Ex-NSA contractor admits to sealing 50TB of classified data
Harold T Martin claims he didn't plan to use the data maliciously
A former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has pleaded guilty to taking classified documents from the government organisation, saying he took the files home on disk drives.
However, Harold T Martin reportedly did not sell or share them with anyone else, according to the BBC. As a result, 19 of the charges made against him were dropped, including the serious accusation of spying, though he could still be hit with a nine-year sentence.
More than 50 terabytes of information was stored on the devices Martin took from the NSA, reported The New York Times, making it potentially the biggest data breach of classified information in history.
Martin had been collecting the information for the 20 years while he been contracted to work for the NSA and other US federal agencies, and six of the files contained on hard drives were rated as top secret.
The NSA expressed its concern at the potential breach, saying any of the data's "unauthorised disclosure could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the US".
However, Martin's lawyers said there was no evidence the data was ever going to be used for malicious or suspicious activity and Martin's hoarding the data was a symptom of mental illness.
The data was uncovered during an investigation into other data leaks in 2016 and much of the information went on to be outed by whistleblower Edward Snowden and hacking group the Shadow Brokers.
Martin has already spent two and a half years in jail and this time will be deducted from the sentence he receives in a formal sentence hearing in July.