Ex-NSA employee who took classified material home gets five years in prison

Ex-NSA employee who took classified material home gets five years in prison
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A former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who pleaded guilty last year to removing classified materials from the agency's offices has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Sixty-seven-year-old Nghia Pho of Ellicott City, Md., originally pleaded guilty in December, with The New York Times reporting that he was the NSA employee working in the agency's hacking division who was targeted by Russian spies in their theft of the NSA's hacking toolkit.

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“Pho’s intentional, reckless and illegal retention of highly classified information over the course of almost five years placed at risk our intelligence community’s capabilities and methods, rendering some of them unusable,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement from the Justice Department.

“Today’s sentence reaffirms the expectations that the government places on those who have sworn to safeguard our nation’s secrets. I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors whose hard work brought this result," he added.

According to the Times, Pho took home classified documents in both digital and print form, and accessed some of them on a computer containing antivirus software from Kaspersky Labs, a Russian company thought to have been used by state-sponsored hackers to access computer systems.

Kaspersky has denied that it intentionally aided espionage efforts, but the company's software was banned from all federal government computers by the Trump administration following the incident.

Russian agents' theft of the hacking toolkit was not brought up in Pho's trial, according to court documents, though his work in the NSA's hacking unit, Tailored Access Operations, was disclosed to jurors.

Pho is now the third person to be sentenced for illegally removing classified information since October of 2016. Others included NSA employee Harold Martin III and contractor Reality Winner, who leaked a classified document to news outlet The Intercept detailing the scope of Russian attacks aimed at local election officials around the 2016 election.