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NSA Contractor To Be Charged With Violating Espionage Act For Stealing Classified Files


Image of NSA logo via On Thursday, federal prosecutors filed a motion in federal court expressing their intention to charge former NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III with violating The Espionage Act for stealing over 50 terabytes of classified data while working as a NSA contractor via Booz Allen Hamilton, the same security company that employed Edward Snowden. Martin, who had access to classified information going back to his time in the U.S. Naval Reserves starting in 1996, was secretly arrested in August, with his case being unsealed for public view over a month later in early October.

According to the papers filed with the court, “Among the many other classified documents found in the Defendant’s possession was a document marked as ‘Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information’ (‘TS/SCI’) regarding specific operational plans against a known enemy of the United States and its allies.” The top of the same document featured this disclaimer: “THIS CONOP CONTAINS INFORMATION CONCERNING EXTREMELY SENSITIVE U.S. PLANNING AND OPERATIONS THAT WILL BE DISCUSSED AND DISSEMINATED ONLY ON AN ABSOLUTE NEED TO KNOW BASIS. EXTREME OPSEC PRECAUTIONS MUST BE TAKEN.” Martin “was not directly involved” in the operation in question with reportedly “no need to know.”

Since “improper retention and transmission of national defense information is prohibited under the Espionage Act,” the federal prosecutors are anticipating that Martin’s charges  “will include violations of the Espionage Act.” Martin will be subject to “significantly higher statutory penalties” if charged under the Espionage Act than he would have if he was only hit with the charges listed in the existing complaint.

In a section going over how “overwhelming” the evidence of Martin’s guilt is, prosecutors note that “Many of the marked documents were lying openly in his home office or stored in the backseat and trunk of his vehicle.” When confronted, they claim that he confessed that “he knew such actions were unauthorized and wrong” and “that he had committed these crimes regularly over many years.”

Prosecutors are requesting that Martin be held without bail. The hearing on the matter will be held Friday (October 21st).

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David Bixenspan is a writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York.