A former Navy lieutenant who worked as a contractor for the same cyberoperations firm as infamous leaker Edward Snowden was secretly arrested by the FBI in recent weeks in connection with the theft of highly classified hacking codes from the National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.
Thomas Martin III, 51, was arrested on Aug. 27, according to a complaint that was unsealed Wednesday. The Glen Burnie, Md., resident was charged with theft of government property and and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials by a government employee or contractor.
“There is no evidence that Hal Martin intended to betray his country,” Martin’s lawyer, Jim Wyda, told The Wall Street Journal. “What we do know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country. He served the nation honorably in the United States Navy and he has devoted his entire career to protecting America.’’
Martin was deployed twice during his Navy career, serving as a Surface Warfare Officer on the USS Seattle during the early 1990s. He was the recipient of several standard medals, ribbons and commendations, including the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
Martin worked for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and is suspected of stealing “source code” used to break into computer systems of numerous U.S. rivals, such as China, Iran, Russia and North Korea, according to The New York Times. Some of the information allegedly stolen by the contractor may have been dated, two officials told The Times.
“When Booz Allen learned of the arrest of one of its employees by the FBI, we immediately reached out to the authorities to offer our total cooperation in their investigation, and we fired the employee,” Booz Allen Hamilton said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate fully with the government on its investigation into this serious matter.”
Martin had his initial court appearance on Aug. 29 and is still detained, a DOJ press release stated.
Officials found hard-copy documents and digital information during a search of Martin’s residence and storage sheds in August, according to the DOJ release. Much of what was recovered allegedly had U.S. government markings and was either classified Top Secret or as Sensitive Compartmented Information. Investigators reportedly also found U.S. government property totaling about $1,000.
Six classified documents “obtained from sensitive intelligence” and “produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities” were recovered during the search, according to the complaint. Each of these documents was classified as Top Secret, the DOJ release stated.
This is huge. Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports NSA sat on huge flaws in US products? https://t.co/otgOwB5efm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 5, 2016
This marks the second time in three years the NSA’s classified systems have been infiltrated by a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor. Edward Snowden stole numerous documents in 2013 before fleeing to Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
Snowden’s leak exposed both domestic and foreign spying programs. The latest theft appeared limited to computer codes.
Snowden tweeted Wednesday afternoon wondering if the person arrested was connected to a hacking group that in August allegedly stole secret U.S. government hacking tools and put them up for bid.
No motive for the reported theft was immediately disclosed.
Martin could face up to one year in prison for the unauthorized removal of classified information and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for theft of government property.