It has happened again – a government contractor with security clearance was arrested in August for illegally possessing classified information.
The FBI arrested Harold T. Martin III, 51, who worked for the Department of Defense, according to the New York Times. Authorities unsealed the Criminal Complaint against him on Oct. 5.
Investigators discovered “thousands of pages of documents and dozens of computers or other electronic devices at his home and in his car, a large amount of it classified.”
Martin, who had a top secret security clearance, eventually admitted taking documents and digital files he knew were classified, according to the FBI Criminal Complaint.
They also discovered evidence that Martin had posted classified documents and computer code online, the Times article stated. Authorities haven’t specified what else Martin did with the information, if anything.
The Criminal Complaint described some of the documents in Martin’s possession as top secret and relating to the national defense or foreign relations of the U.S. that required protection against unauthorized disclosure for national security reasons.
Martin was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm and NSA contractor that Edward Snowden (read the related article) worked for. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 2000, and achieved the rank of lieutenant. He worked for Booz Allen from 2009-2016 and was fired after the arrest, according to The Washington Post. Booz Allen said that it is cooperating with authorities.
Here is an excerpt from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s remarks regarding the arrest:
“…the federal government is reminded of how important it is to be vigilant about protecting the national security of the country and information that is relevant to our national security. So this is certainly a situation that the Department of Justice takes seriously, as evidenced by their complaint. This is also a situation that President Obama takes quite seriously, and it is a good reminder for all of us with security clearances about how important it is to protect sensitive national security information.”
Security clearance lawyer Catie Young calls this yet another example of the importance of taking security clearance seriously.
“The government conducts a painstakingly complex background check and approval process before granting someone clearance,” Young says. “It is done in hope of thoroughly vetting someone and feeling assured that they will protect sensitive information.”
If you have a security clearance and have been accused of mishandling information, seek legal counsel from an attorney who specializes in this unique area of law. It also is wise to consult a security clearance attorney if you’re applying for clearance to help ensure you submit all paperwork correctly the first time, which will help streamline the investigation and approval process.