“Trust us with your secrets and we will try to make sure they don’t end up in the backseat of the car of an armed loner who sort of works for us.”
Perhaps the most alarming thing about the NSA leaks originating from Edward Snowden was that evidence of mass surveillance practices, the extent of which were previously only dreamt of by the most paranoid among us, were able to make it to light at all. It’s one thing for a government to make the claim that such surveillance is necessary for security purposes; it’s a position one may disagree with, but it is at least a coherent line of thought. That is, it makes a certain kind of sense, even if it’s wrong. But if the same agencies which are accumulating troves of data from all of us cannot even protect their own secrets, then what hope is there for the rest of us? Even if we trust the shadowy organizations which claim to keep us safe, can we trust the cyber criminals, spies, or foreign states that may get a hold of that same data?
Harold Martin, recently arrested by the FBI, presents another case of another NSA contractor (also from Booz Allen) walking off with state secrets. Of course Martin, unlike Snowden, got caught, but it’s still unclear who he may have been in contact with before his arrest. Was it the Shadowbrokers, who have been trying to auction off NSA spy tools online? A foreign adversary? Martin’s motives remain unclear, but his case proves that data, once collected, is vulnerable to theft.
More from Foreign Policy:
…no one imagined the staggering amount of information Martin allegedly amassed in his suburban Maryland home: a digital archive that may reach 500 million pages, much of it secret.
According to prosecutors, the classified materials found at Martin’s home date from 1996 to 2016. Several documents marked Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information — which designates some of the government’s most closely held information — were found lying openly in Martin’s home and the backseat and trunk of his car.
The former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor has been described as a loner and a hoarder who brought classified material home for his own edification.
Most intriguingly, the search of Martin’s car turned up a printed email chain marked “top secret” with the former contractor’s notes on the back. “The handwritten notes 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,” prosecutors said in their filing.
The notes, Aitel said, may indicate that Martin “intended to release that information to someone not familiar with cyber operations, such as, perhaps, another country’s intelligence service.”
Investigators have reportedly not found any evidence so far to indicate that Martin served as the source of the Shadow Brokers dump.
The search of Martin’s home also turned up ten firearms, including an AR-15 rifle and a shotgun with a flash suppressor. FBI agents seized the weapons at the request of Martin’s wife, who was unaware of the number of weapons at their shared home. Prosecutors said she feared her husband might kill himself with the one of the weapons.
Prosecutors alleged in their filing that Martin has “communicated online with others in languages other than English, including in Russian.”
Martin does not posses a valid passport, served in the United States Navy, and has a wife and home in Maryland, his lawyers James Wyda and Deborah Boardman noted.