Former colleague of ex-intelligence official on trial says RCMP unit was stored separate from felony probes

An RCMP worker who labored beneath Cameron Ortis — the previous high-ranking intelligence official accused of leaking info to police targets — says their unit was purposely separated from these investigating felony exercise, in response to a transcript of his testimony. 

Daniel Morris labored as Ortis’s second in command when the RCMP’s nationwide safety operations analysis (OR) unit was in its infancy. Morris ultimately succeeded Ortis as director of the OR in 2015.

His former boss has pleaded not responsible to a number of counts of sharing operational info with individuals on the RCMP’s radar. Ortis’s legal professionals say they’re going to argue he had the authority to do what he did.

Morris stated members of the staff weren’t purported to contact targets of a felony investigation.

“Operations Analysis was set as much as be fully separate from felony investigations,” stated Morris, in response to a transcript offered by the courtroom.

“It wasn’t for OR to be even near a felony investigation and there have been varied causes for that.”

The civilian member of the RCMP testified earlier than the jury Monday however members of the general public, together with the media, had been locked out of the courtroom.

A consortium of media organizations that contains CBC Information fought the transfer to maintain Morris’s testimony confidential, calling it an egregious restriction on open courts. The consortium misplaced. Different particulars of the secrecy measure are coated by a publication ban.

As a substitute, the Crown despatched a transcript of Morris’s Monday morning testimony to reporters Tuesday. The transcript of his afternoon testimony has not but arrived.

RCMP could also be sitting on puzzle piece: Morris

Morris stated one of many objectives of the OR was to temporary senior determination makers inside the RCMP on threats and alternatives in ways in which would not expose top-secret info in open courtroom.

“Preserving that materials protected all through the course of the investigation is extraordinarily tough and very high-risk. So we don’t contact, we don’t go close to the felony investigation,” he stated.

A lot of Morris’s testimony touched on what’s often known as the “intelligence-to-evidence” downside — the battle between defending secret info from open courtroom and pursuing prosecutions associated to terrorism and nationwide safety.

The issue lies in putting a steadiness between defending delicate info coming from Canada’s intelligence businesses — issues like techniques, strategies and the place spies are situated — and the RCMP’s want to put out their proof and casework in courtroom to safe prosecutions.

Morris instructed all through his testimony that the OR was set as much as bridge that hole.

He supplied a hypothetical instance — categorized intelligence indicating that an individual could also be planning to conduct a terrorist assault in Canada.

An RCMP tactical automobile drives previous the Parliament buildings, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022 in Ottawa. RCMP worker Dan Morris says the power’s operations analysis unit was was set as much as be fully separate from felony investigations. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“If the data is restricted in order that we won’t truly launch a felony investigation, that is clearly an actual downside for the RCMP,” he stated. 

Morris instructed the jury the OR unit would search for different, unclassified info already within the palms of legislation enforcement.

“Generally, the RCMP could also be sitting on a chunk of the puzzle and would not even comprehend it,” he stated.

“So, as an instance this specific topic had been contacted earlier than by police or had surfaced on the police consideration or radar sooner or later prior to now. There could also be methods for us to search out alternatives for the RCMP to take one other have a look at this particular person with out utilizing the categorized info.”

Witness says OR might level bosses in proper path

Morris instructed Crown prosecutor John MacFarlane the OR largely labored in secret, separated from these working in felony investigations. The intelligence they checked out was housed on separate drives on the Canadian High Secret Community, a pc community operated by the Communications Safety Institution (CSE).

The OR would temporary the assistant commissioner and different senior officers, and typically the commissioner, he stated.

“We might basically level them in the suitable path,” he stated.

However Morris stated they’d by no means temporary what’s known as the “command triangle” — the important thing Mounties investigating a case.

“We’d hope that they would not even know we exist,” he stated. “The fabric we labored with, what we had been engaged on, wanted to remain inside basically a bubble.” 

Ortis is accused of sharing particular operational info “deliberately and with out authority” with Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf. He additionally faces one rely of trying to share particular operational info with Farzam Mehdizadeh.

RCMP intelligence experiences entered into proof through the trial present the RCMP was investigating these three males and their cash companies companies for potential hyperlinks to Altaf Khanani, an internationally-wanted man suspected of laundering cash for terrorists.

Ortis can be accused of leaking particular operational info to Vincent Ramos, the pinnacle of an organization that was accused of promoting encrypted telephones to criminals, together with the Khanani community and drug cartels.

Cameron Jay Ortis, right, a former RCMP intelligence director accused of disclosing classified information, returns to the Ottawa Courthouse during a break in proceedings in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.
Cameron Jay Ortis, proper, a former RCMP intelligence director accused of exposing categorized info, returns to the Ottawa Courthouse throughout a break in proceedings in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Ortis is predicted to testify through the trial.

His lawyer Mark Ertel instructed the defence’s case will have a look at the pressures the OR was beneath.

“The case is all about authority, who was in cost, who was ready to provide authority,” he instructed reporters earlier this month.

When requested if the case will hear from somebody who will vouch that Ortis had authority, Ertel stated, “Keep tuned.”

Undercover operations wanted approval, Morris says

Morris stated that in his eight years with OR, he has by no means heard of somebody reaching out to targets.  

“OR did not develop proof,” he stated. “Contacting a goal, if there was any kind of deception concerned, that makes it an undercover operation by RCMP definition beneath undercover coverage.

“There’s very clear guidelines on how undercover operations may be carried out inside the RCMP and who can carry out these operations.”

Morris stated a number of determination makers would have to be briefed on any such operation and would wish to approve it.

The transcript of his testimony notes in spots that the audio was “indiscernible.”

At one level, Morris was describing the priorities of the OR when he first joined in 2010.

“Indiscernible … coughing in background; poor audio arrange; channel recording ranges not useful — unable to isolate audio system,” says the transcript. 

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