Canada PM moves to reassure allies in spying case

TRENTON, Canada 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada takes “very seriously” the threat to security after the arrest of an alleged spy who had access to highly sensitive documents.

The Canadian intelligence community was shaken when a senior Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) intelligence official, was apprehended with highly sensitive documents and arrested last week.

The RCMP said Cameron Ortis, 47, planned to offer the documents to a foreign entity or a terrorist organization. If the material had fallen into the wrong hands, it would have caused a “HIGH” degree of damage to Canada and its allies, the Canadian Communications Security Establishment said in an assessment of the case.

On the election trail in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador — Canadians vote on a federal government Oct. 21 — Trudeau said its allies were being kept abreast of developments.

“We are in direct communications with our allies on security,” he said. “We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

As director general of the National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, Ortis had access to highly classified information. He is accused of gathering that information and possession of a device capable of secret communications.

As such, he is charged with contravention of secrecy acts and two charges under the Canadian Criminal Code with breach of trust and unauthorized access of a computer.

“We recognize that these allegations, if proven true, are extremely unsettling,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Tuesday.

The RCMP investigation of Ortis was sparked last year when a joint investigation in another case in conjunction with the FBI uncovered possible “internal corruption” in the RCMP. Lucki said she was not prepared to discuss many of the details pertaining to the Ortis arrest and that theories put forth by others are not helpful.

“The information in the public domain is speculative,” she said. “We also need to be mindful of the privacy of the accused and his right to a fair trial.”

Ortis is being held in custody pending a bail hearing Sept. 20.
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