In a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in August but revealed today, the federal government announced the secret arrest of a contractor for the National Security Agency for his alleged theft of highly classified material that, if made public, could have caused "exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States."

The FBI alleges that Harold Thomas Martin II (51) of Maryland kept classified information in his home or in two nearby sheds. The papers and digital media files, some of which had the highest Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance rating, were produced in 2014, according to the complaint.

"These six documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues," the complaint says. The Department of Justice said that if convicted, Martin could see up to 11 years in prison for the removal of classified material and the theft of government property. A public defender assigned to Martin told ABC News that there is "no evidence that Hal Martin has betrayed his country."

While the FBI’s complaint does not identify for which agency Martin was a contractor, but media sources say that it was the National Security Agency -- the very same shadowy government bureau from which another contractor, Edward Snowden, allegedly stole classified information in the biggest loss of information in US intelligence history. Snowden has been on the run ever since allegedly purloining a cache of NSA documents in 2013. Martin was interviewed by federal agents in August, said the complaint. When "confronted with specific documents,” it said, he “admitted he took documents and digital files from his work assignment to his residence and vehicle that he knew were classified."

The complaint alleges that Martin knew what he had done was wrong. According to the White House, "President Obama takes quite seriously" the allegations contained in the complaint. Martin worked for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, which is the very same firm that employed Snowden. Without naming Martin, Booz Allen released a statement today claiming that when it learned of the arrest, the firm contacted law enforcement to offer its “total cooperation” and "fired the employee."

"We continue to cooperate fully with the government on its investigation into this serious matter," the company said. Shares of Booz Allen (BAH) dropped 4% today in Wall Street trading in the wake of the accusations against Martin. Booz Allen said that there has been "no material change" to its rolodex of clients as a result of this "serious matter" and the alleged conduct "does not reflect our core values."

 

Stewart Baker, a former general counsel to the NSA, told CNBC, "They will get a lot of attention, even if they did nothing wrong." He added that if Booz Allen is revealed to have made mistakes checking Martin's background, "it's going to go pretty badly for them."

Don't do this if your name isn't Clinton

The Department of Justice said that if convicted, Martin could see up to 11 years in prison for the removal of classified material and the theft of government property.

Writing at the Observer website, analyst John Schindler wrote in an article entitled 'Has the Russian Mole inside NSA finally been arrested?

"Needless to add, it’s a serious crime to remove Top Secret/SCI information from your office and take it home with you, where it cannot be protected. It’s a bad idea to attempt this if your last name isn’t Clinton, because Americans really do go to jail for this. So far, Martin is facing up to one year in prison on charges of theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. However, if it turns out that this was not an isolated incident, particularly if espionage is involved, he could get a lot more time behind bars—decades, even."

In August, Schindler reported that the NSA's computers went down. What followed was a demand from a group calling itself "The Shadow Brokers" for $500 million to return classified materials to the agency. Fears that at least six so-called "moles" in the US intelligence community are cooperating with Russia were piqued, he wrote, when highly sensitive NSA hacking tools on the Internet by the "Shadow Brokers. "NSA’s public website crashed and stayed down for almost a full day. Although there’s no indication this was linked to The Shadow Brokers, the optics for NSA were terrible," wrote Schindler. Harold Martin has been linked to the Shadow Brokers.

There is "no evidence that Hal Martin has betrayed his country," Attorney James Wyda said. Martin's defense attorney added that Martin served "honorably" in the US Navy and has spent his career "serving and protecting America." Military records for Martin provided by the Navy show that he served for 13 years, part of that time aboard the USS Seattle. He and his former wife divorced in 2010. Described by neighbors as a quiet man, Martin’s arrest was noisy and dramatic. Neighbors heard a detonation followed by the arrival of FBI agents, cars, and vans.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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