Case of alleged RCMP secret-leaker could head behind closed doors

OTTAWA — Federal prosecutors are signalling they want to move the national-secrets case against a senior RCMP official behind closed doors, at least temporarily, while they sort out how to handle the very secrets the case is about.

Prosecutor Judy Kliewer said Wednesday the Crown intends to ask that observers be excluded from a March 17 pre-trial hearing in the case of Cameron Jay Ortis, contrary to the usual principle that courts operate in the open.

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Ortis, 47, is accused of Security of Information Act violations, breach of trust and a computer-related offence.

The director general of the RCMP's National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre was arrested Sept. 12 for allegedly revealing secrets to an unnamed recipient and planning to give additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity.

Ortis, who is being held at an Ottawa jail, made a brief appearance Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court.

The March hearing is intended to address how Ortis's lawyer, Ian Carter, can communicate with his client about the case without fear of violating the secrets law himself.

"For him to give me information, for me to receive the information, could potentially be an offence under the Security of Information Act," Carter said after Wednesday's appearance. "So we need to work out a protocol for how we're going to do that."

Carter and the Crown indicated the issue might be resolved without the March hearing.

"It has to do with Mr. Ortis being able to make disclosures about his circumstances to his counsel to prepare for his defence," Kliewer said.

As a result, the hearing would get into the logistics about how and where those communications can take place, Kliewer said. "The contentious issues about the logistics may concern the very nature of the materials. We might get into some of the weeds."

Carter said he was "not taking a position one way or another" on the matter until he sees the Crown's application.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said last year the allegations against Ortis are unsettling, noting he had access to information from domestic and international allies.

Lucki told a September news conference that investigators came across documents during a joint investigation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that led the Mounties to believe there could be some kind of "internal corruption."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2020.

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