U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright sentenced former FBI Special Agent, Terry J. Albury to prison for 48 months for sharing classified information with media outlet, The Intercept.

Albury had previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his having provided classified information to the media outlet from 2016-17. Here’s the takeaway from this insider threat turned reality: An individual hell-bent on breaking trust and exfiltrating information from a position of trust has a tremendous advantage over those whose responsibility is to protect this same information from unauthorized access or sharing.

How smartphones and “Cut and paste” can get you sent to Prison

Of interest to those who shoulder the insider threat program responsibilities within government and within the National Industrial Security Program arena are the manner and means used by Albury. The court document describes to us how Albury took steps to avoid detection by the FBI’s data loss protection applications designed to prevent an insider from doing what Albury accomplished.

One of the techniques used by Albury would be to cut content from a sensitive document and paste them into a new document, using the new document as a collation of interesting materials which he would subsequently pass to his media contact.

Another technique used by Albury was to take “pictures of the computer screen.” By taking photos, the metadata may show Albury having access a given document, but would not have shown him saving, printing, or otherwise doing anything particularly noteworthy involving the document.

A third technique used by Albury would be to save documents of interest to an external storage drive, which he hid in his personal residence. This should have been detectable.

How Albury’s sentencing compares to other leakers

Albury was sentenced to 48 months in prison, 5 months less than Reality Winner who shared NSA materials to the same publication. From this seat, there seems to be a disparity between the two, as one would expect that a Special Agent of the FBI would be held to the same standard as that of an employee within a contracting organization falling under the National Industrial Security Program.

This may simply be that Albury’s counsel was more persuasive during the pre-sentencing engagement and obtained 48 months for his client, whereas, Winner’s counsel requested a sentence of 53 months which she received.

In December 2018, we will see James A. Wolfe, former security director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) -who just this week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about sharing SSCI information with his reporter girlfriend. The plea agreement is requesting between zero and six months in prison for Wolfe. Given the similarities of these leaks, it’s clear that the U.S. Federal judicial system is uneven in its sentencing for similar crimes.

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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).