BALTIMORE (WJZ)–The case involving a former Maryland NSA contractor has exposed a breakdown in the system designed to protect the nation’s most sensitive information.
The failure comes as the government pumps in millions into extra security.
Security experts say former NSA contractor Hal Martin should have been flagged when his top secret security clearance came up for renewal. He never was before his spectacular downfall.
Michael Vesely, with the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security Senior Law and Policy Analyst says the fact that Martin continued to have top-level security clearance is very surprising.
Vesely believes Martin’s case will lead to continuous monitoring of everyone with high-level access.
“When you start being compromised from the inside of your organization, especially an organization dedicated to intelligence building, trust, and secrecy, that undermines the entire credibility of the operation,” he says.
The government found classified documents scattered haphazardly throughout Martin’s home in Glen Burnie, also in his car, and in an unlocked shed in the backyard.
How could they miss those numerous red flags, including reports of binge drinking?
The New York Times reports other warning signs, including a lien on Martin’s home for unpaid taxes, a misdemeanor computer harassment charge, a DUI charge, and 2008 case where he was accused of impersonating a police officer–that was later expunged from Martin’s record.
“The impersonating the police officer is especially troubling. That seems to signal an individual likes to wield authority,” Vesely said.
The case shocked many in the intelligence community who issued warnings years ago after Maryland’s Edward Snowden fled with damaging classified information.
“This could happen someplace else. One of our recommendations in the review group was that the government move quickly to monitor these networks as aggressively as they can be monitored,” said Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA.
Martin did work in a specialized unit, separated from the NSA’s main computer network, which may have made it easier to sneak out information. His skills were so in-demand, Vesely says authorities may have turned a blind eye to some of his behaviors.
Two judges have denied bail for Martin. His lawyer says he had no malicious intent and suffered from a hoarding disorder.