A 51-year-old man who worked for the same government contractor as whistleblower Edward Snowden has been charged with stealing sensitive documents from the National Security Agency.
Maryland resident Harold Thomas Martin was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Martin was arrested Aug. 27 after federal agents searched his home, storage sheds, and vehicle and discovered six highly classified documents and mix of other top secret records, reports USA Today.
“These six documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues. [Their] unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”
Martin faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing government property and a year for mishandling classified documents, but so far he hasn’t been charged under the Espionage Act like Obama wants to do with Snowden. If Martin is found to have passed the secret government files on to a third party, then he’ll face more serious charges.
Court documents say Martin initially denied any wrongdoing, but he later admitted to stealing the classified material and hiding it in his car and home, according to Wired.
“Martin stated that he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized.”
It’s still unclear if Martin intended to be a whistle blower like Edward Snowden or whether he planned on selling the classified material to the highest bidder.
His crime was discovered during a probe of stolen NSA data. Last month the group Shadow Brokers announced an auction of stolen NSA data including top-secret hacking tools.
Martin’s arrest adds to the embarrassment facing NSA security and their continued use of security contractors like BoozAllen, which previously employed whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The arrest comes as an internet campaign asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden gains steam following the release of Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden. The new movie has helped propel Edward Snowden into the spotlight once again and the NSA leaker is using the opportunity to speak at universities and tech conferences across the country, using a robot, reports Fortune.
“If you want to stop the NSA from spying on you, the best way to do that right now, and perhaps the only way we can do that given the disparity of resources is through the political process.”
Snowden was back making headlines this week after the news broke that Yahoo secretly scanned every single one of its customer’s emails for the U.S. government. The internet company secretly built and operated a software program designed to search every email passing through its system.
The company was operating in cooperation with a classified U.S. government demand, but experts say this is the first time such a company has actually scanned every single email it has access to. Usually, under such a request, the company would have scanned stored messages or a small number of accounts in real time.
Google and Microsoft both said they had never been asked to conduct such a search, according to Reuters.
“We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’.”
U.S. intelligence agencies can legally ask internet service providers to turn over customer data if it aids in the prevention of terrorist attacks although some of that authority has been eroded since Snowden’s NSA leak.
What do you think of the new theft of government documents by Snowden copycat Harold Martin?
[Featured Image by Patrick Semansky/AP Images]