NSA employee indicted for mishandling Top Secret information
Image: The Record
Emma Vail March 31, 2022

NSA employee indicted for mishandling Top Secret information

NSA employee indicted for mishandling Top Secret information

A National Security Agency employee was arrested Thursday morning and charged with sending classified national security information to someone who was not authorized to receive it, the Department of Justice said. 

Mark Robert Unkenholz, a 60-year-old Maryland resident, worked within a sector of the NSA that dealt with private industry and held a Top Secret clearance that granted him access to classified information. The sensitive data he could access — or “National Defense Information” (NDI), as the DoJ refers to it — could be used to harm the U.S. or help a foreign adversary if handled improperly. 

Unkenholz is being charged with 13 counts of willful trasmission of NDI and 13 counts of willful retention of NDI. According to the indictment, Unkenholz willfully transmitted the classified NDI from his unauthorized personal email account to two other unauthorized email accounts belonging to a single individual between February 14, 2018 and June 1, 2020.

The recipient had Top Secret clearance from April 2016 to June 2019, but had no clearance to classified information after starting a new job at an unidentified company in July 2019.

The indictment also describes how Unkenholz willfully retained classified NDI within his personal email address and failed to relay it to intended U.S. officials. 

Unkenholz could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count of willful transmission and willful retention of NDI.    

The types of classified information, in order from highest to lowest levels of risk to national security, are: Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (could cause ‘exceptionally grave damage’), Secret (could cause ‘serious damage’), and Confidential (could cause ‘damage’), according to the indictment.

See the full indictment below:

Emma Vail is an editorial intern for The Record. She is currently studying anthropology and women, gender, and sexuality at Northeastern University. After creating her own blog in 2018, she decided to pursue journalism and further her experience by joining the team.