RCMP ignores federal rules on lie-detector tests

RCMP shuns lie-detectors

The RCMP does not give lie-detector tests to employees undergoing top-level security screenings despite federal rules that require such examinations, The Canadian Press has learned.

The revelation comes as the national police force assesses the damage from possible leaks by one of its most senior intelligence officials.

Cameron Jay Ortis, 47, faces charges of violating Canada's official-secrets law for allegedly trying to pass classified information to adversaries.

At a news conference last month, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Ortis had a valid "top secret" clearance – which must be renewed every five years – but he had not undergone a polygraph exam, a test that measures physiological signs such as heart rate and breathing that might indicate deception.

It turns out the RCMP does not use the polygraph for security clearances, even though a 2014 federal standard requires a lie-detector test for the highest security category, known as "enhanced top secret." The category includes people who have access to sensitive law-enforcement or intelligence-related operational information.

As director general of the RCMP's National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre, Ortis would have been privy to such highly classified material. Lucki said he had access to information from Canadian and international intelligence partners, posing a potential risk to their operations.

Ortis is accused of violating the Security of Information Act as well as Criminal Code provisions, including breach of trust, for allegedly trying to disclose classified information to an unspecified foreign entity or terrorist group. He faces a total of seven counts, dating from as early as Jan. 1, 2015, through to Sept. 12 of this year, when he was arrested.

The RCMP refused to say when Ortis, who joined the police force in 2007, underwent his most recent security-clearance update.

However, the force expressed confidence in its security-screening process, saying in an emailed response to questions that it involves multiple steps such as education and employment verification, credit checks, criminal-record checks, open-source investigations, interviews and field investigations.

"The RCMP does not currently conduct polygraph examinations as part of its security-screening process," the force said.

While there has long been debate about the effectiveness of polygraph tests, the federal standard on security screening requires them for enhanced top secret clearances as a means of assessing loyalty to Canada.

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