Alleged leaks by former RCMP intelligence director 'so criminal, so reckless': former boss

Article content

OTTAWA —A former RCMP Assistant Commissioner says alleged leaks of classified intelligence by his ex-employee Cameron Ortis were “so criminal”, caused “irreparable harm” to the national police force, betrayed its “every” intelligence partner and could have “signed someone’s death warrant.” 

Todd Shean, a former top Mountie and once Ortis’ direct boss, said he was “shaking with emotion” and “sick to his stomach” while he detailed his incomprehension vis-à-vis how his former employee could have allegedly leaked or attempted to leak classified police investigation intelligence to suspected members of a multi-billion-dollar money laundering network. 

Article content

“This is so criminal, so reckless because as you disclose that information, you have no idea you’re disclosing potential hints on potential police operations, hints on potential police operations that are being run by partners that could have undercover officers in play. So, you’re putting their lives at risk,” Shean told the court Tuesday. 

Related Stories

Ortis, the RCMP’s former director general of intelligence, is facing six charges, including four under the Security of Information Act (SOIA) for allegedly “intentionally and without authority” sharing or trying to share “special operational information” with four individuals in 2015. 

He pleaded not guilty to all charges at the onset of his trial and his lawyers have said they intend to argue that Ortis had full authority to do everything he did. He is expected to testify at the trial in the coming days.

When he was arrested, Ortis headed the RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Center (NICC). At the time of most of the alleged leaks, he was on leave for language training from his job as director of the force’s secretive Operations Research (OR) team, which had rare access to both Canadian and allied intelligence. 

Article content

His voice shaking with emotion, Shean repeatedly told the court that there was no world in which he, as Ortis’ direct superior, would have approved the disclosure of troves of police and security agency intelligence to suspected members of a notorious money laundering network run by Altaf Khanani. 

According to the U.S. government, Khanani’s network laundered money for a wide range of criminal organizations, from Mexican cartels to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda. 

Todd Shean
FILE: Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer Todd Shean speaks to a crowd before a behind-the-scenes tour of the Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit on May 24. Photo by Kelsey Yates /SunMedia

“Absolutely not,” Shean repeatedly told prosecutor Judy Kliewer when asked if he had authorized Ortis to disclose a number of documents detailing police investigation efforts to the suspected money launderers. “I would never authorize that.” 

Those documents contained information about potential undercover agents or confidential police sources within the Khanani network and summaries of what the police knew about the criminal organization, including the names of individuals and businesses potentially involved.

One of the documents discovered amongst a trove of electronic devices discovered at Ortis’ home in 2019 detailed how one individual in the network may be working with U.S. Homeland Security. Another message he allegedly sent to a criminal named Vincent Ortis strongly implied one of his associates had been contacted by an undercover RCMP agent.

Article content

By disclosing that kind of information, “you could be signing somebody’s death warrant and I’m not trying to overstate it,” Shean told the court. “It is so reckless that you’re putting that person’s life at risk.”

The documents Ortis allegedly leaked also contained information from Canadian intelligence agencies and Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies (U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand).  

Shean said the revelation that Ortis may have shared intelligence from security agencies in Canada and abroad was immensely damaging to the RCMP’s reputation. 

“I’m shaking because it’s just the irreparable harm that I expect this has done to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and our reputation amongst our partners,” he said. “This has been a long time in the making, and I expect it’s going to take many more years before we will be that trusted partner again.” 

Monday, Shean told the court that Ortis was a rising star within the RCMP before he was arrested and charged. 

“I’m not going to lie, I was a fan of Cam,” he said. 

Tuesday, he said that the level of detail in messages prosecutors say Ortis sent to Vincent Ramos, who ran a company that sold encrypted cellphones to organized crime members, was typical of Ortis’ work. 

“This is so Operations Research, this is so Cam (Ortis), in the sense that there’s all the details, there’s the ins and here’s the outs… here’s my recommendation to you as a result of my analysis,” he said. 

“This is the type of work that, when they were working in the right way, they were producing for law enforcement. Unfortunately, the talent now was being used for a different purpose.” 

Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark and sign up for our daily newsletter, Posted, here.

Share this article in your social network