NSA contractor in US charged with alleged removal of 'highly classified' information

Harold Thomas Martin from Maryland was arrested in late August

NSA contractor in US charged with alleged removal of 'highly classified' information

Image: Patrick Semansky / AP/Press Association Images

A contractor for America's National Security Agency (NSA) has been charged in connection with the alleged 'unauthorised removal' of top secret documents.

51-year-old Harold Thomas Martin III from Maryland was arrested in late August, but the information of the arrest was only published today.

The US Justice Department says Mr Martin, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison for the unauthorised removal & retention of classified materials, and 10 years in prison for theft of government property.

In a statement, the department said: "Search warrants were executed at Martin’s residence in Glen Burnie, Maryland, including two storage sheds, as well as upon his vehicle and person. During execution of the warrants, investigators located hard-copy documents and digital information stored on various devices and removable digital media.

"A large percentage of the materials recovered from Martin’s residence and vehicle bore markings indicating that they were property of the US government and contained highly classified information, including Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)."

Investigators are also said to have located property belonging to the US government worth around $1,000.

Mr Martin's lawyers say there is no evidence their client planned to betray the US, adding that he "loves his family and his country".

A report in the New York Times claims Mr Martin is suspected of taking classified computer code developed by the NSA to break into computer systems of countries such as China, North Korea, Russia and Iran.

Edward Snowden, who was also an NSA contractor and has been unable to return to the US since leaking classified information, has been commenting on the story on Twitter: