Hal Martin’s defense says prosecutors have yet to provide essential evidence

The former NSA contractor's lawyers say they can't properly defend him against charges of stealing government material unless they are given proper access to information seized on hard drives taken from Martin's home.
NSA National Security Agency
(CyberScoop / Chris Bing)

Attorneys for Harold T. Martin III, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor accused of perhaps the largest theft of government secrets in American history, said in a court filing that government prosecutors have not allowed access to evidence necessary to mount a sufficient defense.

Public defenders, in a document made public Tuesday, renewed their request in a Maryland federal court for an order requiring prosecutors to produce copies of the material confiscated from Martin in 2016. The defense seeks duplicates of the hard drives of the seized devices as well as copies of whatever computers the NSA used to create a database of the information that it seized. The request was made Nov. 13, 2018.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland had ordered the defense on Aug. 17, 2018 to have “meaningful access” to the material in question, according to the filing. The defense says in the new filing the government ran afoul of that August order by failing to “to provide the defense with the functional equivalent of mirror images” of the data taken from Martin’s devices.

The defense also said it is concerned about the government’s stated intention to provide “rolling supplements” to expert forensic reports, a tactic the defense says could result in their not knowing the “entire substance of reports until mere weeks, or perhaps days, before trial.”


Without access to evidence in question the defense would have no choice but to accept the government’s forensic analysis of the data taken from Martin’s Maryland home at face value, the defense said.

“Nearly a year after we first raised this issue with [U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis], and more than two years after Mr. Martin was arrested, we still have not been given the discovery we need to test and rebut the government’s computer forensic analysis,” the attorneys wrote. “The government’s inadequate expert disclosures make it impossible for us to effectively prepare Mr. Martin’s defense and place the trial schedule at risk.”

Prosecutors say Martin, 54, also known as “Hal,” stole roughly 50 terabytes of data from the NSA and other agencies during his time working for the government. He is charged with 20 counts of unauthorized and willful retention of national defense information, charges that could result in decades of prison time. Martin’s trial is scheduled to begin in June.

U.S. officials were first alerted to Martin’s alleged activity after a tip from the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, Politico reported Wednesday. A Twitter account linked to Martin, “HAL999999999,” contacted Kaspersky researchers via direct message on Aug. 13, 2016, asking to arrange a conversation with “Yevgeny,” likely a reference to CEO Yevgeny Kaspersky. In a second message, HAL999999999 said “Shelf life, three weeks.”

Those messages arrived just 30 minutes before a suspected Russian hacking group calling itself the Shadow Brokers leaked hacking tools stolen from the NSA online, according to Politico. The timing of the Twitter messages, combined with other clues, were enough for Kaspersky to report the communication to the NSA with the encouragement the U.S.launch an investigation, Politico reported.


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