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Ex-US NSA contractor to plead guilty to massive theft of secret data

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former U.S. National Security Agency contractor has agreed to plead guilty to stealing classified information, according to court filings on Wednesday, in what may have been the largest heist of U.S. government secrets in history.

Harold Martin is scheduled to plead guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information at a federal court in Baltimore on Jan. 22, according to the filings.

Prosecutors said Martin, who was indicted last February, spent up to 20 years stealing highly sensitive government material from the U.S. intelligence community related to national defense, collecting a trove of secrets he hoarded at his home in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

Authorities said they seized 50 terabytes of data from Martin’s home, which officials said could be the biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history.

The government has not said what, if anything, Martin did with the stolen data.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on the single count. Martin has not struck a plea deal with prosecutors and could still be tried on the remaining 19 counts in the indictment, the court filings said.

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A lawyer for Martin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NSA has been hit by a series of damaging data breaches in recent years.

In December, former NSA employee Nghia Hoang Pho pleaded guilty to illegally taking classified information that an intelligence official said was later stolen from his home computer by Russian hackers.

Martin worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp when he was taken into custody in August 2016.

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Booz Allen also employed Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of secret files to news organizations in 2013 that exposed vast domestic and international surveillance operations carried out by the NSA.

Martin was employed as a private contractor by at least seven companies, working for several government agencies beginning in 1993 after serving in the U.S. Navy for four years, according to the indictment.

His positions, which involved work on highly classified projects involving government computer systems, gave him various security clearances that routinely provided him access to top-secret information, it said.

The indictment also alleged that Martin stole documents from U.S. Cyber Command, the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Morning Joe guest reveals why even Ivanka is afraid to deliver bad news to Trump: ‘He’ll explode’

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President Donald Trump's inner circle is growing smaller and smaller, and the few aides he trusts are afraid to deliver any bad news to him -- and panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" agreed the situation was dangerous.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire if the president trusted any of his advisers, and the White House correspondent said he may still seek out counsel from Ivanka Trump.

"He might listen to his daughter, who is in there, but no," Lemire said. "That has been what's happened over the last year and a half, in particular, is the erosion of the guardrails, the erosion of adults in the room who could walk in there and say something. Mind you, it didn't always work, (but) now those people don't even exist."

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2020 Election

New Republican group wants to register more voters to keep Texas red

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The push by the group, a super PAC called Engage Texas, comes as national Democrats zero in on the state in 2020.

With national Democrats looking to make Texas a battleground, a new Republican group is launching to register hundreds of thousands of new voters here and convince them to help keep the state red in 2020.

The group, a super PAC named Engage Texas, is the brainchild of some of the state's biggest GOP donors, and it is led by a former top staffer at the Republican National Committee. It comes as Texas Republicans look to gain ground in an area where their Democratic counterparts have dominated in recent years: signing up new voters.

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2020 Election

Texans approve of Trump’s job performance but have questions about his character, UT/TT Poll says

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More than half of the state's voters think President Donald Trump is doing a good job, but they're not as pleased with some of his character traits, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

If you ask registered voters in Texas about the job performance of the people they’ve elected to high office, the top two names on their list are President Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

But the support is not overwhelming: 52% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing in office, while 44% disapprove. And 51% said Abbott is doing a good job, while 31% disapprove of the governor’s work.

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