Secrecy: Leaks Prosecutions

Harold Thomas Martin III's Indictment and Arraignment

By Nora Ellingsen
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 12:19 PM

On February 8th, six months after his arrest for stealing classified information, a federal grand jury in the District of Maryland indicted former NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III, 52, according to the Justice Department’s press release. Bobby initially wrote about the case when the criminal complaint was unsealed last October, and Jane Chong linked to the indictment here.

The original complaint charged Martin with one count of theft of government property, and one count of unauthorized removal or retention of classified document or materials by a government employee or contractor. After the August arrest, court documents indicated that the case was working its way towards a resolution. In September, the federal district court granted the prosecution’s motion, which was unopposed by the defense, to extend the time period in which to return an indictment until May 1, 2017. The government indicated the while they were busy pouring through the multiple terabytes of data seized during the search of Martin’s residence, both parties were hopeful about resolving the matter prior to going in front of the grand jury.

However, on Wednesday, February 8th, Martin was indicted on 20 counts of willful retention of national defense information, each count corresponding to one classified document he retained, either in hard copy or digital form, at his home and in is vehicle without authorization. According to the indictment, Martin has held a security clearance for 28 years and a Top Secret security clearance for the past 13 years. Over the past three decades, he served on active duty in the U.S. Navy before working as a government contractor with the Department of Defense and various agencies within the U.S. Intelligence Community. The government alleges that he began stealing classified government documents in 1996.

The indictment vaguely describes the documents underlying each charge. According to the government, Martin kept twelve NSA documents, 5 USCYBERCOM documents, one National Reconnaisance Office document and one CIA document:

  • A March 2014 NSA leadership briefing outlining the development and future plans for a specific NSA organization.
  • Two 2014 NSA reports outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing targeting information.
  • A 2009 draft of a United States Signal Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with CNO used to defend the United States.
  • February 2008 NSA email correspondence containing an NSA intelligence assessment about an overseas project, containing information directly related to a subject that implicated national security policies and responses.
  • A February 2007 Daily Operations Briefing concerning the daily operations of NSA activities, which identified specific NSA capabilities and operations.
  • A NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive information on U.S. planning and operations regarding global terrorists.
  • 2002 NSA email correspondence and NSA intelligence information regarding extremist activity, which identified targets of intelligence collection.
  • An August 1996 NSA weekly status summary of national defense concerns emanating from various parts of the world.
  • An NSA Threat Operations Center (NTOC ) progress report that specifically described activities, capabilities, techniques, process, and procedures associated with NTOC, which discovers, characterizes, and proactively counters threats to U.S. national security systems and other networks of interest.
  • An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and U.S. military resource to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
  • An NSA User’s Guide for an NSA intelligence-gathering tool.
  • A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
  • Five USCYBERCOM documents discussing capabilities and gaps in capabilities of the U.S. military and details of specific operations.
  • An NRO document, dated August 17, 2007, containing information relating to the launch of an intelligence collection satellite, and unacknowledged ground station, and other specific intelligence collection technologies and programs.
  • A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.

According to the prosecution, Martin was fully aware that he was taking classified information and that he was unauthorized to do so. Some of the documents were manually marked “Top Secret,” and Martin admitted in a noncustodial interview with the FBI in August that he knew he had been wrong to take classified documents from work.

Just as interesting is what the complaint and indictment do not say: there is no indication in either document that Martin actually leaked or passed the information to third parties. Nor is there any hint at what Martin’s motive might have been.

The court’s Detention Order also gives the reader a bit more insight into the man who was described to the New York Times by his ex-wife as, “one of the most patriotic people I know.” The court lists additional reasons for detention including mental health issues, including suicide threats and binge drinking and alcohol abuse. The court also indicates that Martin should be detained due to the fact that he allegedly possessed a firearms cache of ten weapons in his home, of which his wife was unaware.

Martin was arraigned in federal court in Baltimore yesterday, February 14th. At the hearing he pleaded not guilty to all charges. The Washington Post reports that if the case goes to trial, it is expected to last three to four weeks. If convicted, Martin faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for each of the 20 counts of willful retention of national defense information