NSA case spans years

Of­fi­cials say Martin started steal­ing se­cret doc­u­ments in 1990s

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Ian Dun­can

The al­leged theft of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments by a for­mer NSA con­trac­tor was “breath­tak­ing” in its scope, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said in a court fil­ing Thurs­day.

They said Harold T. Martin III, 51, took doc­u­ments dat­ing from the year he first ob­tained a se­cu­rity clear­ance in 1996 and con­tin­ued un­til his ar­rest this year, amass­ing an archive many times larger than the haul Ed­ward Snow­den is sus­pected of tak­ing from the in­tel­li­gence agency head­quar­tered at Fort Meade.

Doc­u­ments that Martin is al­leged to have taken de­tail some of the coun­try’s most sen­si­tive in­tel­li­gence oper­a­tions. Au­thor­i­ties have not said why he al­legedly stole the doc­u­ments, or whether they be­lieve he planned to do any­thing with them.

Martin, a Navy vet­eran who lives in Glen Burnie, was charged in Au­gust with steal­ing gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments. Pros­e­cu­tors said they an­tic­i­pate fil­ing more se­ri­ous charges against him un­der the Es­pi­onage Act.

The new fil­ing came on the eve of his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance in court, when he will seek to be re­leased from jail while his case moves for­ward. Pros­e­cu­tors said the ac­cu­sa­tions against him and the risk he would pose if he goes free are too grave for a judge to take that step.

“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,” two Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers wrote in the fil­ing.

The gov­ern­ment has not ac­cused Martin of shar­ing doc­u­ments with any­one.

Such a sweep­ing cam­paign of theft, if that’s all it was, would alone be deeply em­bar­rass­ing for the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity — par­tic­u­larly af­ter the gov­ern­ment tight­ened ac­cess to clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als af­ter Snow­den leaked se­crets about NSA spy pro­grams to jour­nal­ists.

But it’s dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate what harm it might have caused to the na­tion’s se­cu­rity.

Mark Stout, a for­mer CIA and State Depart­ment in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst, said keep­ing the files on a com­puter at home would have left them vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers, es­pe­cially if a for­eign spy agency knew where Martin worked.

Yet Stout, the di­rec­tor of the in­tel­li­gence pro­gram at the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, said Martin prob­a­bly wouldn’t have taken that risk if he had been work­ing on be­half of a for­eign gov­ern­ment.

“I’d be stunned if it turned out he was on the take from the Rus­sians or the Chi­nese,” he said.

John C. “Chris” Inglis, a for­mer deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, said that it’s likely only be­cause Martin was keep­ing the files to him­self that he went un­de­tected for so long. But the case still leaves the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity fac­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions about se­cu­rity.

“They’re go­ing to have to up the ante,” Inglis said. “Clearly, what we’re do­ing isn’t good enough, so what do we do?”

Inglis said pre­vent­ing ev­ery theft will prob­a­bly never be pos­si­ble —“un­less you do cav­ity searches, un­less you are watch­ing peo­ple mo­ment by mo­ment.”

Martin’s lawyers de­clined to com­ment on the new al­le­ga­tions. They said in a court fil­ing Thurs­day that there was no le­gal ba­sis for hold­ing him in de­ten­tion and that de­fen­dants in sim­i­lar cases were freed pend­ing trial.

“The gov­ern­ment fo­cuses al­most ex­clu­sively on the po­ten­tial dan­ger that might re­sult if Mr. Martin is re­leased,” the at­tor­neys wrote. “We dis­agree with this as a fac­tual mat­ter.”

Martin left ac­tive mil­i­tary ser­vice in 1995 and worked for a string of de­fense con­trac­tors. He was em­ployed by Booz Allen Hamil­ton at the time of his ar­rest.

He was also pur­su­ing a doc­tor­ate in in­for­ma­tion sys­tems at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County, study­ing a sub­ject that pros­e­cu­tors said was closely re­lated to his gov­ern­ment work.

Au­thor­i­ties said they seized some 50 ter­abytes of dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion — the equiv­a­lent of half a bil­lion pages of doc­u­ments — from Martin’s home and car in late Au­gust. They said the files were scat­tered across dif­fer­ent com­put­ers, ex­ter­nal hard drives, CDs and USB drives.

The amount of data they said they seized dwarfs the 1.5 mil­lion files that au­thor­i­ties say Snow­den, also an agency con­trac­tor, shared with news or­ga­ni­za­tions in 2013.

Pros­e­cu­tors said the ear­li­est doc­u­ments Martin had taken dated to1996. It’s not clear what fi­nally led in­ves­ti­ga­tors to Martin af­ter so many years, but his ar­rest in the sum­mer co­in­cided with an on­line leak of NSA hack­ing tools by a group call­ing it­self the Shadow Bro­kers.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Martin took steps to cover some of his dig­i­tal tracks, en­crypt­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and us­ing spe­cial tools to avoid leav­ing traces on his com­puter. But they also said he ap­peared to take few pre­cau­tions with the sen­si­tive doc­u­ments, many of which they said “were ly­ing openly in his home of­fice or stored in the back­seat and trunk of his ve­hi­cle.”

Shortly be­fore Martin was ar­rested, pros­e­cu­tors said, he went to Con­necti­cut to buy a po­lice-grade Chevro­let Caprice and had gath­ered an arse­nal of weapons, in­clud­ing a mil­i­tary-style ri­fle.

Martin’s lawyers have said there’s no ev­i­dence he be­trayed the coun­try. Pros­e­cu­tors have said he told them he col­lected the clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion for his own ed­i­fi­ca­tion.

Martin knows Rus­sian, pros­e­cu­tors said, and pre­sents a flight risk if he’s re­leased. Even if he has no in­ten­tion of flee­ing, they said, he would be a prime tar­get for a for­eign in­tel­li­gence agency.

“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,” the Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers wrote.

Martin’s lawyers said their client would not try to run — he doesn’t even pos­sess a valid pass­port, they said — and said the gov­ern­ment was con­coct­ing “fan­tas­ti­cal sce­nar­ios” to jus­tify keep­ing him in jail.

“Mr. Martin’s wife is here in Mary­land,” the lawyers wrote. “His home is here in Mary­land.”

Harold Thomas Martin III, al­ready charged with steal­ing doc­u­ments, could face more se­ri­ous charges un­der the Es­pi­onage Act.

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