“In early October 2016, news broke that a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) had been arrested over the possible theft of state secrets. Since then, little media attention has been given to what the U.S. government has called the largest theft of classified information in U.S. history, or the man allegedly behind it.
Initially arrested in August 2016 — after terabytes upon terabytes of classified information were discovered at his home, information that was taken over a period of two decades — Harold T. Martin III has been held in pre-trial detention ever since. Martin, who worked for the same government contractor as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has yet to enter into a plea agreement for the 20 felony counts he faces, as government prosecutors have struggled to build a strong case against him. Yet, unlike in the cases of Snowden and other alleged leakers awaiting trial like Reality Winner, the press coverage of Martin’s case has been scarce.
The lack of coverage stems in part from the fact that the government has struggled to build its case against Martin, who was initially nicknamed the “second Snowden,” as it remains unclear what Martin did with the estimated 50 terabytes of data – a cache nearly 20 times greater than the Panama Papers.
(…) According to court documents, Martin’s case is just as complex as the man himself, making it difficult to ascribe his intent. For one thing, Martin’s habit of taking government documents home remained undetected for over 20 years – even after tightening of security following the Snowden leaks – and he extensively used “sophisticated encryption, anonymization, and virtual machine technologies” to hide his actions online.
He also possessed “remote data storage accounts” as well as “encrypted communication and cloud storage apps installed on his mobile device.” Federal prosecutors have also asserted that Martin “was in possession of a sophisticated software tool which runs without being installed on a computer and provided anonymous internet access, leaving no digital footprint.” And they have asserted that Martin “communicated online with others in languages other than English, including Russian” via an encrypted connection.
In addition, Martin’s cache of documents, stored at his home and in his car, were accompanied by “handwritten notes [that] also include descriptions of the most basic concepts associated with classified operations, as if the notes were intended for an audience outside of the Intelligence Community unfamiliar with the details of its operations.”
Martin was also heavily armed, a fact that was apparently unknown to his wife, who was shocked when the FBI removed 10 firearms from his residence, including an AR-style tactical rifle and a shotgun with a flash suppressor. Only two of the weapons were registered.
He also initially lied to authorities about the thefts of the documents, only admitting his unauthorized removal of the documents when confronted with examples of the classified information found in his possession.
There is also evidence suggesting that Martin may not be as “apolitical” as his defense has sought to portray him. Court documents reveal that he often complained about the NSA’s incompetence, claiming in one letter that his co-workers were “missing most of the basics in security practice.” In addition, Martin — who served in Operation Desert Storm — was deeply affected by his experiences in the military and, according to a former mentor, showed an “intense personal and professional interest in the post-traumatic stress disorder.”
However, the most compelling evidence that there is more to this case is how Martin’s theft of classified documents was discovered. According to The New York Times, federal investigators stumbled upon Martin’s trove of documents, investigating him only after uncovering a comment Martin had posted online – the contents of which are still unknown – made him a prime suspect in the “Shadow Brokers” leak.” (Read more: Whitney Webb, 3/20/2018)