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MD man pleads guilty in case of millions of stolen NSA documents

National Security Agency Operations Center floor in 2012. (NSA/Released)

A Glen Burnie man pleaded guilty Thursday to willful retention of national defense information after he was accused of stealing millions of classified documents from the National Security Agency.

Harold Martin, 54, was federally indicted in 2016 for allegedly stealing government property and taking classified information while he worked as a contractor with top secret security clearance for the National Security Agency.

He agreed to a nine-year prison sentence in a deal in which prosecutors will agree to drop the other 19 charges from the indictment.

Martin spoke little during the hearing, saying only that he’s ready to move on from the case.

The nine-year sentence is close to the maximum 10-year prison sentence outlined in federal law, and U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett said Martin’s “abuse of a position of trust” is a factor in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Eisenberg said Martin admitted to unlawfully taking a top-secret document from the NSA referred to as “Document A”

Martin was arrested in 2016 after FBI agents executed a search warrant at his Anne Arundel County home, including two storage sheds and his vehicle. Investigators say they found in his possession an astonishing number of physical and digital classified documents — the equivalent of about half billion pages.

Eisenberg said officers “found among other things, many other things, ‘Document A’ ” in his house and in his car.

“It was not delivered to any agent of the United States. It was in his home,” Eisenberg said.

Martin’s public defenders have argued the thefts of government files began in 1998 and were part of his effort to try to get a better understanding of the nation’s sprawling security apparatus. Martin eventually hoarded the documents compulsively, rather than for the purpose of releasing them to the public, James Wyda, Martin’s defense attorney, stated.

Since Martin’s arrest, the case moved slowly through federal court as the attorneys negotiated the degree to which the classified documents should be made available to the defense.

Martin announced plans to change his plea once before in 2018, when he said he planned to plead guilty to taking home a single secret document. He withdrew that request about two weeks later, according to court records.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 17 at 3 p.m.

Judge Bennett also took a moment before dismissing the courtroom to praise the attorneys and federal agents who put the case together.

In thanking the FBI and federal attorneys with the Department of Justice, Bennett said the case proved that “the institutions of this country, which are constantly being challenged … are still strong.”


© 2019 The Baltimore Sun

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