NSA Contractor Charged With Stealing Classified Materials

Oct 6, 2016
Originally published on October 6, 2016 7:03 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We begin this hour with the National Security Agency, and fears of a second Snowden. That would be Edward Snowden, the former contractor who revealed NSA secrets to the world. Now comes word that the FBI has arrested another contractor. He has been charged with stealing, you guessed it, NSA secrets. Our national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly is in the studio with me. Mary Louise, good morning.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what do we know about this guy?

KELLY: We know his name, it's Harold Thomas Martin III. We know he's 51, lives in Glen Burnie, Md.

GREENE: Not far from the nation's capital.

KELLY: True, and near Fort Meade, the NSA headquarters. And we know that he was arrested in August. He's still in custody, although these charges have only just been made public. He's one of - you know, the NSA has these armies of private contractors who work there. Martin is one of them, or was one of them until Booz Allen, his employer, fired him. We should note Booz Allen is also where Edward Snowden worked.

GREENE: Oh, yeah. What exactly is he charged with here?

KELLY: So when they raided his house, August 27, investigators found - they searched his car, they searched his house, they searched two storage sheds there. And they found loads of papers, devices, computers, documents. The complaint that's been unsealed mentions that these documents were marked classified. This is not something he accidentally took home in his briefcase. And the complaint singles out six documents specifically. These are documents from 2014 that were produced with very sensitive sources and methods. So it says if these were to fall into the wrong hands, it could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.

GREENE: So, I mean, I think in this day and age, we think of things being digital. You said a shed with papers? It's possible that some of these, I mean, just literally pieces of paper that are classified documents? It's amazing.

KELLY: Literally pieces of paper, but also digital documents, all sorts of things. There's a lot.

GREENE: Any idea, if indeed he stole this stuff from the NSA, why he would have done it?

KELLY: The motive is, to me, the most interesting question. And the short answer is we don't know. I mean, you can tick through the possibilities, anything from financial motivation - you steal something, you could sell it - to...

GREENE: Sure.

KELLY: ...Some sort of ideological motive, a la Edward Snowden. Maybe he just had a grudge against his boss, if he did in fact do all of this. We just don't know. I will say that among the people I talked to, such as Mike Hayden, the general who ran the NSA, they noted it's worth pointing out that he was not charged under the Espionage Act. That's what Edward Snowden was charged under. These are lesser charges that have been brought, so stealing and possessing classified information. That's significant because if the Justice Department thought they could nail him for sharing secrets with China or Russia, they would have tried to and they didn't.

GREENE: Now does that suggest, if not being charged under the Espionage Act, that these secrets might not be as damaging or revealing to national security as what Edward Snowden released, or...

KELLY: We don't know what's in them. Again, all still classified. But not necessarily, it just suggests that they don't have evidence that he tried to share them, or that he did so with intent to harm the U.S.

GREENE: OK, so possession might - versus trying to share them with someone.

KELLY: Right.

GREENE: Tell me, Mary Louise, you reported over the summer on the NSA itself being hacked, some of the code that the NSA uses. Someone got their hands on that it appeared. Is that somehow tied to this case?

KELLY: Again, fascinating question. Again, we don't know. That was indeed what seems to be authentic NSA code that was turned up online in August, and everyone immediately thought, oh, this was Russia hacking the NSA. I started hearing a few weeks ago, maybe not. We did a story that maybe this was some sort of inside job. Now, is that linked to Martin? Was he potentially involved in some way? We don't know. I'm told that that is a major focus of the ongoing investigation.

GREENE: No idea, obviously, how this case is going to pan out. But all this talk after Edward Snowden about the NSA tightening its security, at the very least, I mean, is this an embarrassment for this agency after so much talk of making things more secure?

KELLY: It's a huge embarrassment for the NSA, for Booz Allen, which, as we noted, provides many contractors there. As I talked to people yesterday, the way one former National Security Agency official summed it up was, look, this is not a second Snowden.

GREENE: OK.

KELLY: But it's a second insider. And that means three years after Snowden they still don't have it right. And I think that the National Security Agency knows this. As I've dug around, I keep trying to get my hands on this classified Pentagon inspector general report, which is dated August 27 - the same day Martin was arrested. It was looking into changes the NSA has tried to make to internal security. And the headline - the title begins NSA should take additional steps.

GREENE: Wow, so we'll see what those additional steps are and when they happen. Fascinating stuff. NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, thanks a lot.

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