Photo via Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press.
A civilian director in the RCMP has been charged under the Security of Information Act, a rarely used law dealing with espionage and foreign powers.VICE confirmed that Cameron Ortis is a senior member of the Ottawa-based National Security Criminal Investigations unit of the RCMP, which undertakes investigations into everything from terrorist attacks to computer hacks targeting Canadian assets.According to the RCMP, the five charges he faces, which include two under the Criminal Code, stem from crimes he allegedly committed while working for the federal policing agency.
Ortis was charged twice under subsection 22 of the Security of Information Act, which relates to gaining information for the benefit of a foreign power and possessing a “device, apparatus, or software useful for concealing the content of information or for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining, or retaining information.”The other three charges are: unauthorized communication of special operational information, unauthorized use of a computer, and breach of trust by a public officer.“As this investigation is ongoing, we will not be making any other comment at this time,” the RCMP said. A source close to the investigation said it is believed Ortis stole “large quantities of information, which could compromise an untold number of investigations,” Global News reported.
Ortis’s LinkedIn profile says he has worked for the Government of Canada since 2007, has a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia, and speaks Mandarin. On the site, Ortis was endorsed by a senior risk management officer at the House of Commons for “information management.”A breakdown of Ortis’s RCMP unit on its official website says that it deals with threats to national security in any form including “chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear; an explosive device; a computer virus; or a simple bank transaction that funds terrorism.”
Ortis presented at a cybersecurity conference in 2008 in which he was described as a “Senior Intelligence Researcher” with the RCMP with expertise in critical infrastructure hacking and botnets.Other online records show Ortis’s Ph.D. thesis focused on cybersecurity and the compromising of internet nodes with a specific eye on organized crime in East Asia. As part of this thesis, Ortis wrote that he conducted dozens of interviews “with government officials, engineers, and members of the ‘hacker community’ in eight cities in Asia as well as with individuals in Canada and the United States.”The Security of Information Act was famously applied to disgraced naval lieutenant Jefferey Delisle in 2013 for spying on behalf of the Russian government. Delisle was sentenced to 20 years under the act, and was granted parole in August 2018. In the same year the act was used to charge Canadian national Qing Quentin Huang with allegedly transmitting secrets to the Chinese government. He is awaiting trial.Follow Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.