’s accused of accessing, both Carvin and Davis urged caution.
Ortis appeared in an Ottawa court on Friday; however, his case was adjourned till September 20th, for him to obtain legal counsel.