Ex-CIA Joshua Schulte Sentenced to 40 Years for Giving Secrets to WikiLeaks

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) software engineer, Joshua Schulte, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his involvement in what has been the largest theft of classified information in the history of the agency.

Joshua Schulte Sentenced to 40 Years for Giving Secrets to WikiLeaks

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The sentencing, was by US District Judge Jesse Furman, charges related to espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI, and possession of child pornography.

Joshua Schulte’s conviction from his role in the so-called Vault 7 leak, an embarrassment for the CIA. The leak, which began in March 2017, involved the publication of classified materials by the agency WikiLeaks.

These materials provided insights into the CIA’s surveillance techniques, detailing how the agency compromised electronics and computer networks to monitor foreign governments, alleged extremists, and other targets.

Joshua Schulte, convicted in July 2022 on four counts each of espionage and computer hacking, in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

Prosecutors characterized his actions as the largest data breach in the history of the CIA. The stolen information on the agency’s hacking tools, including methods used to compromise smartphones and turn internet-connected televisions into surveillance devices.

The impact of Joshua Schulte’s actions resulted in damage to the CIA’s ability to collect foreign intelligence, costing the agency hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Joshua Schulte was also found guilty of possessing child sexual abuse images. During the investigation into the CIA leaks, authorities discovered thousands of explicit images and videos in Schulte’s New York apartment.

The material was stored in an encrypted container beneath three layers of password protection, revealing a disturbing aspect of Schulte’s activities.

The legal proceedings against Joshua Schulte were complex. The initial trial in 2020 ended in a mistrial as jurors deadlocked on the most serious counts.

However, in July 2022, Joshua Schulte was convicted on charges related to the Vault 7 leak, and later, in September 2023, he was convicted of possessing child abuse material.

The sentencing, was on February 1, 2024, imposed a 40-year prison term, falling short of the life sentence sought by prosecutors.

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The Vault 7 leak compromised the agency’s ability to conduct foreign intelligence operations, jeopardizing personnel, programs, and assets.

The breach made discussions within US intelligence agencies about the need for enhanced measures to safeguard classified information. The leak was described by a former CIA deputy director of digital innovation as a digital Pearl Harbor.

Prosecutors argued that he was motivated by anger, spite, and grievances against the CIA. Joshua Schulte’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions became apparent during the court proceedings.

Even while incarcerated, Joshua Schulte continued to make a threat by attempting to leak more classified materials and creating a hidden file on his computer containing child sexual abuse images. This demonstrated a disregard for the law and a willingness to compromise national security.

The Vault 7 leak, the US government contemplated an all-out war against WikiLeaks, including discussions about kidnapping or assassinating its founder, Julian Assange. Assange, who is fighting extradition to the US, was indicted on espionage charges in 2019.

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