Upon Harold Martin’s arrest in 2016, an Obama administration official said his case was being kept under wraps “to keep this guy from becoming another NSA martyr.” The tactic seems to be have paid dividends.
by Whitney Webb
In early October 2016, news broke that a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) had been arrested over the possible theft of state secrets. Since then, little media attention has been given to what the U.S. government has called the largest theft of classified information in U.S. history, or the man allegedly behind it.
Initially arrested in August 2016 — after terabytes upon terabytes of classified information were discovered at his home, information that was taken over a period of two decades — Harold T. Martin III has been held in pre-trial detention ever since. Martin, who worked for the same government contractor as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has yet to enter into a plea agreement for the 20 felony counts he faces, as government prosecutors have struggled to build a strong case against him. Yet, unlike in the cases of Snowden and other alleged leakers awaiting trial like Reality Winner, the press coverage of Martin’s case has been scarce.
The lack of coverage stems in part from the fact that the government has struggled to build its case against Martin, who was initially nicknamed the “second Snowden,” as it remains unclear what Martin did with the estimated 50 terabytes of data – a cache nearly 20 times greater than the Panama Papers.
Given that the government has so far been unable to prove whether he intended to or succeeded in sharing the documents with others, Martin’s legal defense, led by public defender James Wyda, has worked to distance Martin from the cases of Snowden and other NSA whistleblowers — painting him instead as a “hoarder” who accumulated troves of classified documents driven by a “mental disorder” and an obsessive need to hone his craft and prove himself to dismissive co-workers. Wyda, who previously defended NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, has also argued that Martin “never tried” to give the documents – stored at his home and in his car – to the press, a foreign country, or anyone for that matter.
Indeed, there is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that Martin is, in fact, a hoarder or had some other type of mental condition that led him to pilfer so many classified documents over such an extended period. As John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower who exposed the agency’s illegal torture program, told MintPress News, “There is a strong legal argument to be made for [Martin] having hoarded this information, these documents due to some sort of mental condition, whether it’s PTSD or a hoarding disorder.” If this is the case, Kiriakou asserted that Martin shouldn’t “necessarily even be held accountable. If he has a mental illness, he needs treatment, not prison.”
Yet, just as there is evidence that Martin accumulated such a massive cache of classified government documents due to a mental condition, there also exists evidence that suggests he may be a whistleblower. However, given the government’s crackdown on whistleblowers under Obama and now Trump, Kiriakou notes that Martin’s legal defense has avoided this evidence, as focusing on Martin’s mental health makes “a stronger legal defense than would a whistleblower defense.”
“It doesn’t serve him in any way to be called or known as a whistleblower, as very few legitimate whistleblowers come out ahead at the end of their cases,” Kiriakou told MintPress.