Former CIA software engineer, 33, is convicted over ‘single biggest leak of classified information in Agency’s history’
Joshua Schulte was convicted of espionage and obstruction on Wednesday
He was found guilty of providing classified CIA information to WikiLeaks in 2017
Schulte claimed he was framed for the leak and made a scapegoat by the feds
The Justice Department said he was motivated to leak the materials out of spite
DOJ said Schulte was motivated to leak the materials out of spite because he was unhappy with how management treated him
Schulte has not yet been sentenced, because he as he awaits trial on parallel child porn charges
A former CIA software engineer accused of the largest leak of classified data in agency history was convicted on all charges.
Joshua Schulte, 33, was convicted Wednesday of leaking classified CIA information to WikiLeaks in 2017.
He was found guilty in federal court on eight espionage charges and one obstruction charge over what was dubbed the ‘Vault 7 leak’.
Schulte, who chose to defend himself at the New York City retrial, told jurors in his closing arguments that the CIA and FBI made him a scapegoat for the embarrassing public release of the trove of secrets.
The leaked materials concerned software tools the Central Intelligence Agency used to surveil people outside the U.S., through such means as compromising smartphones and smart [internet-connected] TVs.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Schulte was motivated to leak the materials out of spite because he was unhappy with how management treated him.
Prior to his arrest, Schulte had helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Schulte’s expression remained inscrutable as U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman announced the jury decision of guilty on nine counts. The decision was reached it’s decision mid-afternoon Wednesday by the jury, that began deliberations last week Friday.
‘Today, Schulte has been convicted for one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history,’ in undermining U.S. efforts to battle ‘terrorist organizations and other malign influences’ around the world, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan said in a statement.
Attorney Sabrina Shroff, who advised Schulte during the trial, told his mother after the verdict that the outcome was a ‘kick to the gut, the brain and heart.’ It was unclear if Shroff was expressing her own sentiments or Schulte’s.
A sentencing date was not immediately set because Schulte still awaits trial on charges of possessing and transporting child pornography o which he has pled not guilty.
WikiLeaks began publishing the leaked materials in March 2017.
Prosecutors accused Schulte, who resigned from the CIA in November 2016, of being motivated to orchestrate the leak because he believed the agency had disrespected him by ignoring his complaints about the work environment. So he tried ‘to burn to the ground’ the very work he had helped the agency to create, the Justice Department alleged.
Schulte countered that he was framed and scapegoated for the leak because of his issues with management.
Schulte, who opted to act as his own attorney at the New York City retrial, in closing arguments told jurors that the CIA and FBI made him a scapegoat for the public embarrassment caused by releasing the trove of secrets.
Schulte claimed he was singled out even though ‘hundreds of people had access to [the information]: ‘Hundreds of people could have stolen it,’ he argued.
‘The government’s case is riddled with reasonable doubt,’ adding: ‘There’s simply no motive here.’
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton encouraged jurors to consider evidence of an attempted cover-up, including a list of chores Schulte drew up that had an entry reading, ‘Delete suspicious emails.’
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Schulte was convicted of ‘one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.’
‘Schulte leaked to the public and to U.S. adversaries some of the nation’s ‘most valuable intelligence-gathering cyber tools used to battle terrorist organizations and other malign influences around the globe,’ Williams said.
The former spy agency staffer ‘knew the leak would render the CIA’s tools ‘essentially useless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to do us harm,’ the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors also alleged that while he was behind bars awaiting trial, Schulte continued his crimes by trying to leak additional classified materials as he carried on an ‘information war’ against the government.
Once the jury left the courtroom for deliberations Friday, the judge complimented Schulte on his closing argument.
‘Mr. Schulte, that was impressively done,’ Furman said. ‘Depending on what happens here, you may have a future as a defense lawyer.’
A mistrial was declared at Schulte’s original 2020 trial after jurors deadlocked on the most serious counts, including illegal gathering and transmission of national defense information.
A sentencing date was not immediately set because Schulte still awaits trial on charges of possessing and transporting child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty.
Schulte told the judge last year that he wanted to serve as his own attorney for the retrial.
He has not announced whether he wants to represent himself at his next trial, which involves allegations that after leaving the CIA, Schulte moved to New York from Virginia with a computer that contained images and videos of child pornography he had downloaded from the internet from 2009 to March 2017.
Schulte was originally arrested in August 2017 and has been held in jail without bail since 2018.
Last year, he complained in court papers that he was a victim of cruel and unusual punishment, awaiting the two trials in solitary confinement inside a vermin-infested cell of a jail unit where inmates are treated like ‘caged animals.’
The Justice Department announced the charges related to WikiLeaks in June 2018.
Last month, Britain’s interior minister approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. He faces federal criminal charges in Virginia over his alleged role in publishing secret military documents in 2010.