OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — A jury found a former senior intelligence official in Canada’s national police force guilty on Wednesday of breaching the country’s secrets law.
Jurors declared guilty of three counts of violating the Security of Information Act and one count of attempting to do so.
They also found him guilty of breach of trust and fraudulent use of a computer.
Ortis, 51, had pleaded not guilty to all charges, including violating the secrets law by revealing classified information to three individuals in 2015 and trying to do so in a fourth instance.
He testified he offered secret material to targets in a bid to get them to use an online encryption service set up by an allied intelligence agency to spy on adversaries.
The prosecution argued Ortis lacked authority to disclose classified material and that he was not doing so as part of a sanctioned undercover operation.
Ortis could face a stiff prison sentence.
Following the verdict, Justice Robert Maranger told the court that Ortis’s bail would be revoked prior to sentencing.
The defense contended that the former official did not betray Canada, but was rather acting on a “clear and grave threat.”
Ortis led the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Operations Research group, which assembled and developed classified information on cybercriminals, terror cells and transnational criminal networks.
He told the jury that in September 2014, he was contacted by a counterpart at a foreign agency who advised him of a particularly serious threat.
Ortis said the counterpart informed him in strict confidence about an online encryption service called Tutanota that was secretly set up to monitor communications of interest.
Ortis said he then quietly devised a plan, dubbed Nudge, to entice investigative targets to sign on to the encryption service, using promises of secret material as bait.
The company, now known as Tuta, denies having ties to intelligence agencies.
Although Ortis asked one target for thousands of dollars before he would send full versions of sensitive documents, there was no evidence he received money from the individuals he contacted.
Even so, the prosecution portrayed Ortis as self-serving and reckless, flouting rules and protocols on a solo mission that sabotaged national security and even endangered the life of a genuine undercover officer.
The prosecution, which called several current and former RCMP employees to testify, argued that no one other than Ortis had heard of Operation Nudge and that no records of the project could be found.
Ortis was taken into custody in September 2019.
The trail to his arrest began the previous year when the RCMP analyzed the contents of a laptop computer owned by Vincent Ramos, chief executive of Phantom Secure Communications, who had been apprehended in the United States.
An RCMP effort known as Project Saturation revealed that members of criminal organizations were known to use Phantom Secure’s encrypted communication devices.
Ramos would later plead guilty to using his Phantom Secure devices to help facilitate the distribution of cocaine and other illicit drugs to countries including Canada.
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