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NSA contractor stole 50,000 gigs of data over 20 years, prosecutors say

Government prosecutors intend to file charges under the Espionage Act against a former NSA contractor who was arrested in August and charged with stealing a massive trove of top-secret intelligence documents.

In court papers filed Thursday [you can read them below], the government said Navy veteran Harold T. Martin III stole 50,000 gigabytes of data over the course of two decades, which far exceeds the number of documents Edward Snowden took from the NSA and leaked to journalists. (One gigabyte can store about 10,000 pages.)


Prosecutors say Martin, who had been a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton — the same company that employed Snowden at the time of his leak — is a national security threat and a flight risk, and must remain behind bars until a trial in his case begins next year. Earlier this week, Martin’s attorneys requested a court hearing to determine if he could be released pending trial; the hearing is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

In the court papers, the government for the first time characterized the documents that Martin allegedly stole, which prosecutors said lay bare a “course of felonious conduct that is breathtaking in its longevity and scale.” According to the government, in addition to numerous digital media devices the FBI seized from Martin, there were also “hard-copy documents that were seized from various locations during the search that comprise six full bankers’ boxes worth of documents.”

“Some of the documents are marked ‘Unclassified/For Official Use Only,’ and many are marked ‘Secret’ and ‘Top Secret,’” the court filing says. “Many of the documents marked ‘Secret’ and ‘Top Secret,’ also bear special handling caveats. The information stolen by the Defendant also appears to include the personal information of government employees.”

Moreover, one of the items found in Martin’s possession was a top-secret document “regarding specific operational plans against a known enemy of the United States and its allies.” And among other documents FBI agents discovered was a “printed email chain marked as ‘Top Secret’ and containing highly sensitive information.”


“The document appears to have been printed by the Defendant from an official government account,” the court papers say. “On the back of the document are handwritten notes describing the NSA’s classified computer infrastructure and detailed descriptions of classified technical operations.”

Martin was arrested in August and charged with unlawful removal of classified documents after hacking tools were offered for sale over the internet by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. The hacking tools, used to hack into foreign governments, were among the classified technical records FBI agents found in Martin’s possession. But they have not yet been able to link Martin to Shadow Brokers, according to the New York Times.

In arguing against releasing Martin pending trial, prosecutors said Martin “poses a grave danger to the nation.” Even if he no longer has custody of the top-secret records, prosecutors alleged, he would still be a prime target for foreign adversaries.

“As a result of the extensive publicity this case has received, it is readily apparent to every foreign counterintelligence professional and nongovernmental actor that the Defendant has access to highly classified information, whether in his head, in still-hidden physical locations, or stored in cyberspace — and he has demonstrated absolutely no interest in protecting it,” government prosecutors wrote in the court filing. “This makes the Defendant a prime target, and his release would seriously endanger the safety of the country and potentially even the Defendant himself.”


About a month before Martin was arrested, he traveled to Connecticut to purchase a “detective special” police-package Chevrolet Caprice. When search warrants were executed on his home and vehicle, law enforcement officers recovered 10 firearms, including an “AR-style tactical rifle and a pistol-grip shotgun with a flash suppressor.”

The court papers say that before Martin’s arrest, his wife asked law enforcement officers to remove the firearms from their home “because she was afraid he would use them to kill himself if he ‘thought it was all over.’”

Government prosecutors have suggested that Martin was disgruntled. An initial review of the documents he allegedly stole turned up a letter from 2007 addressed to government employees with whom Martin worked. He referred to them as “clowns” and was critical of government security measures [all sic]:

Well, for one thing, I’ve seen pretty much all your tech secrets wrt regard to compusec [computer security]. Thanks. You made me a much better infosec [information security] practitioner. In exchange, well, I gave you my time, and you failed to allow me to help you . .

You are missing most of the basics in security practice, while thinking you are the best. It’s the bread and butter stuff that will trip you up. Trust me on this one. Seen it. . . .

Dudes/Dudettes, I can’t make this any plainer . . . Listen up . . . ‘They’ are inside the perimeter. . .

I’ll leave you with this: if you don’t get obnoxious, obvious, and detrimental to my future, then I will not bring you ‘into the light’, as it were. If you do, well, remember that you did it to yourselves.

Martin’s attorneys, James Wyda and Deborah Boardman, both federal public defenders, said in a statement earlier this month after Martin was arrested that their client “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.”