Ex-NSA contractor pleads guilty to stealing massive amounts of classified info

A former contractor working with the National Security Agency will plead guilty to stealing huge amounts of classified data in what some experts believe is the largest such theft in U.S. history.

Harold Martin will plead guilty to one count of "willful retention of national defense information" after it was discovered he had been stealing secrets for twenty years.


Authorities said they seized 50 terabytes of data from Martin's home, which officials said could be the biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history.

The government has not said what, if anything, Martin did with the stolen data.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on the single count.  Martin has not struck a plea deal with prosecutors and could still be tried on the remaining 19 counts in the indictment, the court filings said.

A lawyer for Martin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NSA has been hit by a series of damaging data breaches in recent years.

In December, former NSA employee Nghia Hoang Pho pleaded guilty to illegally taking classified information that an intelligence official said was later stolen from his home computer by Russian hackers.

Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp[.] when he was taken into custody in August 2016.

Booz Allen also employed Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of secret files to news organizations in 2013 that exposed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA.

Martin was employed as a private contractor by at least seven companies, working for several government agencies beginning in 1993 after serving in the U.S. Navy for four years, according to the indictment.

His positions, which involved work on highly classified projects involving government computer systems, gave him various security clearances that routinely provided him access to top-secret information, it said.

The indictment also alleged that Martin stole documents from U.S. Cyber Command, the CIA[,] and the National Reconnaissance Office.

While the government tends to over-classify information, this is the NSA, where even small leaks can lead to disastrous consequences.  It's a sure bet that somewhere in those 50 terabytes of data discovered in Martin's home, there is information that could severely damage our national security.

The NSA is being tight-lipped about what Martin did with the information, and legal proceedings are not likely to reveal much of anything in open court.  This complicates prosecuting someone for stealing secrets but is necessary to prevent even more damage being done to our security.

The public will probably never know just how badly our security was compromised.  It was nearly thirty years before we discovered the extent of the damage done to the U.S. Navy as a result of the theft of classified data by John Walker and his compatriots in the 1980s.  Suffice it to say that if there had been a war between the U.S. and Soviet Union back then, our naval vessels would have become extremely vulnerable.