WASHINGTON: The FBI has arrested a man who worked as a private contractor for the National Security Agency in a probe into the theft of top-secret government information, the US authorities said Wednesday.
The Department of Justice released a criminal complaint against Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Maryland, charging him with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials.
Martin, who has now been fired, worked for Booz Allen Hamilton — the same firm that hired the NSAwhistleblower Edward Snowden.
The case is an embarrassing new blow for both theNSA and Booz Allen, which the New York Times said helps build and operate many of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber operations.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators found hard copies and digital files of top-secret documents in Martin’s home and car.
He was arrested August 27 following the search.
Six documents “were produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues,” the complaint states.
Booz Allen said it reached out to offer full cooperation with the authorities as soon as it learned of the arrest.
“And we fired the employee,” it said in a statement.
“Booz Allen is a 102-year-old company, and the alleged conduct does not reflect our core values.”
The NSA declined to comment.
Martin initially denied charges, but admitted to taking the files when confronted with the documents, stating “he knew what he had done was wrong,” investigators wrote.
Martin’s lawyers said they had not seen any evidence.
“But what we know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country,” they said in a statement to US media. “There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.”
Prosecutors said unauthorized disclosure of the documents could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to US national security.
The arrest came after investigators began looking into the theft of source code used by the NSA to hack adversaries’ computer systems, such as those of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
Such access would enable the NSA to plant malware in rivals’ systems and monitor — or even attack — their networks.
Investigators are still puzzling over a motive for the alleged crimes, which do not look like an espionage case, The Times said.
It is also unclear whether Martin is thought to be behind the leak of classified NSA code attributed to a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers.”
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, and 10 years in prison for the theft of government property.
He appeared in a Baltimore court on August 29 and remains in custody.
Former NSA contractor Snowden has been living in Russia since shortly after leaking documents revealing the scope of the agency’s monitoring of private data.