HAL (er, um, BAH) Bites NSA

Way back in August, the government arrested a guy named Harold Thomas Martin III, who goes by Hal. Someone leaked news of the arrest to some of a who’s who list of NYT reporters — including Adam Goldman, Jo Becker, Michael Schmidt, David Sanger, Scott Shane, Matt Apuzzo, and Mark Mazzetti — who wrote what was originally a four paragraph story noting Martin is a Booz contractor and he is suspected of “taking the highly classified ‘source code’ developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.” That is, the leak suggested that the FBI had found their Shadow Brokers culprit.

The story has since been updated to include, among other things, a claim from an “Administration official” that “investigators suspected that Mr. Martin might have taken the material before Mr. Snowden’s actions became public,” which is rather curious since the classified documents described in the DOJ announcement on the arrest are six 2014 documents obtained from sensitive intelligence that were found in his house and vehicle.

The complaint alleges that among the classified documents found in the search were six classified documents obtained from sensitive intelligence and produced by a government agency in 2014. These documents were produced through sensitive government sources, methods, and capabilities, which are critical to a wide variety of national security issues. The disclosure of the documents would reveal those sensitive sources, methods, and capabilities.

Martin may have started taking documents before Snowden, but if DOJ’s allegations are true, he was able to continue even after Snowden (and would have needed to if he were actually the Shadow Broker source).

The conflicting information on this suggests that DOJ doesn’t have any fucking clue what Hal Martin did yet, or why he did it. FBI was clearly trying to figure that out while someone was leaking to everyone at the NYT in terms that suggested the FBI had found the Shadow Brokers source (including the completely bullshit emphasis on Russian and Chinese targets, ignoring how many American companies have been exposed in the Shadow Brokers leak).

Or perhaps not.

The original Shadow Brokers announcement was (as Rayne’s timeline lays out) on August 15. Martin was arrested on August 27. Since that time there have been two more Shadow Brokers announcements, one of little import that seems to mock Asian diction posted on PasteBin on August 28, and another bizarre self-interview posted on Medium last week. In my quick review the voice of those posts is different from the original (as is the claimed political bent). So it is possible the FBI has kept Martin’s arrest secret to try to lure in someone else with further SB announcements.

Or maybe Martin just stupidly brought work home and is fucked because the NSA believes or believed he could be the source of the Shadow Brokers documents, and they need a scapegoat and he’ll do fine. Good thing he is being represented by the same public defender who got Thomas Drake off with a plea deal.

Which leaves the one certainty we can take away from this thus far. Booz Allen Hamilton — which just got $144 million in new DOD business yesterday (h/t Tim Shorrock) — needs a lot more scrutiny in its ability to keep the nation’s secrets safe … and may well need to lose a lot of business.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. scribe says:

    They won’t lose business over it.  In the best Corporate Welfare way, this will turn into a new contract or contracts to guard against just what happened here. F’up and move up on a huge scale.

    Besides, they couldn’t hurt Booz.  When you sit to watch a Washington Nationals game and look toward the Capitol, you see instead Booz’ building, with their name on top.

    • Peterr says:

      NSA: Look, Booz. This is two strikes. We’re gonna have to renegotiate our contract with you, to make sure this never happens again.

      Booz: We agree completely. Let’s start with doubling our fee.

      NSA: Doubling your fee? What the . . . ? You’ve . . . ? Doubling your fee?

      Booz: At least, but let’s start there and see how it goes.

      NSA: Where do you get off talking about double? We were thinking about halving it.

      Booz: C’mon, get real. You and I both know that security costs money. If we weren’t able to provide the necessary security, obviously it will take more money to do so, not less. You still need the work done that we do, and it would cost you four times as much to cancel our contract, find a replacement, bring them up to speed, and — oh, yeah — pay them more than you’re paying us to do the kind of security stuff you need. It would be at least four times. Keeping us at double the fee is cheap.

      NSA: Um . . . well . . . You’ve got a point. But no more than double.

      Booz: Well, not at the start. But you don’t want a third strike on your hands. We may be the contractor responsible here, but no one who matters cares about that. You’re the ones who looked stupid when Snowden walked away with your secrets, and you’re the ones looking stupid in the media again right now. We’ll start with double, but don’t be surprised if it goes up down the road.

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    GSA vets the contractors, not BAH.  This is not to imply they are angels.

    There is something else going on.

    Some key questions:  which TLA actually made the arrest?   How long did they know that the defendant had materials in his possession that should have been locked up?  Why did they wait so long?

    There is a story in a story going on here.

    Somehow this seems to be related to the Yahoo news, but not the way you would think.

    Yet another story in a story in a story.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Look bmaz, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

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