US authorities have arrested a Maryland man, a former NSA contractor, under charges of removal of classified documents and theft of government property, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced today.
The man’s name is Harold Thomas Martin III, age 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, and authorities arrested him on August 27, 2016, when they also executed a search warrant at his home.
Officials said agents searching his home discovered hard copies of documents classified as “top secret,” along with digital documents stored on various storage devices.
Martin, who was at the time an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor for which Edward Snowden also worked, had clearance to access and manipulate these files at work, but not at home.
Even if the documents were dated 2014, authorities claimed they still held sensitive information.
“These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues,” DoJ officials said. “The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods, and capabilities. […] unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”
DoJ officials didn’t mention if Martin was the main suspect behind the Shadow Brokers leak that happened this August. But the Washington Post cites an insider familiar with the case, who says that officials are investigating Martin as a possible source of the Shadow Brokers leak.
Back in August, a nefarious group calling itself The Shadow Brokers leaked hacking tools which they claimed to have stolen from the Equation Group, a cyber-espionage entity that security firms have claimed to be the NSA.
Because the Equation Group activities are linked to international hacking incidents, the US government won’t be admitting in public anytime soon that it’s investigating the Shadow Brokers leak. Acknowledgment of such an investigation might indirectly link the US government with offensive cyber-operations, which are considered acts of war, according to a recent NATO classification of official battlefield domains.
The New York Times proposes a different reason for Martin’s arrest, saying that he might be the primary suspect behind recent leaks of NSA documents to WikiLeaks.
According to the DoJ indictment, Martin faces 11 years in prison based on the current charges.