RCMP commissioner says info in FBI probe led to arrest of intelligence director

Brenda Lucki would not comment on a possible motive

An RCMP employee charged with trying to disclose secret information was discovered after a joint probe with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation pointed to a mole in the force, top Mountie Brenda Lucki said Tuesday.

The RCMP commissioner, addressing the arrest of Cameron Jay Ortis in person for the first time, also said there is a lot of conjecture, speculation and false information swirling about the case.

Lucki told a news conference that investigators came across documents during the probe with the FBI that led the Mounties to believe there could be some kind of “internal corruption.”

A sensitive-investigations team looked for months into possible leaks before the arrest last week of the 47-year-old Ortis, who faces charges under the Security of Information Act as well as two Criminal Code provisions for allegedly trying to disclose classified material to a foreign entity or terrorist group.

READ MORE: Intelligence official’s arrest ‘unsettling,’ says top Mountie amid damage assessment

Lucki would not comment on a possible motive, what foreign entity is involved, or what information Ortis had access to in his role as director general of the RCMP’s national intelligence co-ordination centre.

The RCMP commissioner didn’t directly address media reports that Ortis’s arrest stemmed from the dismantling of a Canadian firm, Phantom Secure, that sold phones allowing uncrackable communication.

The FBI and international partners, including the RCMP, said in March 2018 that organized crime and drug-trafficking groups were dealt a blow by the takedown of the encrypted-communication service.

They said Phantom Secure bought smartphones, removed all of the typical functions — calling, texting, internet, and GPS — and installed an encrypted email system, so the phones could communicate only with each other.

If a customer was arrested, Phantom Secure destroyed the data on his or her phone, which is obstruction of justice under U.S. law, police said.

Lucki cautioned that the ”information in the public domain is speculative, unhelpful and may be harmful to our investigation and judicial process. We also need to be mindful of the privacy of the accused and his right to fair trial.”

The force is still trying to assess and deal with the damage that might have resulted from the Ortis case, she said.

“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.”

Joe Crook, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, said the Americans have been “in touch with Canadian authorities about the situation and have offered our full support.”

Lucki played down any suggestion the RCMP’s partners might lose trust in the force over the case. ”There is always that possibility, but I am confident that measures that we have in place will mitigate those such risks.”

The arrest should not be seen as a reflection on the work of the RCMP as a whole, she added.

Ortis began his career with the Mounties in 2007 after earning a doctorate in political science. Prior to his role with the intelligence co-ordination centre, he held positions in operations research and the national-security criminal investigations directorate.

Lucki said the arrest will not dissuade the RCMP from pursuing plans to hire more civilians as part of a modernization effort.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Every employee in the RCMP is value-added to our organization and a valued employee, so, no, not at all.”

Ortis is slated to make his second court appearance on Friday.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Commercial plaza proposed for Rocky Creek and Ludlow intersection

Town Council directed the application proceed for further consideration

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to Saltair

Only 40 tickets available so get them soon if you’re interested

South Wellington Elementary demolition not taking place next school year

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public School trustees vote against razing south-end school in 2020/21

One piper piping during the pandemic

Tribute to health care workers reaches the 100th performance

Town of Ladysmith receives $3.3 million grant for Arts & Heritage Hub

The funds will go to creating artist studios around the Machine Shop and maintaining heritage assets

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Most Read