Cameron Ortis, the former high-ranking RCMP intelligence official accused of leaking top-secret intelligence to police targets, told court recently that while he has some regrets, his actions were “not wrong.”
The Crown alleges Ortis used his position as the head of a highly secret unit within the RCMP to attempt to sell intelligence gathered by Canada and its Five Eyes allies to individuals linked to the criminal underworld.
Ortis has pleaded not guilty to all six charges against him. His defence team says he was acting on “secret information” sent by a foreign agency to protect Canada from “serious and imminent threats.”
Ortis began testifying in his own defence last week, behind closed doors. A redacted transcript of what he told the jury a week ago was released to reporters Thursday night.
The former civilian member of the RCMP told the jury his “mission was to meet the threats to the security of Canada head on.”
“Do you regret acting now?” asked his defence lawyer, Mark Ertel.
“I don’t make decisions based on my career or career prospects, but I couldn’t have envisioned or imagined that all of this would transpire,” said Ortis.
“Of course, in some sense I regret everything that’s happened over the last four years to everyone, but what I did was not wrong.”
Ortis said his arrest has been personally “devastating.”
He said his pension and possessions are “all gone” and his reputation has been “completely destroyed.”
“Family stood by me. Friends did not,” he said.
“Friends from the old days in British Columbia who I’ve known for a long time have stood by me, but friends and colleagues in Ottawa and professional contacts have not.”
Ortis says he was told to pursue money-laundering
The 51-year-old faces six charges, including multiple counts under the Security of Information Act, the law meant to protect Canada’s secrets. He is accused of sharing special operational information “intentionally and without authority” with three men, and of attempting to share information with another.
During the first few hours of his testimony, he recounted how he joined the RCMP and started a unit called Operations Research (OR), which was meant to brief senior leadership on emerging threats based on intelligence gathered by Canada and its allies.
The unit began dealing with counterterrorism files but took on transnational organized crime through a file known to the RCMP as “Skyfall.”
“It was money laundering that was threatening the integrity and the fabric of the Canadian financial system,” Ortis said.
“I saw some unique reporting during the ordinary course of triage that explained, described, and outlined a threat to Canada and the banking system. An extraordinary amount of money that was being laundered through Canada and its closest partners, and the actors that were involved with that money laundering.”
He said those “actors” were hostile state actors — “enemies of the Western world.”
Ortis said he decided to create an infographic on what he learned to present a briefing to the RCMP’s senior chain of command — to the assistant commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the commissioner.
“This was right on the RCMP’s mandate in terms of high-level organized crime carrying out money laundering that at least in my experience had a scale and scope that I had never seen before,” he said.
Ertel asked Ortis if, after the briefing, he had the impression the issue was something his superiors wanted him to pursue.
“That’s correct,” said Ortis.
“I was told, I can paraphrase, ‘Get on this.'”
The transcript provided to media Thursday night ends at the point when the court took a lunch break on Nov. 2.
A consortium of media organizations that includes CBC News fought the move to restrict access to Ortis’s testimony.
Other details of the secrecy measure are covered by a publication ban.
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