US contractor arrested in classified data theft investigation | News | DW | 05.10.2016
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US contractor arrested in classified data theft investigation

A US contractor has been arrested for allegedly taking highly classified documents from a government agency. The information may include top secret codes on how to hack foreign governments, according to a media report.

Harold Thomas Martin III from Glen Burnie, Maryland was arrested in late August for reportedly taking classified documents and stealing government property, announced federal prosecutors on Wednesday.

Six of the retrieved classified documents Martin allegedly took were produced in an unspecified government agency in 2014, according to the Department of Justice statement detailing the recently unsealed criminal complaint.

"These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues," the Department of Justice statement read.

The statement did not disclose which governmental agency Martin worked for as a contractor, but the New York Times, who first reported the story, claimed he was working as a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA). Martin reportedly worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same company which employed the infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden noted on Twitter that authorities did not charge Martin under the Espionage Act, a federal law under which Snowden faces decades of imprisonment should he return to the US.

The New York Times article also alleges that some of the classified documents Martin is purported to have taken include top-secret codes to hack foreign governments.

"The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods and capabilities," the Department of Justice stated.

Unclear motive

Symbolbild NSA Sammeln von Telefondaten verfassungswidrig (picture-alliance/AP)

Martin allegedly worked as a contractor at the NSA, according to the New York Times

Investigators are still trying to determine what may have motivated Martin to take the classified data, according to the New York Times article. However, they said it does not look like an espionage case.

"There is no evidence that Hal Martin intended to betray his country," his public defenders, James Wyda and Deborah Boardman, said in a statement. "What we do know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country.

Martin voluntarily gave an interview to investigators wherein he "stated that he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized," the Justice Department complaint said, after he initially denied taking the documents.

In addition to removing classified documents without authorization, authorities allege that Martin stole some $1,000 (892 euros) worth of US government property.

The charges against Martin carry a maximum one-year sentence for unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. However, for theft of government property, Martin could face a maximum ten-year sentence.

rs/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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