WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Perhaps inspired by noted whistleblower Edward Snowden, a defense contractor for the National Security Agency faces federal charges for allegedly stealing highly classified information from the government, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Harold Thomas Martin III was arrested In August after federal agents discovered he was in possession of the classified materials, which was stored on various electronic devices in his home.
Martin did technology work for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, officials said, and had access to the information — which sources say was a computer code designed to hack into other networks. He has been charged with theft of government property and unlawful removal or retention of classified documents.
It’s unclear what Martin’s intention may have been by taking the materials.
The FBI said Martin initially denied taking the information but later admitted he knew that he was not authorized to remove it, the criminal complaint said.
The incident is the second major embarrassment for the nation’s top security agency in less than four years. In 2013, Snowden removed classified information about the NSA’s domestic phone surveillance program, which was run under the agency’s anti-terror umbrella, and leaked it to the press. He later sought asylum in Russia, where he remains to this day.
Snowden also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, an outside security firm contracted by the NSA to perform certain tech work.
“We have not seen any evidence. But what we know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country,” a defense attorney said.
Authorities are not sure whether Martin, 51, had any political motives for supposedly stealing the information.
Prosecutors said some of the stolen information had the potential to cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”
Investigators are trying to determine whether Martin was involved in the leak of sensitive NSA hacking tools in August, The Washington Post reported.