Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Former NSA Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Classified Information

RTR18YWC REUTERS Jason Reed
Lisa Bryan | 03 December, 2017, 02:00

Beginning in 2010 and continuing through March 2015, Pho regularly removed and stored government documents that contained sensitive national defense information, including documents classified as Top Secret-the highest level of classified information that is defined by the government as information that "unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security".

But he had installed on his home computer antivirus software made by Kaspersky Lab, a top Russian software company, and Russian hackers are believed to have exploited the software to steal the documents, the officials said.

Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, of Ellicott City, Maryland, pleaded guilty to willful retention of national defense information, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Pho received a variety of security clearances during his time with the NSA and had access to national defense information and other classified documents.

Pho faces up to 10 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.

The NSA has not commented on the report, but the Department of Homeland Security subsequently issued a directive banning all US agencies from using Kaspersky products.

US District Judge George L. Russell scheduled sentencing for April 6. USA officials have said that Kaspersky Lab, by virtue of being located in Moscow, is subject to Russian surveillance. But the nature of the threat was not fully realized until it was discovered Pho had installed a popular antivirus software by Kaspersky Lab, a software company based in Russian Federation, which is believed to have been exploited to steal the files from Pho's computer.


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 global espionage efforts, both The Times and Reuters reported Friday. Further, Kaspersky Lab has maintained that it does not work in any way with Russian intelligence.

"Pho also worked on highly classified, specialized projects", the statement said.

A former employee for the NSA who worked to infiltrate foreign computer networks has admitted to illegally taking classified documents from the agency.

The National Security Agency headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Pho is at least the third person with NSA ties charged within the last two years in connection with mishandling classified information.

Both have pleaded not guilty, and are being held by authorities as they await trial for their alleged offenses.

In June another NSA contractor, Reality Winner, 25, was charged with leaking classified material about Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election to a news outlet.

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