A former National Security Agency contractor from Glen Burnie was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison for stealing nearly half a billion classified NSA documents over two decades.
Harold Martin III, 54, was arrested in 2016 after FBI agents raided his home in search of stolen government documents. He pleaded guilty in March to willful retention of national security information.
The negotiated sentence is the longest ever imposed on such a crime, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said when Martin entered his guilty plea. In court Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett said he hopes the nine-year sentence will “send a strong message to the public and those who have access to classified documents."
Martin has been incarcerated for three years already. That time will count toward his sentence, leaving him with six more years in prison. He also received three years supervised release.
Some of the documents Martin stored at his home included information on foreign intelligence and operations against global terrorists.
“There were some very sensitive documents with foreign intelligence sources,” Bennett said. “These lives might have potentially been endangered by it.”
The FBI investigation found no evidence that Martin, a Navy veteran who served 1988 to 1992, had any malice against the United States nor an intent to transmit the documents to anyone else, said James Wyda, Martin’s attorney.
Bennett asked about an anonymous Twitter account believed to be Martin’s that sent cryptic messages to Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based security firm. Communication was cut short, but the exchange was made public in January. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers told the judge that the government had no comment on the matter.
Wyda described Martin’s actions as a “passion for work that went too far.”
Suffering from autism that was never diagnosed or treated, Martin grew increasingly lonely and isolated at work, said the final sentencing memo obtained by The Baltimore Sun. The memo stated that Martin initially stole documents from work because he thought it would allow him to do his job better. But soon, “the materials Mr. Martin brought home became a tangible representation of his worth."
Neuropsychologist Dr. David Black conducted a psychological evaluation of Martin. In his report, he said Martin attempted to return the stolen documents but “found himself unable to emotionally separate himself from it.”
In addition to Black, family members testified in person or through letters that he suffered from untreated mental illness, dating back to when he was 5 years old. Hoarding classified documents was just one of the array of mental illnesses Martin struggled with, they said. He also had a substance abuse problem and was diagnosed with depression, Black’s report said.
“It’s an illness, not treason,” Wyda said.
Martin’s ex-wife echoed Wyda and asked the judge not to excuse Martin’s action, but to consider his mental illness along with it. Deborah Shaw, who at the time of the arrest was married to Martin but has since divorced him, couldn’t help but shed tears during her testimony.
“No one saw the train coming,” Shaw said. “They kept giving him clearances and work.”
But when it was Martin’s time to speak, he didn’t reference mental health or the struggles he faced before his arrest. He described himself as an “intellectually curious adventurer,” a “walking encyclopedia,” and someone “searching for knowledge.”
Prosecutor Myers did not see Martin’s statements as supportive of the contention that the theft was a product of illness.
“This is not a mental disorder,” Myers said. “This is skill ... and this is a continuous decision to break the law.”
“Wherever he goes,” his ex-wife Shaw said, “I hope he gets the help he needs.”
After hearing the testimonies, Bennett reaffirmed the nine-year sentence and said, “I don’t care what his personal history is when national security is involved."