51-year-old Thomas Martin III allegedly stole codes capable of hacking into foreign government networks, a breach that could “cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security, according to sources.
Authorities revealed,Wednesday,that the FBI arrested Harold Thomas Martin III without fanfare in connection with the crime, in recent weeks. Martin, 51, of Glen Burnie, MD, has been in custody since his first court appearance in August.
DOJ statement on arrest of Howard Thomas Martin III
High level sources say the arrested contractor worked for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the same firm that employed yet to be apprehended whistleblower Edward Snowden. The firm, a major player in the information technology field, is responsible for building and operating many of the agency’s most sensitive cyberoperations. Snowden himself, is currently in exile in Moscow after leaking classified U.S. National Security Agency documents, in 2013 after fleeing the country to Hong Kong.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, investigators executing search warrants of Martin’s Maryland property on Aug. 27, uncovered hard-copies of documents and digital information stored on various devices in his home, sheds on his property, vehicle and his person.
The criminal complaint notes that much of the allegedly stolen property recovered in his possession was clearly marked as U.S government property . Investigators also turned up property valued at more than $1,000 at Martin’s residence and vehicle, according to the complaint.
Martin having agreed to be interviewed “at first denied” the theft allegations. However, after he was confronted with the specific documents, he later admitted he took documents and digital files from his work assignment to his residence and vehicle that he knew were classified,” according to the complaint .
Edward Snowdon the infamous whistleblower now on exile in Russia and Howard Thomas Martin III both worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, the contracting firm responsible for building and operating many of the agency’s most sensitive cyberoperations
Through interviews with someone “designated as an original classification authority,” investigators determined that the allegedly stolen information is classified as Top Secret, “meaning that unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the U.S.”
Addressing a cybersecurity panel, Wednesday Assistant Attorney General for National Security Justice, John Carlin, confirmed an arrest of “an individual who’s involved in taking classified information.” He said the arrest highlights the threats posed by insiders.
Sources also say however, the information allegedly stolen by Mr. Martin appears to be different in nature from Mr. Snowden’s theft. Snowden leaked tens of thousands of NSA documents in 2013 and revealed that the government agency was collecting telephone records of millions of Americans.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong before revealing the documents, calling himself a whistleblower. He is currently exiled in Russia and has petitioned for a presidential pardon, on the grounds that U.S. citizens benefitted from his disclosure of the secret government surveillance program.
The Martin complaint charges the former contractor with unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, which carries a maximum one-year sentence in addition to theft of stolen property, an offense punishable by up to 10 years.