FBI Arrested NSA Contractor For Walking Off With 'Highly Classified Information'

from the thought-this-kind-of-thing-was-supposed-to-be-impossible? dept

The Justice Department announced this morning that it had arrested Harold Martin, an NSA contractor (working for Booz Allen), for apparently copying “highly classified” material. The arrest actually happened at the end of August, but the details were only unsealed today.

According to the affidavit, on August 27, 2016, search warrants were executed at Martin?s residence in Glen Burnie, including two storage sheds, as well as upon his vehicle and person. During execution of the warrants, investigators located hard copy documents and digital information stored on various devices and removable digital media. A large percentage of the materials recovered from Martin?s residence and vehicle bore markings indicating that they were property of the United States and contained highly classified information of the United States, including Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). In addition, investigators located property of the United States with an aggregate value in excess of $1,000, which Martin allegedly stole.

The complaint alleges that among the classified documents found in the search were six classified documents obtained from sensitive intelligence and produced by a government agency in 2014. These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues. The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods, and capabilities.

The NY Times story about this claims that the information Martin had was “computer code.” There’s a lot of speculation on the Twitters that this is related to the infamous Shadow Brokers “leak” of NSA hacking tools. The dates don’t fully line up. The Shadow Brokers leak involved code from 2013. The DOJ claims that the code it found Martin had is from 2014 — though it’s certainly possible that the investigation into Shadow Brokers led them to Martin (the arrest came the week after the Shadow Brokers info went public). However, the NY Times report does say that the info was for breaking into foreign computer systems:

The contractor arrested in recent weeks is suspected of taking the highly classified ?source code? developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Two officials said that some of the information the contractor is suspected of taking was dated.

As always, it will be interesting to hear the other side of this story. We’ve certainly seen the DOJ come down hard on former NSA employees and contractors, claiming they had made off with classified information, when the later details turned out to show a lot less. But this is clearly a story worth following…

It should also make you wonder just how many “controls” the NSA has really put in place to keep employees and contractors from walking off with highly classified information. We know that Snowden did it back in 2013, but the NSA keeps insisting that it’s put in place more controls to stop it from happening again. And, if this truly is exploit code, this is much worse. Snowden made off with information about certain programs — but not actual code.

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Comments on “FBI Arrested NSA Contractor For Walking Off With 'Highly Classified Information'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Honeypots

Seeding a honeypot with large amounts of actual classified information that he could successfully copy and carry out seems like a bad idea. Sure, build a honeypot and stock it with plausible looking goods, but don’t make them so valuable that you will regret it if someone successfully copies them.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

My fantasy

My understanding of the NSA is that it’s a rogue agency that frequently lies to our legislature and administration to justify its own agenda, which likely includes finding and using leverage on our legislature and administration.

That said, my fantasy is that this incident leaves them without any contractors willing to trust the NSA to let them work without false arrest of their employees.

Let it rot into obsolescence and disrepair in a shortage of labor and expertise.

Anonymous Coward says:

These tools could be considered weapons. Of course they could be used domestically, just as a Nuke could hit a US city as easy as hitting Iran.

And you do realize that the CIA and NSA has no problems recruiting, right? Mostly from Ivy’s. If you are not that great a developer, they don’t want you, because they pretty much have the pick of the crop.

New Mexico Mark says:

What property did he steal?

“In addition, investigators located property of the United States with an aggregate value in excess of $1,000, which Martin allegedly stole.”

He took a hammer and a toilet seat?


Seriously, the way government seemingly assigns random values to assets, this could be anything from a POS ten-year-old netbook to a mothballed battleship.

David says:

Re: What property did he steal?

This is common. When Kevin Mitnick was charged with stealing documents, the value of the documents included the paper they were on, the entire cost of the DEC computer used to word-process the document, the software licenses of the same computer and word-processing software, the salary of the employee that word-processed the document. It was like Hollywood accounting.

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