The NSA contractor accused of stealing a gargantuan amount of sensitive and classified data from the U.S. government is a flight risk and has been ordered to remain in custody ahead of his trial, a Maryland judge said today.
Harold Martin, III, a Navy veteran, was arrested in late August after FBI agents discovered a treasure trove of government documents and data, in stacks of paper and on removable data storage devices, strewn around his house, his car and an outdoor shed. It was a theft, prosecutors said, "that is breathtaking in its longevity and scale" -- enough to fill some 500 million pages of documents containing images and text.
The material included some documents marked Secret, Top Secret and in some cases Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI), the highest classification level. Martin allegedly had been taking the information home with him from as many as seven different contracting jobs for the government since 1996. He first received his security clearance during his service in the Navy Reserve.
Ahead of the hearing today, prosecutors argued in a court filing that Martin should remain in detention as he would be a "prime target" for foreign spies should he be released on bail.
"Given the nature of his offenses and knowledge of national secrets, [Martin] presents tremendous value to any foreign power that may wish to shelter him within or outside the United States," prosecutors wrote in a court filing Thursday.
Prosecutors said Martin had been in communication with others online in "languages other than English, including Russian" and apparently had been learning Russian.
Prosecutors also argued that Martin could be a danger to himself, citing Martin's wife who purportedly told investigators she was concerned he might try to take his own life.
Martin's attorneys, however, said in their own court filing Thursday that there is still no evidence he "intended to betray his country" and argued that he was not a flight risk. All the talk of foreign spies and potential getaway plans, the defense said, were "fantastical scenarios." They said Martin didn't even have a valid passport.
In court today Martin's defense attempted to paint him as a hoarder with mental issues.
In the end, the judge sided with the prosecution and declared Martin a flight risk.
Martin's attorneys, James Wyda and Deborah Boardman, told reporters that Martin and his family were "disappointed with today's ruling."
"We do not believe Hal Martin is a danger to the community or to his country. Hal is no risk of flight. Hal Martin loves America. And he trusts our justice system. This is an early step in a long process. We anticipate filing an appeal shortly," the attorneys said.
After the hearing Martin's wife told reporters simply, "I love him."
Martin is currently accused of the theft of government property, but prosecutors said that they expect to bring more serious charges under the Espionage Act.
As of a couple weeks ago, investigators were still trying to figure Martin out. Senior officials told ABC News then that he appeared to be "more weirdo than whistleblower," and it's unclear why he appears to have hoarded 20 years of government material in his home and vehicle. Online postings and public academic work apparently by Martin indicate he was deeply involved in the technical world of computer security, and Martin allegedly told investigators he was taking his work home with him only to improve his own knowledge and skills.
But prosecutors see something more sinister, based on some sophisticated software tools and the number of firearms discovered at Martin's residence, and one from under the front seat of his vehicle.
"If the Defendant stole this classified material for his own edification, as he has claimed, there would be no reason to keep some of it in his car, and arm himself as though he were trafficking in dangerous contraband," prosecutors wrote in the filing Thursday.