Sometime in the last several weeks, FBI agents secretly arrested Harold Martin, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, and conducted a search of his house. Martin, a 51-year-old contractor who worked for the same NSA contractor as Edward Snowden, was found in possession of documents and classified computer files. Additional data and documents were found in the man’s car.
An important distinction should be made between Snowden and Martin. Whereas many of the documents stolen by Snowden related to unwarranted wiretapping and monitoring of citizens as well as spying on allies, Martin’s theft appears to be related to NSA operations which hack into the computer networks of countries like Iran and North Korea, as well as China. Authorities are as yet unsure whether Martin had political motives similar to those of Edward Snowden, or if his aims were for monetary gain, or what. Martin’s lawyers will say only that the man “loves his country.” They do believe it is unlikely he was politically motivated and intended to reveal NSA activities in the same way as Edward Snowden, but cannot determine as much at this time.
Investigators suspect that the materials may have been stolen even before Snowden made his move and leaked bombshell information to news agencies. Connecting the dots, however, makes one possible motive come to light: money. Earlier this year, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers put up a suite of NSA hacking tools for sale. It was believed at the time that these tools were acquired via traditional hacking methods, or that an operator had left some code on a Russian server and it had been discovered and acquired in that way, but Martin’s co-operation could reveal that it was in fact an inside job motivated by greed.
Booz-Allen Hamilton, the contractor that Martin and Snowden were both employed by, chose not to give comment to the New York times on the subject. With a second major blight on its record, it may be internally running damage control in an effort to keep its business in tact. Even the tightest security protocols can be gotten around, of course, but it would seem that leaks such as these should not contain quite so much material if things are being done properly. A document here and there, maybe, but hundreds of pages at a time seems to point to a failure at the organizational security level.
The NSA spent millions in the wake of the Snowden leaks, updating processes and closing holes in an effort to prevent future leaks. If investigators’ hunch that Martin’s leak happened before Snowden’s is correct, then it could be that measures already in place are working for the agency. Yet if the leaks took place post-Snowden, it would seem that more remains to be done for them.
Up until the early 2000s, leaks of sensitive government documents were mostly a thing of fiction. Increasingly, they are becoming commonplace. People like Snowden and Chelsea Martin have been motivated by ideals, putting them into action when the opportunity arose.
When Snowden swept NSA networks and later disclosed the results to media outlets, the agency said he would not have been able to do as much at Fort Meade, where Harold Martin’s documents came from. Now the agency will have some work to do to make sure it was correct in that assumption.
See the criminal complaint against Harold Martin here.