Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, pleaded guilty in a Baltimore federal court Friday to a single count of willfully retaining national defense information in violation of federal law, the Department of Justice announced afterwards.
The guilty plea said that between 2010 and March 2015, Pho removed and retained at his home paper and digital copies of USA government documents and writings containing national defense information.
Pho took the classified material home to assist him in reworking his resume, according to unnamed government officials who spoke to the New York Times.
The employee was described as a USA citizen born in Vietnam, who worked in the NSA's elite hacking division, Tailored Access Operations, according to an October report from The Washington Post. The aggressive hacking of American targets by the Russian government, including the Democratic National Committee during last year's election campaign, is a high-priority concern for the United States, and forensic information from Mr. Pho's computer might provide useful clues.
Reportedly, Russian spies stole classified data from an NSA employee's home computer by using the Kaspersky Lab antivirus software onboard.
Pho faces up to 10 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.
Pho is understood to be the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) programmer whose home computer was running Kaspersky Lab software that was allegedly used, one way or another, by Russian authorities to steal top-secret NSA documents and tools in 2015.
The guilty plea was announced by Stephen Schenning, acting US attorney for the District of Maryland; Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security; and Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore Field Office.
Reality Leigh Winner, a Texas native who had been stationed in Maryland, was charged in June with sending a classified report to a news organization.
Documents released by the Justice Dept. accuse Pho of removing top secret information from the agency over a five yer period through March 2015.
Mr. Pho is one of three N.S.A. workers to be charged in the past two years with mishandling classified information, a dismal record for an agency that is responsible for some of the government's most carefully guarded secrets. The company has acknowledged finding N.S.A. hacking software on a customer's computer and removing it, but says the material was subsequently destroyed.
U.S District Judge George L. Russell III has scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 6. Most notably, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed a cache of classified material in 2013 exposing USA government surveillance programs.