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FBI raids home of fired spy agency contractor suspected of leaking code on Facebook

A disgruntled government contractor who worked with a US spy agency stole high-tech espionage radio equipment worth $...

Posted: Mar 18, 2018 5:58 AM
Updated: Mar 18, 2018 5:58 AM

A disgruntled government contractor who worked with a US spy agency stole high-tech espionage radio equipment worth $340,000, took classified material, and is suspected of leaking sensitive computer code on his Facebook page, according to a new court filing by FBI agents who recently searched the man's home in Virginia.

The documents reveal -- for the first time -- an ongoing investigation of John Glenn Weed, a 57-year-old computer systems architect who developed classified communication systems for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO, a relatively unknown intelligence agency, runs American spy satellites and falls under the Department of Defense. Public federal court records do not show that Weed was criminally charged, and CNN was unable to reach him.

The NRO declined to comment about potential damage from the alleged leak, citing agency policy not to provide statements on pending investigations.

The allegations against Weed are detailed in search warrant documents filed in federal court. They describe a five-year investigation that peaked last week, when FBI agents raided his family home in rural Fredericksburg, Virginia.

According to the documents, FBI agents spent several days in early March surveilling Weed's house before they entered last Thursday at 8:30 a.m. In the search warrant, agents say they seized eight computers, an assortment of storage drives, three tablets, two flip phones, a computer server, floppy disks and other materials.

Federal agents were in search of sensitive computer code that Weed had possibly taken out of the building before he was fired in 2012.

Last year, someone tipped off the NRO that a person going by the name "William Amos" on Facebook had posted a photo on January 14, 2017, that revealed extremely sensitive computer code. The code was the building blocks of a communications tool used by foreigners spying for the United States to deliver secret information back to the American government. The code was such a closely guarded secret that the United States would only share it with select spy partners in the Australian and British governments, according to the court filings.

In investigating the tip, the FBI sent a search warrant to Facebook and received private Facebook Messenger chats between Amos and others. Those chats revealed "William Amos" as a pseudonym used by John Weed. The FBI also obtained Comcast records that showed a computer in Weed's home had been logging into that Facebook account.

In his application for a warrant to search Weed's home, FBI Special Agent Steven K. Hall wrote that "the unauthorized disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United States of America."

On Friday, CNN calls to Weed's listed home phone number found that the line had been disconnected. Calls to family members also went unanswered.

The computer code leak investigation of Weed is only the latest development in the flameout of his career with US intelligence, starting nearly six years ago.

According to court records filed by the FBI, Weed worked at The Analytic Sciences Corporation in Chantilly, Virginia, from 1993 until 2012. During his time at TASC, a private defense contractor, Weed held a security clearance that allowed him to work on secret projects for the NRO. (Engility, a private defense contractor that acquired The Analytic Sciences Corporation in 2015, did not respond to requests for comment.)

But things came crashing down for Weed when he failed to immediately notify the government that he was arrested in May 2012 for driving under the influence. It was his third DUI arrest, according to these court documents. The FBI claims that it wasn't until his security clearance came up for periodic review four months later -- and after he had pleaded guilty and been convicted -- that Weed notified the Department of Defense investigator conducting the check.

Weed skipped one scheduled interview with the DOD investigator. When he finally showed up to a second one, he was "carrying a photograph of the officer who arrested him," and "the officer's photo had multiple bullet holes in it," according to court documents filed by the FBI.

At the time, Weed told the investigator he was using the image as "target practice" and he intended to "ruin the life" of the cop who arrested him because he had been unfairly convicted, according to the documents.

Weed was fired in the fall of that year. The federal government revoked his security clearance in November, citing "criminal and personal conduct."

His case became more dire when Weed appealed the revocation in December 2012, because, the FBI claims, the appeal letter detailed classified operations and his role helping the "global war on terror" -- and was likely produced on an unclassified computer and sent via regular mail.

The downward spiral continued in 2013, when the NRO discovered that Weed had broken strict security rules during his final days at work and had been remotely logging into his computer at the intelligence agency from home, according to the court documents.

When FBI agents searched Weed's Fredericksburg home in August 2013, they allegedly found that Weed had taken "a radio set worth over $200,000 that had been provided to the NRO by another government agency in 2005," according to the court documents. Agents said they also seized 11 "blue force trackers," high-tech devices each worth approximately $6,000 that the government uses to track the movement of foreigners spying for the United States. On Weed's computers at home, agents claimed they found source code for two classified communications programs.

It's unclear whether federal law enforcement took action against Weed after the 2013 raid or the one last week. The FBI could choose to pursue charges against him for what they describe in court documents as theft of government property, retention of national defense information, and disclosure of classified communications intelligence information.

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