Cameron Ortis has damaged Canada’s international reputation by leaking secrets

Cameron Ortis, the leader of the RCMP’s intelligence unit, had been suspected of leaking information or offering to share covert material with foreign agencies. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Ortis had access to vital information from Canada’s domestic and international allies. Accordingly, Leyland Cecco raised alarm bells in an article he wrote for the Guardian newspaper on September 16, stating Canada and its allies were trying to evaluate the harm imposed from what might be the most significant breach of secure data in Canada’s history.

Lucki never listed the foreign organizations who might’ve been were exposed by Ortis, but Canada is part of an intelligence-sharing community in the English-speaking world known as the Five Eyes. The Five Eyes incorporate the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Some media outlets have speculated that Ortis might’ve been spying for Russia.

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Activities involving subterfuge in the world of espionage aren’t new of course, otherwise James Bond films wouldn’t exist. Long before Edward Snowden copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, the so-called Cambridge Five were active in the United Kingdom from the 1930s to the 1950s. The Cambridge Five, who were never prosecuted for spying, were a group of academics in Cambridge who were disclosing British intelligence to the Soviet Union. Three members of the Cambridge Five defected to the Soviet Union before they were discovered. Kim Philby, the last defector of the Cambridge Five, left Britain for Russia in 1963. There’s a debate as to how damaging the activities committed by the Cambridge Five actually were, but Kim Philby is known for giving the Soviets the names of many British agents, including a long list of those who spied for Great Britain in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.

John Anthony Walker started his spying career for the Soviets in 1967. The American Navy chief warrant officer and communications specialist was upset over his financial difficulties in the mid-1960s, so Walker strolled into the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. and sold the Russians a radio cipher card for thousands of dollars. Thereafter, Walker made an agreement with the Soviets to peddle American military secrets for a salary of $500-$1,000 a week. He continued spying for the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1985. Walker’s son, former Seaman Michael Walker, along with Senior Petty Officer Jerry Whitworth, were also members of Walker’s lucrative spy ring.    

We might never realize how damaging the activities committed by Ortis have been for Canada. Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University and former national security analyst for the federal government, gave an ominous statement in the Guardian. “If (Ortis) has been successful (in sharing information) the damage could be unprecedented in Canadian history. But we don’t know yet. And that’s the thing that’s keeping a lot of people on edge: we know it could be bad, but how bad is it?”

Ortis will face five charges under Canada’s Security of Information Act, as well as the two charges under Criminal Code in relation to certain episodes claimed to have occurred from 2015-2019. If convicted, Ortis might be dealing with a 14 year-stretch in a federal prison.

The betrayal of secrets on a nationwide scale always bring shame to an entire country. Whenever somebody fails their nation by hawking state secrets, as well as marketing the confidences of their allies to grateful, but dangerous bidders, a country’s international status and reputation has been ruined. Canada has a long toil ahead in order to regain the trust of their allies, even if the alleged crimes committed by Ortis might never be proven.