FBI secretly arrests NSA contractor over ‘stolen secret code used to hack Russia’
A National Security Agency (NSA) contractor suspected of stealing highly classified computer codes used to hack the computer systems of foreign governments including Russia and China, a theft that could “cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security, has been secretly arrested by the FBI.
Like exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden, the contractor worked for consulting firm Booz Allen, which is behind many of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber-operations, law enforcement and intelligence sources told the New York Times.
Booz Allen, which also formerly Mr Snowden, has a major contract with the NSA, assisting in numerous issues including identifying employees who might steal confidential documents. In 2013, Mr Snowden leaked more than 1.5 million documents relating to the agency’s surveillance programmes, including some that targeted U.S. citizens.
The FBI discreetly arrested Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, in connection with the crime in recent weeks, authorities revealed Wednesday. Martin, a former Navy lieutenant who lives in Glen Burnie, Maryland – around 10 miles from the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters, has been in custody since his first court appearance in August.
Investigators executed search warrants of Martin’s Maryland property on August 27, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. During a raid on his property that month, authorities searched Martin’s home, two storage sheds, his vehicle and his person. The investigators reportedly found hard-copy documents and digital information stored on various devices. According to the criminal complaint, many of the allegedly stolen property were clearly classified as “sensitive compartmented” a level higher even than “top secret”. He was charged with theft of government property, and with the unauthorised removal or retention of classified documents.
Martin agreed to be interviewed and “at first denied” having taken the materials. He “later, when confronted with the specific documents, admitted he took documents and digital files from his work assignment to his residence and vehicle that he knew were classified,” according to the complaint.
“Martin stated that he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized,” the complaint says.
Until now, there is very little indication that his actions were “politically motivated,” and that he may have taken the documents and digital files before Mr Snowden’s leaks, an unnamed administration official told the Times.
This is huge. Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports NSA sat on huge flaws in US products? https://t.co/otgOwB5efm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 5, 2016
The documents were said to be NSA’s “source code” used to break into the computer networks of rival powers such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. However, there is also some speculation that the information may have included details on how the NSA methodically weakened the security of certain exported U.S. computer equipment.
Martin’s arrest could be another blow to the U.S. intelligence community, and would be the second case of a contractor stealing secret data from the NSA.
Mr Snowden, who is currently living in Russia, has been arguing for a pardon from the U.S. amid the release of Snowden, a film about his case by director Oliver Stone.
Source: The New York Times
The author Kavita Iyer
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