DOD charges former contractor with trying to leak classified information to Russian spies

By Martha Irvine

The Pentagon on Thursday indicted a former government contractor accused of attempting to improperly disseminate information to Russian intelligence agents.

Jonathan Zdziarski, 38, a U.S. citizen who worked as a contractor for M2 Networks, was arrested in St. Louis, where he resided and worked, the Pentagon said. He pleaded not guilty at his initial court appearance Thursday and was released after posting $50,000 bond.

“Zdziarski intended to provide classified defense information to Russian intelligence officers,” Special Agent James Waters of the FBI wrote in an affidavit. “He also had attempted to provide information to Russian intelligence officers that would cause significant harm to U.S. persons or assets.”

Zdziarski is charged with violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an 18-year-old statute under which the government must prove a defendant downloaded or altered classified documents or codes in order to disclose information about classified intelligence assets.

The investigation into Zdziarski began in January 2016, after the FBI was informed by “foreign officials” of suspicions that Zdziarski had shared information with Russian intelligence officers. The agency requested a computer audit from M2 Networks, according to the affidavit.

Computer experts later recovered evidence that showed Zdziarski had altered the discovery tool of M2 Networks’ InnoScan program in an attempt to delete evidence of the altered security files, according to the affidavit.

In 2015, M2 Networks had worked with the Pentagon to build InnoScan, a probe of networks that U.S. intelligence agencies believed could be exploited for cyber attacks. The program detected breaches of networks of the U.S. military, National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency.

Zdziarski was interviewed by the FBI in April 2016, according to the affidavit. He denied downloading classified material to his work computer or accessing classified computers. At the time, he was working for IT systems contractor Dynatrace, the Department of Defense confirmed Thursday. Dynatrace was purchased by Computer Sciences Corp. in October 2016.

Zdziarski worked as a regional security engineer at Dynatrace, a defense contractor, until he was placed on “termination active status” on Jan. 18, a company spokesperson said. The motive for the termination is still under investigation, the spokesperson said.

Dynatrace is one of the largest government-contractor suppliers of information technology services to the U.S. military, according to its website. The company, based in Fairfax, Va., employs 2,700 people and had an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2014, according to its fiscal year 2014 10-K report.

The Pentagon has been under increasing pressure from Congress to increase security at U.S. military and intelligence agencies, after the agency disclosed last year that hundreds of classified networks had been exploited by hackers linked to China.

The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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