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Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin pleaded guilty on Thursday to willfully retaining classified national defense information, including NSA hacking tools.

The big picture: This is the largest known security breach in U.S. intelligence history, per CNN — for 20 years Martin had been stealing classified national defense information while working for 7 private companies and several government agencies. If the court accepts his guilty plea, he faces 9 years in prison. This would be the longest-ever sentence imposed for retaining secrets illegally, according to the U.S. attorney for Maryland, Robert K. Hur.

Between the lines: Investigators didn’t find proof that Martin had shared stolen secrets with anyone, but they have found evidence indicating potential intent to do so, per the New York Times.

  • The hacking group known as Shadow Brokers released a list of tools the NSA used right around the time Martin was arrested in August 2016. But they continued to post after he was in jail, and investigators determined he wasn't behind Shadow Brokers, at least wittingly, per the Times.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.

4 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.