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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 31, 2022

National Security Agency Employee Facing Federal Indictment for Willful Transmission and Retention of National Defense Information

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

Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Mark Robert Unkenholz, age 60, of Hanover, Maryland, for willful transmission and retention of National Defense Information (NDI).  The indictment was returned on March 29, 2022 and unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendant. 

Unkenholz is expected to have initial appearance at 3:00 p.m. today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s Nationals Security Division; and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.

As an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), Unkenholz held a TOP SECRET/SCI clearance and had lawful access to classified information relating to the 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 thirteen occasions between February 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.

If convicted, Unkenholz faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for each of the 13 counts of willful transmission of NDI and for each of the 13 counts of willful retention of NDI.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen commended the FBI for its work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron and Mr. Olsen thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and P. Michael Cunningham and Trial Attorney S. Derek Shugert of the of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section, who are prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

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Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Marcia Murphy (410) 209-4854
Updated March 31, 2022