Ex-NGA scientist given jail time for taking top secret papers

WASHINGTON — A former imagery scientist from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will serve jail time for bringing home hundreds of pages of top secret and other classified documents.

Mohan L. Nirala, 52, of Laurel, Maryland, was sentenced on Friday to 12 months and one day in jail, federal prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty retention of defense information in September.

Nirala worked at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2015, but came under scrutiny in 2013 when an investigation was launched into the removal of classified materials from NGA headquarters in Springfield, Virginia.

Nirala’s security clearance was suspended in 2014.

Shortly after, the FBI discovered more than 20 classified documents while serving a search warrant at his home. Nirala told investigators that he did not bring home any classified documents.

During a second search of Nirala’s Laurel home in March 2016, investigators found a duct-taped box under the basement stairs. Inside, were more than 500 pages of documents ranging from secret to top secret classifications, prosecutors said.

Nirala was arrested that same day in his basement.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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