"Hoarder" Admits To Removing Classified Papers

Ex-U.S. intelligence analyst pleads to federal charge

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NGA Hoarder Plea

MARCH 1--A U.S. intelligence analyst who held a top-secret security clearance and described himself as a “hoarder” has pleaded guilty to illegally removing confidential documents from his government office and storing them in his car and home, which FBI agents found strewn with similar sensitive material.

In a misdemeanor plea deal, Robert Harwin admitted taking documents from the Virginia headquarters of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which analyzes images from satellites and military drones.

The FBI began investigating Harwin, 68, last year after a coworker told counterintelligence agents that they spotted him carrying “a heavy plastic bag out of NGA facilities” on several occasions. A second coworker told investigators that Harwin had admitted “accidentally” taking classified documents from his office to his home.

During subsequent searches of Harwin’s Toyota and his Rockville, Maryland home, federal agents recovered an array of secret and top-secret documents and other classified material. An FBI inventory from the raid of Harwin’s residence included general descriptions of the seized records.

According to an FBI affidavit, when investigators confronted Harwin about the removal of a large cache of material from his NGA office, he “described himself as a hoarder.” An agent helpfully noted that “Hoarding is the excessive collection of particular items, along with the inability to discard the items.”

While FBI agents were clearly concerned about the security of the confidential records, it appears that Harwin’s plea to a single misdemeanor count indicates that federal prosecutors concluded that he was not seeking to pass (or sell) the material to another person or group.

Harwin pleaded guilty last month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. He faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine when sentenced on April 23.

Harwin is no longer employed at the NGA, a Department of Defense agency that provides combat support via the development of map-based intelligence. According to news reports, the NGA’s secret technological capacities allowed it to play a central role in the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. (5 pages)