Judge refuses to release NSA contractor Harold Martin III pending espionage trial

A judge in Baltimore on Friday ordered former NSA contractor Harold Martin III to remain in custody as prosecutors prepare to charge him with espionage.

The decision was rendered during a detention trial held to determine if authorities should release Mr. Martin, 56, a former Booz Allen Hamilton employee of Glen Burnie, Maryland, while the Justice Department assembles new charges related to his hoarding of classified documents.

U.S. Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite agreed with prosecutors that Mr. Martin would pose a flight risk if released pending trial.

Suicidal threats, alcohol abuse and Mr. Martin’s high intelligence are cited in a written statement from Judge Copperthite explaining his reason to refuse his release, as well as an arsenal of firearms he had amassed unbeknownst to his wife. 

Investigators say they found a cache of classified material inside Mr. Martin’s home and automobile while executing a search warrant at his residence on Aug. 27. He was arrested that same day and later charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal or retention of classified documents, but details of the investigation were kept under seal until earlier this month.

In court documents filed Thursday, attorneys for the U.S. government said they intend on charging Mr. Martin under the U.S. Espionage Act, a World War One-era anti-spying statute that carries a maximum penalty of death. He present faces a maximum sentence of 11 year in prison if convicted under the current counts. 

Thousands of pages of documents and dozens of computers were seized during the search of Mr. Martin’s residence, including several files that had been clearly classified as top-secret and at least six “were produced through sensitive government sources, methods and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues,” according to the government.

“This was the behavior of a compulsive hoarder,” Mr. Martin’s attorney, James Wyda, said at Friday afternoon’s hearing, according to WJZ-TV reporter Mike Hellgren. “There’s more info than Mr. Martin could ever read.”

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein wrote in Thursday’s filing that he feared Mr. Martin would evade justice if released before trial, and said the defendant’s knowledge of encrypted computer technology and the Russian language could allow him to either covertly leak secrets or seek refuge from Moscow or elsewhere. Arguing for his continued detention, the prosecutor wrote that Mr. Miller may potentially commit suicide or become compromised by foreign adversaries if released.

“As a result of the extensive publicity this case has received, it is readily apparent to every foreign counterintelligence professional and nongovernmental actor that the Defendant has access to highly classified information, whether in his head, in still-hidden physical locations or stored in cyberspace — and he has demonstrated absolutely no interest in protecting it,” he wrote. “This makes the Defendant a prime target, and his release would seriously endanger the safety of the country and potentially even the Defendant himself.”


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