Former CIA engineer sentenced to 40 years for leaking classified documents

02 February 2024PressroomNational security/data breach

Classified documents

A former software engineer for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been sentenced to 40 years in prison by the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for transmitting classified documents to WikiLeaks and for possession of child pornography.

Joshua Adam Schulte, 35, was originally charged in June 2018. He was found guilty in July 2022. On September 13, 2023, he was convicted on charges of receiving, possessing and transporting child pornography. In addition to the prison sentence, Schulte was sentenced to life in prison with supervised release.

“Schulte’s theft is the largest data breach in the history of the CIA, and his transmission of stolen information to WikiLeaks is one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in U.S. history,” the Justice Department said of the United States (DoJ). She said.

Cyber ​​security

The sensitive information shared by Schulte included a tranche of hacking tools and exploits called Vault 7 and Vault 8. They were published by WikiLeaks starting March 7, 2017, over a period of eight months.

Schulte was employed as a software developer at the Center for Cyber ​​Intelligence (CCI) from 2012 to 2016, where he worked on tools related to offensive cyber operations conducted by the CIA, subsequently abusing his administrator privileges to plunder “copies of the ‘whole CCI development archives tool’ in 2016.

This information included methods to “gather foreign intelligence against America’s adversaries,” including an arsenal of cyber weapons and zero-day exploits that allowed it to compromise automobiles, smart TVs, web browsers, and widely used desktop and mobile operating systems.

The leak, described as a “digital Pearl Harbor,” cost the agency “hundreds of millions of dollars” and “severely damaged U.S. national security and directly put the lives of CIA personnel at risk.” , prosecutors said.

Schulte was also accused of repeatedly lying to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his involvement, as well as “weaving false narratives” about how information could have been obtained from CIA computers in an attempt to divert suspicion .

A subsequent search of his New York apartment in March 2017 uncovered a stash of child pornography (CSAM) comprising approximately 3,400 images and videos, some of which were collected during his employment with the CIA from the dark web and Russian websites.

Cyber ​​security

While in detention awaiting trial, he was found to have used contraband cell phones in prison to create anonymous, encrypted email and social media accounts and had attempted to transmit protected discovery materials to WikiLeaks and publish classified information on the techniques and CIA IT tools.

Schulte’s goal, the Justice Department said, citing a journal he maintained, was to “sever diplomatic relations, close embassies, [and] end US occupation around the world.”

“Joshua Schulte was rightly punished not only for his betrayal of our country, but for his substantial possession of horrific child pornography,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith. “The seriousness of his actions is clear and the sentence imposed reflects the extent of the disturbing and harmful threat posed by his criminal conduct.”

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