BALTIMORE — A former National Security Agency contractor accused in a massive theft of classified information is expected to plead guilty Thursday in what U.S. prosecutors had once portrayed as a “breathtaking” breach at the nation’s biggest spy shop.
Prosecutors announced Wednesday that Harold T. Martin III would face rearraignment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, a proceeding typically signaling a change of plea.
The former U.S. Navy lieutenant was charged with the willful retention of national defense information and was arrested by the FBI in August 2016.
One of Martin's lawyers, Deborah Boardman of the city's federal public defender's office, said a "rearraignment is a guilty plea" when asked for confirmation about her client's Thursday hearing. She said they would issue a statement after Martin's court appearance, declining to provide further comment.
An indictment accuses Martin, 54, who worked as a private contractor for the NSA and other government agencies, of stealing top secret and classified documents between 1996 and 2016 and stowing them in his car and Maryland home.
The stolen documents included sensitive NSA briefings and reports, including a 2009 draft of a signals intelligence directive that outlined methods and procedures for protecting the U.S. and a 2014 report containing information on foreign cyber intrusion techniques. He's also accused of stealing a CIA document detailing foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, among other items.
One of his federal defenders has previously described Martin of Glen Burnie, Maryland, as a "compulsive hoarder" who never intended to harm his country and who took work documents home with him as he tried to be as committed to his job as possible.
When asked for comment about Martin's upcoming hearing, James Fisher, a company spokesman, said Booz Allen Hamilton has "closely cooperated with the federal government throughout the case."
A federal judge questioned how much knowledge of the documents and their contents a defendant would need to have to be proven guilty under U.S. statute.
The NSA has suffered a series of breaches in recent years. Most notably, Snowden disclosed a cache of classified material in 2013 exposing U.S. government surveillance programs.
Last year, another Maryland man who had worked at NSA pleaded guilty to keeping numerous top secret U.S. defense materials at home.
At his sentencing, Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, told a federal judge he took copies of U.S. government documents and writings containing national defense information so he could work from home and possibly earn a promotion.
He got 5 ½ years in prison.
Also last year, an NSA contractor named Reality Winner received a similar sentence after being charged with copying a classified U.S. report and mailing it to a news organization.
The NSA is headquartered at a complex in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed from Washington.