As March drew to a close, so too did the legal machinations of Harold T. Martin III, the contractor within NSA and other government entities who for over 20 years hoarded reams of classified materials, some of which were classified at the highest levels of classification.
The Department of Justice originally offered a plea deal to Martin in December 2017. It was revised multiple times over the ensuing months as the government attempted to avoid a trial and obtain a guilty plea from Martin. Finally, a new agreement between Martin and the DOJ was struck on March 17. With the plea deal, Martin faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, three years supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The agreement calls for Martin to receive nine years in prison, three years supervised release, and a fine at the discretion of the court.
The plea discards all but one count of the indictment, “Willful Retention of National Defense Information, in violation of 18 U.S.C.~ 793(e), to which Martin pleads guilty.
Who is Harold Martin?
Harold Martin worked for at least seven private cleared contractors from 1993 through his arrest in August 2016. His Top Secret/SCI work supported both the United States intelligence community and the Department of Defense. Martin served in the U.S. Navy from 1988-1993, and with the Navy Reserve from 1992 to 2000. In a nutshell, Martin had and maintained access to highly sensitive national security information for a very long time.
What next for Harold Martin?
The court ordered the following to be completed prior to Martin’s July 2019 sentencing:
- A probation officer will deliver a presentence report.
- Martin’s lawyer will deliverany objections to sentencing guidance, or other information omitted from the presentencing report.
- A probation officer will respond to Martin’s objections or requests for additions/adjustments.
Martin is now waiting for the clock to tick and is hopeful that his sentence will be nine years or less as negotiated.
espionage: A small price to pay for stealing America’s Secrets
What does a nine-year sentence look like compared to other known leakers?
- Nghia Hoang Pho, stole numerous NSA documents from within their Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group and was sentenced to 60 months in prison.
- Reality Winner stole and shared one TOP SECRET/SCI document, from the NSA, to the media outlet “The Intercept.” Her lawyers negotiated a 63 months sentence, which she received.
- Former FBI Special Agent Terry Albury was sentenced to 48 months in prison for having stolen and shared classified FBI documents over an 18-month period with the media outlet “The Intercept”.
From this vantage point, it seems Martin is getting off easy with a nine-year prison sentence – just due to the lengthy nature of his subterfuge and the vast troves of data he walked away with. He absconded with over 50 terabytes of documents from NSA and did so for 20 years. For reference, a terabyte is generally accepted to be the equivalent of 18,750,000 documents or 75 million pages.
One may hypothesize how Martin’s legal team might have been superior to that of Albury and Winner in negotiating with the U.S. Attorneys in keeping their client’s prison time to a minimum. Perhaps, for the more cynical, the United States didn’t want a trial and determined the plea agreement saved both expense and face.
At the conclusion of his prison sentence, at age 63, Albury will be out in time to enjoy his Social Security.