NSA staffer takes top-secret hacking tools home ‘to study’, gets 66 months

Taking work-related documents home to study might get you a promotion and pay raise at some jobs, but not when your employer is the National Security Agency (NSA) – and most certainly not when those materials are classified.

Former NSA employee Nghia Hoang Pho, 68 – a naturalized US citizen who was originally from Vietnam but who’d been living in Ellicott City, Maryland – was sentenced last week to 66 months in prison plus three years of supervised release for willful retention of classified national defense information.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Pho removed “massive troves” of highly classified national defense information without authorization and kept it at his home.

Pho worked as a developer in the NSA’s hacking group, otherwise known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO). He was due to retire in a few years, and as he said in a letter to the judge, he wanted to do so at a higher pay grade so as to increase his pension payments.