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Government Charges Contractor With Stealing Classified Information


One of the intelligence community's worst fears has come true again. Federal prosecutors have charged an NSA contractor with stealing national security secrets. Experts had worried about this kind of insider threat ever since Edward Snowden's leaks three years ago. With us to talk about the new case is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Hi there.


MCEVERS: So what is the Justice Department saying about this NSA contractor?

JOHNSON: Prosecutors identified him as Harold Thomas Martin III. He's 51 years old, a U.S. Navy veteran from suburban Maryland. The FBI searched his home, his car and some storage sheds on the property. On August 27, court papers say they found paper documents and electronic devices. Maryland U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein offered this detail.


ROD ROSENSTEIN: The complaint specifically references six documents that were highly classified information that allegedly belonged to the government.

MCEVERS: Highly classified information - do we know any more about what that is?

JOHNSON: Authorities say they don't want to describe the topics for fear of compromising sources and methods, but one focus of the investigation is whether those stolen documents include computer code that has allowed the U.S. to hack into the systems of foreign adversaries.

MCEVERS: Do we have any idea of why Martin might have done this?

JOHNSON: Law enforcement sources are telling me motive remains a key part of the investigation, whether for financial gain, some ideological tie to a foreign government. Right now authorities just don't know enough to say. They're developing a profile of this man.

When the FBI approached him in August, Martin denied stealing anything. Then when he was confronted with documents, he told the FBI he knew what he did was wrong and he shouldn't have done it.

MCEVERS: Is Martin speaking publicly now?

JOHNSON: He was arrested more than a month ago, but the FBI kept the case quiet so it could continue to investigate, Kelly. He's being detained right now with the approval of a federal judge, and his public defender says Martin loves his country and says there is no evidence he betrayed the U.S.

MCEVERS: How would he have gotten access to these kinds of government secrets?

JOHNSON: Kelly, this man Harold Martin worked for the government contracting company Booz Allen Hamilton. That's of course the same company that Edward Snowden worked for when he took a huge number of documents. Booz Allen says it's fired Martin and it is cooperating with investigators and no comment today from the National Security Agency - the NSA - now burned twice.

MCEVERS: So we've been hearing ever since, you know, the Snowden leaks how the government is trying to police trouble like this in its own ranks. How could this have happened?

JOHNSON: Well, these systems are not foolproof. The administration and the NSA have said in the past they are trying. And just today the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, mentioned they've been doing stronger background checks in trying to limit the number of people who have these top secret security clearances in the first place.

MCEVERS: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thanks so much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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