A former US contractor who stockpiled secret National Security Agency data at his home has been jailed for nine years. The case is another embarrassment for the NSA after Edward Snowden leaked classified info in 2013.
US District Judge Richard Bennett acknowledged at sentencing there was no evidence that Harold Martin had intended to forward classified information, but said "people's lives were potentially in danger."
Martin, whose nine-year jail sentence stems from a plea agreement, apologized, saying "my methods were wrong, illegal and highly questionable."
He admitted guilt to a single count of willful retention of national defense information — after initially denying a string of charges.
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The case came to light in 2016 when FBI agents raided Martin's home, car and storage shed, finding documents dating back more than 23 years from his time working for at least seven federal entities, including the NSA and US Cyber Command.
The documents included personal details of government employees and "top secret" email chains, said investigators, who initially put the volume at 50 terabytes of electronic files.
Martin was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, which subsequently said it had improved its process of hiring employees. The case was a further embarrassment after the NSA's global surveillance methods were revealed in 2013 by another Booz Allen contractor, Edward Snowden — who is now living in Russia and accused of treason in the United States.
The Martin case came to light just two weeks after an internet group calling itself Shadow Brokers advertised the sale of hacking tools stolen from the NSA. Prosecutors, however, never linked Martin to that incident.
Defense links theft to hoarding
Prior to sentencing, Robert Hur, the United States attorney in Maryland, told The Associated Press that Martin had put "national security at risk."
But defense attorneys described Martin, a Navy veteran, as a compulsive hoarder who never betrayed his country and who had a mental health disorder.
The stolen documents had been "profoundly important to him when he was in the throes of his mental health situation," said defense lawyer James Wyda.