NSA contractor arrested in alleged theft of classified material

NSA contractor arrested in alleged theft of classified material

The FBI has arrested a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who is accused of stealing and disclosing classified computer codes developed by the agency to hack foreign governments, The New York Times reports.

ADVERTISEMENT
Assistant Attorney General John Carlin on Wednesday confirmed the Aug. 27 arrest of Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Md. Officials say he stole “six classified documents obtained from sensitive intelligence and produced by a government agency in 2014.”

“These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues," the Justice Department said in a statement. "The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods and capabilities.”

A five-page complaint, which accuses Martin of theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, provides scant details about the contents of those documents.

Citing several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials, the Times reports that some of the information suspected to be stolen by the contractor was dated.

Like former NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden, Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, which develops and operates many of the agency’s clandestine cyber tools, according to the Times.

Booz Allen Hamilton declined to comment for this story. 

The arrest comes less than two months after hackers attempted to auction off what they claim is the source code to a vaunted, likely state-sponsored hacking group many believe is affiliated with the NSA.

The FBI began investigating the alleged leak in August, according to reports. 

There is no definitive proof the auction is genuine, but security researchers say files released to prove the code's authenticity appear valid. The hacking group, known as the Shadow Brokers, has yet to conclude the bidding. 

Those files, however, were last updated in October 2013 — before the “production” of the six classified documents in the Martin arrest.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing the "ongoing investigation" by the Justice Department.

But he said President Obama takes these types of incidents "quite seriously."

“Any time that information like this is released in the context of a criminal complaint, the federal government is reminded of how important it is to be vigilant about protecting the national security of our country and information that is relevant to our national security," Earnest said.

Obama is currently under pressure from some civil liberties groups to issue a pardon for Snowden before leaving office.

The White House has repeatedly thrown cold water on the possibility, arguing that Snowden failed to follow proper whistleblower protocols and instead put U.S. national security at risk.

--Joe Uchill and Jordan Fabian contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:11 p.m.