The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor on suspicion of the theft of classified data and documents.

The contractor, Harold Thomas Martin, has been charged with theft of government property as well as unauthorised removal and retention of classified material by a government employee or contractor.  Martin has allegedly been in detention since 29th August following a court appearance.

The information that Martin is alleged to have stolen “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the US”, the US Justice Department was quoted as saying in a report by The Guardian.

This is the second time that a contractor has breached the NSA and what’s more is that Martin was employed by the same consulting firm as Edward Snowden, Booz Allen Hamilton.

Unlike Snowden however, Martin didn’t steal documents that exposed the NSA’s spy tactics and surveillance programmes such as PRISM. It has been alleged that Martin stolen source code for software the NSA uses to hack into the networks of foreign governments.

During the execution of a search warrant on Martin’s home on 27th August investigators found documents and digital data which were marked as property of the US government and contained highly classified information about the US government.

If found guilty of these crimes, Martin faces up to 11 years in prison – 1 year for unauthorised removal of classified material and up to 10 years for theft of government property.

While there are similarities to this case and the case against Snowden, the two crimes are incredibly different. Snowden exposed secret surveillance of citizens, while Martin is accused of stealing information which could potentially put citizens at risk.

This is particularly embarrassing for both the NSA and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. For the NSA this throws into sharp relief the fact that the information it is gathering is not entirely safe and for Booz Allen Hamilton, well something tells us that the NSA won’t be hiring a consultant from that firm again anytime soon.

[Via – The Guardian] [Image – CC BY 2.0 Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office]