Former CIA employee sentenced for leaking data to WikiLeaks


Washington (CNN) — A federal court on Wednesday convicted a former CIA employee accused of carrying out the largest leak of classified data in the agency’s history.

Joshua Schulte—who was charged with delivering reams of classified data to WikiLeaks in 2016—was found guilty of illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information and obstructing a criminal investigation and grand jury proceeding, among other charges.

He had worked as a computer engineer within the CIA’s Cyber ​​Intelligence Center, and created cyber tools that could capture data from computers without being detected. Schulte defended himself at trial.

In 2020, a previous trial ended with a hung jury.

Schulte had access to “some of the most valuable intelligence-gathering cyber tools in the country, used to fight terrorist organizations and other malign influences around the world,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said. in a statement Wednesday.

“When Schulte began to harbor resentment toward the CIA, he covertly collected those tools and provided them to WikiLeaks, making some of our most critical intelligence tools known to the public — and thus to our adversaries,” Williams said.

Schulte’s troubles at the CIA began in the summer of 2015, when he began falling out with management and a co-worker, eventually filing a restraining order against the colleague in state court, court records show. Schulte and the co-worker were transferred as a result of the dispute.

Investigators alleged that Schulte became enraged when CIA officials wanted to bring in a contractor to build a cyber tool similar to the one he was building, according to prosecutors.

A year later, investigators said Schulte stole cyber tools and the source code and transferred to WikiLeaks, according to court records. He then tried to cover his tracks by erasing any trace of his access to the computer system.

Schulte left the CIA in November 2016. But in March 2017, WikiLeaks published the first installment of its Vault 7 leaks, which originated from two programs Schulte had access to, court records show.

WikiLeaks published a press release to accompany the information, saying that the data had been provided anonymously by a source who wanted to raise policy questions, specifically about whether the CIA had overstepped its hacking capabilities and exceeded its authority.

Schulte, who would also have lied to CIA and FBI investigators to cover his tracks, was arrested in August 2017 on child pornography charges. He was indicted on the charges related to the data breach months later.

“Schulte was aware that the collateral damage of his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation if made public, rendering them essentially worthless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to do us harm.” Williams added Wednesday.

“Today, Schulte was convicted of one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.”

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.



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