Prosecutors may be facing an uphill battle in their case against a former NSA contractor who was hoarding classified information in his Maryland home.
A federal judge questioned the prosecution and defense in an ongoing case regarding Harold Martin, a former Navy officer turned defense contractor who was indicted for stealing and hoarding secret documents that outline U.S. hacking operations. Martin worked in a supporting role for multiple intelligence agencies — including the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — during his employment at several different federal consulting firms.
Marvin Garbis, a U.S. District Court judge based in Baltimore, is openly challenging the degree of proof that the prosecution must obtain to prove Martin’s guilt. A key question is whether the government must prove that Martin knew he had possession of specific classified federal documents or if he could be prosecuted using the Espionage Act of 1917 without that proof.
Martin, who was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton at the time, was arrested in August 2016 after the FBI said it discovered 50 terabytes of classified NSA documents in his home and personal storage dating back to 1996. He was charged with felony theft of government information and misdemeanor unauthorized retention of classified information.
In his order, Garbis suggested both parties submit briefs and responses regarding their thoughts on what needs to be legally proved to prosecute Martin.
Martin’s defense said he was hoarding the NSA documents due to mental issues and his obsessive need to prove his work and archive it.
Garbis asked the prosecution to prove that Martin knew he took the NSA documents or that he did it for a reason because after the FBI discovered the documents, it was unclear what plans Martin had with them. Prosecutors said they shouldn’t need to prove that Martin knew he had the documents or need to prove his intentions.
In December, Martin offered to plead guilty to one of the 20 felony counts in his indictment, but there was no official plea agreement made with the prosecution. Another hearing addressing this issue is expected to happen next week according to Garbis’s order, where he asked a hearing to be arranged between both parties before March 6.
Booz Allen Hamilton said it fired Martin after hearing about his initial arrest.
“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,” a representative of the contractor said in a statement.