A former CIA employee has been convicted Wednesday for carrying out the largest leak of classified data in the agency’s history to Wikileaks.
Joshua Schulte — accused of handing classified data to WikiLeaks in 2016 — has been found guilty of illegally collecting and transmitting national defense information and obstructing a criminal investigation and grand jury proceeding, among other charges, as reported by U.S. broadcaster CNN.
Schulte had worked as a computer engineer within the CIA’s Cyber Intelligence Center, and created cyber tools that could capture data from computers without detection. An earlier trial ended with a hung jury in 2020.
The former CIA employee had access to “some of the nation’s most valuable cyber intelligence-gathering tools used to fight terrorist organizations and other malign influences around the world,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams has explained in a statement, as reported by the aforementioned media outlet.
“When Schulte began to harbor resentment toward the CIA, he covertly collected those tools and provided them to WikiLeaks, releasing some of our most critical intelligence tools to the public,” Williams added.
Schulte’s troubles at the CIA began in the summer of 2015, when he had a dispute with management and a co-worker, and ended up filing a restraining order against the co-worker in state court, court records show.
Also, investigators have highlighted that Schulte stole cyber tools and source code and transferred them to WikiLeaks, according to the same court records.
He then tried to cover his tracks, erasing any trace of his access to the computer system, prosecutors have asserted.
Schulte left the CIA in November 2016, and 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 issued 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 also allegedly lied to CIA and FBI investigators to cover his tracks, was arrested in August 2017 on child pornography charges.
“Schulte was aware that the collateral damage of his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation if made public, rendering it essentially useless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical data to those who wish to do us harm,” Williams has sentenced.
Thus, I emphasized that “today, Schulte has been convicted of one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in U.S. history.”