Espionage or wanton disregard for the handling of classified materials. We do not yet know the motive that led Harold Thomas Martin III, a private contractor (Booz Allen) embedded within the National Security Agency (NSA), to remove highly  classified materials from his workplace.  Martin was arrested August 27 and the criminal complaint unsealed October 5.

What we’ve been able to piece together from the criminal complaint filed August 29, is that Martin had unencumbered access to highly sensitive, Top Secret information as a part of his normal duties within the NSA.  How, Martin came under the suspicion of the NSA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his employer is not revealed. What we do know is Martin’s residence was searched August 27.

What did a search find?

The investigators found highly classified information of the United States, including Top Secret (TS) and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI).  These documents were found in hard copy format and on digital media and devices.  Six documents have been singled out as containing TS/SCI materials, which were were produced in 2014.  The original classification authority (NSA) reviewed these documents and concluded that the information contained continues to be properly classified at the Top Secret level and that the sources and methods involved with the provenance of the information warrant the SCI designation.

Additionally, the investigators found that Martin had purloined “property” of the United States government with a value well in excess of $1000.

Martin’s having classified materials in his home and personal vehicle was not authorized, and thus he is charged with retaining classified materials in an unauthorized location and with theft.

Is Martin another Snowden?

There is similarity with Edward Snowden and his theft of NSA classified documents. Both worked for Booz Allen and were embedded within the NSA infrastructure with natural access to highly classified information. Both stockpiled stolen documents on electronic media. Both broke trust with the United States government and violated the conditions of their secrecy agreement.  Apart from these similarities, there is nothing to link Martin and Snowden.

Insider threat

In time, we will learn more about Martin, his motivation and possibly how he came to the attention of the NSA/FBI.  For now, it is alleged that Martin is a thief and stockpiled highly classified materials in his personal residence, on a device(s) and media in an unauthorized manner.

Insider threat is very real.  Individual’s break trust for any number of reasons. The NISPOM requires all contractors to have an insider threat program. A program which exists to detect the individual prior to their purloining documents. The fact that Martin had classified materials in his residence dated 2014 may indicate that he has been at this for two years, undetected.

This is one to watch.

Copy of the Criminal Complaint against Martin

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).