Former NSA Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Classified Information

Former NSA worker pleads guilty to snatching classified docs

Larry Downing Reuters

The scope of harm in Pho's case is "not theoretical", said Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office. He faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, along with a fine of $250,000.

A former National Security Agency employee pleaded guilty Friday to taking sensitive national defense information from his workplace and storing it at his residence.

Further, prosecutors stated that from 2010 until March 2015, Pho started removing classified writing and documents from his work computer.

Unidentified officials from the USA government, who could only speak about the classified details on the condition they remain anonymous, said that Pho took the classified documents home with him to help him rewrite his resume, the Times reported.

Pho's attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, will also be free to inquire about a more lenient sentence for his client, the New York Times reported.

Pho is understood to be the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) programmer whose home computer was running Kaspersky Lab software that was allegedly used, one way or another, by Russian authorities to steal top-secret NSA documents and tools in 2015.

In August 2016, Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, was arrested by the FBI after federal prosecutors said the former NSA contractor illegally removed highly classified information and stored the material in his home and auto.

Pho is the same former NSA employee implicated in previous reports involving the Russian government and Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based antivirus vendor accused of being a conduit for the Putin administration's worldwide espionage efforts, both The Times and Reuters reported Friday.

Kaspersky Lab has in the past acknowledged they found NSA hacking software on a customer's computer and removed it, but said the software was subsequently destroyed. Some US officials have said software from the Moscow-based company allowed Russian intelligence agencies to pilfer sensitive secrets from the United States through Pho's computer.

Pho is at least the third person with NSA ties charged within the last two years in connection with mishandling classified information. The Justice Department didn't respond to a query asking whether Pho is the staffer described in the Wall Street Journal report.

The US government didn't see it that way and accused the Russian antivirus vendor of conspiring with Russian intelligence to actively search computers for classified material on objective. Harold Martin, an NSA contractor, was indicted in February for stealing up to 50 terabytes of data during a 20 year period, The Times said.

Reality Winner, 25, a former Air Force linguist who worked as an NSA contractor at a facility in Augusta, Georgia, was charged in June with copying a classified US report and mailing it to a news organization. He has pleaded not guilty.

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