Government alleges former NSA contractor stole ‘astonishing quantity’ of classified data over 20 years
By Ellen Nakashima
Oct 20 2016
Federal prosecutors in Baltimore on Thursday said they will charge a former National Security Agency contractor with violating the Espionage Act, alleging that he made off with “an astonishing quantity” of classified digital and other data over 20 years in what is thought to be the largest theft of classified government material ever.
In a 12-page memo, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein and two other prosecutors laid out a much more far-reaching case against Harold T. Martin III than was previously outlined. They say he took at least 50 terabytes of data and “six full banker’s boxes worth of documents,” with many lying open in his home office or kept on his car’s back seat and in the trunk. Other material was stored in a shed on his property.
One terabyte is the equivalent of 500 hours’ worth of movies.
Martin, who will appear at a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Friday, also took personal information about government employees as well as dozens of computers, thumb drives and other digital storage devices, the government memo said.
The government has not alleged that Martin passed any material to a foreign government, but contends that if he is released on bail he could do so.
A federal contractor suspected in the leak of powerful National Security Agency hacking tools has been arrested and charged with stealing classified information from the U.S. government, according to court records and U.S. officials familiar with the case. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
Though he lacks a valid U.S. passport, the government said Martin could still flee to a foreign government that might wish to help him. Prosecutors said he has communicated with unnamed people in Russian and in June downloaded information on Russian and other languages.
The prosecutors also said Martin had an “arsenal” of weapons in his home and car, including an assault-rifle-style tactical weapon and a pistol-grip shotgun with a flash suppressor.
In a complaint unsealed earlier this month, the government charged him with felony theft of government property and the unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, a misdemeanor. The prosecutors said that when an indictment is filed, they expect charges to include “violations of the Espionage Act,” offenses that carry a prison term of up to 10 years for each count.
Prosecutors will argue Friday that Martin, 51, of Glen Burnie, Md., presents “a high risk of flight, a risk to the nation and to the physical safety of others,” and that he should not be released from jail.
“The case against the defendant thus far is overwhelming, and the investigation is ongoing,” said Rosenstein, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers and trial attorney David Aaron. “The defendant knows, and, if no longer detained, may have access to a substantial amount of highly classified information, which he has flagrantly mishandled and could easily disseminate to others.”
Continued detention without bail is necessary, prosecutors said, because of “the grave and severe danger that pretrial release of the defendant would pose to the national security of the United States.”
Martin’s attorneys argued in a memo filed Thursday that their client is not a flight risk and should be released under court-approved conditions pending trial. “The government concocts fantastical scenarios in which Mr. Martin — who, by the government’s own admission, does not possess a valid passport — would attempt to flee the country,” wrote public defenders James Wyda and Deborah L. Boardman.