Jury Convicts Former CIA Engineer for 'Vault 7' Leak of Agency's Classified Information
A U.S. jury convicted a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) engineer for causing the largest leak of classified information in the history of the agency.
Joshua Schulte, who worked as a software engineer for the CIA, was convicted on nine counts that included illegally gathering national defense information and illegally transmitting that information. He was previously convicted in 2019 of making false statements to the FBI and contempt of court.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that through Schulte's position with the CIA, he had access to some of the United States' most valuable intelligence-gathering cyber tools to battle terror organizations.
"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 therefore, our adversaries," Williams said. "Moreover, Schulte was aware that the collateral damage of his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation if made public, rendering them esseentially useless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to do us harm."
In 2015, Schulte argued with colleagues, one of whom eventually filed a retraining order against him. Both Schulte and the colleague were transferred, but Schulte later began to resent the CIA. In November 2016, after other issues with his employer, Schulte quit the agency.
Prior to leaving, however, Schulte amassed “Vault 7” cyber tools, source code, and more than 8,700 documents on agency practices, which he later transferred to WikiLeaks.
“The so-called Vault 7 leak revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations, and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices,” Fox News reported. “Prior to his arrest, Schulte had helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.”
Wednesday’s verdict was announced two years after a previous jury failed to agree on eight of the 10 charges Schulte faced, resulting in a mistrial, according to The New York Times.
Schulte, who represented himself during the trial, claimed that the agency made him a scapegoat to turn attention away from the CIA’s own failures, including “woefully lax” security.
“In his closing argument, he claimed that ‘hundreds of people had access’ to the leaked files and that ‘hundreds of people could have stolen it,’” BBC News reported.
Schulte’s conviction carries a maximum combined sentence of 80 years. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled because of his pending trial on child pornography charges, which he has pled not guilty to.