The FBI has arrested a National Security Agency contractor on charges of stealing highly classified information and is investigating possible links to a recent leak of secret hacking tools used to break into the computers of adversaries such as Russia and China, Reuters reported, citing U.S. officials on Wednesday.
Harold Thomas Martin, 51, was taken into custody in Maryland in August, according to a criminal complaint. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm that employed Edward Snowden when he revealed the vast collection of metadata by the NSA in 2013.
Allegations about a second insider leaking top-secret NSA information could further set back the Obama administration’s efforts to recover from Snowden’s damaging disclosures about the U.S. government’s surveillance and cyber spying activities.
Booz Allen said in a statement that when the company "learned of the arrest of one of its employees by the FBI,"
they immediately fired him and offered full cooperation to the FBI.
The same month Martin was arrested, some of the NSA’s most sophisticated hacking tools were dumped onto public websites by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers.
The U.S. Justice Department charged Martin, who had top secret national security clearance, with theft of classified government material, according to the complaint, which was unsealed on Wednesday. The complaint did not specify Martin's alleged motive, and U.S. officials declined to say.
NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell told Reuters that the agency was still assessing damage from the data theft, but said "I don't think this is a Snowden-type situation."
Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia, has said he deliberately exposed the scope of U.S. government surveillance to force changes.
The New York Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking at whether Martin stole and disclosed highly classified computer "source code"
developed to hack into the networks of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and other countries.
One U.S. government source told Reuters that investigators were not fully convinced that Martin was involved with the Shadow Brokers but another official said the question was still being probed.