A woman who once dated a former National Security Agency employee charged with taking secret documents home testified in federal court in Maryland yesterday that she saw classified papers in a cardboard box in the defendant's kitchen two years ago.

Tonya Tucker testified that she spent Christmas week in 2003 at the Waldorf home of defendant Kenneth W. Ford Jr., 34, after meeting him the previous month through an Internet dating site. Tucker said their relationship was "cordial and consensual."

When she was alone in Ford's home, Tucker testified in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, she looked inside one of two cardboard boxes in the kitchen.

"What caught your eye?" Assistant U.S. Attorney David I. Salem asked Tucker.

"The word 'classified,' " Tucker replied.

She testified that she took the document out, opened it and "saw it could be classified. I put it back." Tucker said she asked Ford about the document, but he wouldn't talk about it.

Ford is also charged with failing to inform a prospective private-sector employer, who required him to have a security clearance, that he was charged with taking secret documents. He is not accused of trying to sell or give classified documents to anyone.

In early January 2004, Tucker testified, she called the NSA and the FBI several times to report that Ford had classified material at his home.

FBI agents and an NSA official searched Ford's home Jan. 11, 2004, and arrested him that night, prosecutors said. Ford worked as a computer specialist at the NSA and had left the agency days before his arrest to take a job in the private sector.

Tucker, who is in her early thirties, testified that she was working as a contract employee for NASA and living in an Annapolis hotel when she met Ford.

She acknowledged to Salem that she gave a false name when she called the NSA to report her suspicions and that she has been convicted of forgery, illegal use of a credit card, larceny and grand theft.

During an aggressive cross-examination by defense attorney Spencer M. Hecht, Tucker testified that, on the night Ford was arrested, she told FBI agents that what Hecht referred to as "this whole thing with Kenneth'' must have been a mistake and that he is an honest and good man.

Tucker appeared tense and at times combative as Hecht attacked her credibility with a series of questions about her relationship with Ford and what she told NSA officials and FBI agents. Several times, Tucker testified that she could not remember what she said to authorities.

For example, in response to questions from Hecht, Tucker testified that she couldn't recall whether Ford broke up with her three days before he was arrested; that she couldn't recall whether she told investigators that Ford planned to sell classified documents to a foreign diplomat; and that she couldn't remember whether she'd said she knew someone else at the NSA who was willing to sell secret documents.

When Hecht asked Tucker whether she had told FBI agents that a friend of Ford's had faxed her secret documents while she was in Atlanta, Tucker replied, "That was made up."