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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 31, 2022

National Security Agency Employee Indicted for Willful Transmission and Retention of National Defense Information

Defendant Allegedly Sent Highly Classified Information to an Individual Using His Personal Email

A Maryland man is charged with willful transmission and retention of National Defense Information (NDI) in an indictment unsealed today in the District of Maryland.

According to court documents, as an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), Mark Robert Unkenholz, 60, of Hanover, held a Top Secret/SCI clearance and had lawful access to classified information relating to national defense that was closely held by the government (National Defense Information or NDI).

As detailed in the indictment, national security information is classified as Top Secret, Secret or Confidential. Only individuals with the appropriate security clearance could have authorized access to such classified national security information. All classified information can only be stored in an approved facility and container.

According to the 26-count indictment, on 13 occasions between Feb. 14, 2018 and June 1, 2020, Unkenholz, lawfully having possession of, access to, and control over NDI, which he had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully transmitted that information to another person who was not entitled to receive it. The indictment alleges that the information Unkenholz transmitted was classified at the Secret and Top Secret/SCI levels and that Unkenholz transmitted the classified information using his personal email address to the other person’s private company email addresses. The person receiving the information held a Top Secret/SCI clearance from April 2016 until approximately June 2019, while employed at a company referred to in the indictment as Company 1. From July 2019 until approximately January 2021, the person worked for a company referred to in the indictment as Company 2, and was not authorized to access, or receive, classified information.

The indictment alleges that Unkenholz’s personal email address, and the company email addresses of the person receiving the information were not authorized storage locations for classified NDI. Unkenholz allegedly retained the classified NDI within his personal email address.

Unkenholz was arrested this morning and will make his initial court appearance this afternoon in Baltimore. If convicted, Unkenholz faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for each of the 13 counts of willful transmission of NDI and a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for each of the 13 counts of willful retention of NDI. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and P. Michael Cunningham for the District of Maryland and Trial Attorney S. Derek Shugert of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 
22-305
Updated March 31, 2022