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.