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NSA employee charged with disclosing top secret information

A National Security Agency employee was indicted for allegedly sending classified emails to a woman in private industry. (iStock)
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An employee of the National Security Agency was indicted Tuesday for allegedly using a personal email account to illegally send classified information to a woman in private industry, federal authorities said.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleges that Mark Unkenholz, 60, who worked in an NSA office that engages with private industry, sent 13 unauthorized emails to the woman from February 2018 to June 2020, each containing “information relating to national defense” that was classified either “secret” or “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.”

Unkenholz, of Hanover, Md., was arrested Thursday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. He was charged with 13 counts each of willful transmission of national defense information and willful retention of national defense information. Federal court records did not indicate whether Unkenholz is represented by a lawyer.

The nature of the material that he allegedly emailed is not disclosed in the indictment, and it is unclear whether the woman, identified in court documents only as “R.F.,” has been charged in the case. In announcing the indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office provided only a bare-bones account of what allegedly occurred. Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the office, said authorities had no additional comment.

The unidentified woman had top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance while working for a private company from about April 2016 to about June 2019, the indictment says, but from about July 2019 to about January 2021, while working for a different company, she “did not hold a security clearance.”

Even when she had top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance, authorities said, she was not authorized to receive the information that Unkenholz allegedly sent to her on her company email addresses.

Appearing Thursday before Chief Magistrate Judge Beth Gesner, Unkenholz pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was ordered released after promising to show up for future court proceedings. The judge ruled that he is financially eligible for representation by the federal public defender’s office, which said he has not yet been assigned an attorney.

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