A Canadian sentenced to 14 years for leaking state secrets

A former civilian director of an elite intelligence unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison after being convicted last year of providing classified operational information to four men who were the subject of investigations by police.

The sentence is half what prosecutors had sought for the intelligence official, Cameron Ortis, whose motive, they acknowledged, remains unknown and who they said was highly respected as director general of the National Coordination Unit of intelligence in the Canadian national police force. .

Mr Ortis will be credited for the six and a half years he spent in prison awaiting trial and following his conviction in November.

The case was the first in which charges under Canada’s Security of Information Act of 1985 were brought to trial. The provisions of the law meant that Mr. Ortis was “permanently bound to secrecy,” so his testimony was conducted in secret and only the redacted transcripts were made public. Other evidence was kept secret.

Mr. Ortis has repeatedly maintained his innocence and testified that his actions were part of a top-secret international mission he undertook while on leave in 2015 – to study French – and that the mission had been proposed to him by someone at “a foreign agency”.

He testified that binding promises he made in taking on the task prevented him from naming that person, identifying where he worked or telling the court what threat to Canada had prompted him to take on the job.

His agreement with that person, Ortis said, even prevented him from telling anyone else in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the operation because his foreign counterpart had told him there were “moles” in the force who would sidetracked or otherwise blocked the project.

Mr. Ortis, who holds a doctorate in cybercrime studies, was convicted of passing secrets to Victor Ramos, a Canadian who once owned a company that sold special cell phones to criminals who he claimed were impervious to all forms of surveillance. Mr. Ramos was arrested in Washington State in 2018 and thereafter sentenced to nine years in prison for racketeering and criminal conspiracy.

Prosecutors said the secrets included information from the Five Eyes Network, an intelligence-sharing agreement between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

A jury also convicted Mr. Ortis of sharing secrets with two men involved in money laundering, of attempting to reveal secrets to a fourth man, of breach of trust and of unauthorized use of a computer.

While the court was presented with an email that Mr. Ortis had sent under a pseudonym to Mr. Ramos in which he offered to sell additional information for C$20,000 (about $14,800), prosecutors said there was no was evidence that the former intelligence official had received money or benefited from his operation.

During his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Justice Robert Maranger of the Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa noted the lack of motive in the case, Mr. Ortis’s exemplary record on the police force and his refusal to provide key information.

“Cameron Ortis is something of an enigma,” Judge said. “The ‘why’ here, in my mind, remains a mystery.”