NSA contractor faces 10 years in prison for stealing classified material

National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Harold Martin of Booz Allen Hamilton was arrested on charges of theft and unauthorized possession of classified government materials in August, according to court documents unsealed by the Justice Department (DOJ) Wednesday.

U.S. law enforcement officials also said on Wednesday that the FBI is currently investigating whether Mr. Martin shared NSA source code which is used to hack into the computer systems of foreign governments.

Earlier in August, a group called Shadow Brothers published these “hacking tools” on Internet websites, but the original source of the leak is still unknown.

While a raid of Martin’s Glen Burnie, Md., residence on Aug. 27 yielded thousands of classified document pages and computers and other devices containing “many terabytes” of secret files, a court complaint filed by DOJ said that “six documents were produced through sensitive government sources . . . which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues.”

An anonymous Obama administration official said that the FBI believes Martin started stealing classified information from NSA before the Edward Snowden breech became public in 2013, which resulted in increased government agency protections against sensitive document leaks.

“This is something that has its origins certainly before Snowden came on the scene, so many of the forms that have been in place since 2013 wouldn’t be relevant to stopping what happened,” the official told The New York Times.

Other government officials involved in the investigation don’t believe Martin was motivated to expose NSA secrets for political reasons or was working as a foreign agent, but simply decided to take documents home with him and hoard them.

However benign his intentions, Martin’s employer, technology consulting firm Booze Allen Hamilton, fired him after they “learned of the arrest”. At the time, Martin was contracted with the Defense Department, having earlier left NSA.

If convicted of the charges filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Martin would face up to 10 years in federal prison.

 

[Reuters] [New York Times] [Image courtesy GDA/AP via Al Jazeera]