WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

Blog archive
Nick Wakeman

Motivation of NSA contractor charged with theft still unclear

UPDATE: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. Friday with new information.

The mystery continues over what motivated Harold T. Martin III, the contractor charged with stealing classified data from the NSA, to take a large trove of documents home with him.

The New York Times describes frustrated investigators from the FBI who are finding Martin to be uncooperative, and they are having little success finding evidence on his home computers that he passed the documents along knowingly to someone else or was himself hacked.

A Washington Post report said that the FBI will charge him with violations of the Espionage Act, though they are still trying to determine if he actually passed on the documents.

Investigators released a 12-page memo as part of their efforts to keep Martin in jail. They describe him as a flight risk.

A critical focus of the investigation are NSA hacking tools that were found in Martin’s possession. The same hacking tools were up for sale on the internet just two months ago by a group known as the Shadow Brokers.

But again, they haven’t found evidence of a link between Martin and the group.

What they have found is possibly the biggest stash of mishandled classified documents in U.S. history. Martin allegedly had terabytes of information. The New York Times describes how Martin had dozens of computers and storage devices at his home. They found these items in his home, his car and in a shed in his yard.

The volume of materials that was found at his home is impressive. According to the Washington Post, more than 50 terabytes of data were found on different electronic devices as well as boxes of paper documents.

One terabyte is equal to the contents of about 1 million books, according to the New York Times.

So, Martin’s alleged haul was larger than 50 million books.

It appears that he was taking items home with him for the last 16 to 20 years, according to sources talking to the New York Times and Washington Post. During that time, he was employee of Computer Sciences Corp., Tenacity Solutions and then joined Booz Allen Hamilton in 2009. Booz Allen vice president Craig Veith said shortly after Martin’s arrest was made public that he had been fired, and that the company was cooperating with the investigation.

Sources told the New York Times that investigators are looking at several theories including that Martin didn’t knowingly share information with the Shadow Brokers. The material may have been physically stolen from him. “Conceivable given the descriptions of the chaos of his house, shed and car,” the Times wrote.

Martin also may have had good intentions. People who know him described him to the New York Times as “deeply patriotic.” He also has been telling the FBI that he took the materials home so he could improve his skills and get better at his job.

From the Times story:

                “As a contractor he gets to see a slice of the overall picture,” said one person familiar with the exchanges [between Martin and the FBI]… “He wanted to see the overall picture so that he could be more effective.”

The FBI also is looking at whether he sold the hacking tools and other material for money. Sources told the New York Times that Martin was struggling with debt and tax issues. He also liked to buy expensive suits and Rolex watches.

The Washington Post also reported that FBI has found he has communicated with unnamed people in Russia and recently downloaded information on Russia and other foreign countries.

Martin has primarily been talking to the FBI through his two court appointed attorneys, so investigators feel he isn't been fully cooperative. He has been in jail since he was arrested and his home search in late August.

The FBI memo paints a bleak picture of Martin and warn against his released. He could flee the country or try to pass along information.

But his lawyers have been quick to defend him. He is not a flight risk and the scenarios the prosecutors describe in their argument to keep him jailed are "fantastical."


Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 20, 2016 at 9:38 AM

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here


  • VIDEO: Explore the 2019 M&A Trends

    Editor Nick Wakeman interviews Kevin DeSanto of the investment bank KippsDeSanto about the highlights of their annual M&A survey and trends driving acquisitions in the federal space. Read More


    In our latest Project 38 Podcast, editor Nick Wakeman and senior staff writer Ross Wilkers discuss the major news events so far in 2019 and what major trends are on the horizon. Read More

contracts DB

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.