Software engineer Joshua Schulte found guilty of CIA’s biggest theft of secrets

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NEW YORK (AP) — A former CIA software engineer was found guilty on Wednesday of federal charges accusing him of the largest theft of classified information in CIA history.

Joshua Schulte, who chose to defend himself in a new trial in New York, told jurors during closing arguments that the CIA and FBI had made him a scapegoat for an embarrassing public release of a treasure trove of CIA secrets by WikiLeaks in 2017.

Schulte watched blankly as U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman announced the guilty verdict on nine counts, which was handed down mid-afternoon by a jury that had been deliberating since Friday.

The so-called Vault 7 leak exposed how the CIA hacked into Apple and Android smartphones during overseas spy operations, and efforts to turn internet-connected TVs into listening devices. Prior to his arrest, Schulte had helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

A sentencing date has not been set immediately as Schulte is still awaiting trial for possession and transportation of child pornography. He pleaded not guilty.

Attorney Sabrina Shroff, who advised Schulte during the trial, told Schulte’s mother after the verdict that the result was “a kick in the gut, brain and heart.” It was unclear whether Shroff was expressing his own feelings or those of Schulte.

In his conclusion, Schulte claimed he was singled out even though “hundreds of people had access to (the information). … Hundreds of people could have stolen it.

“The government’s case is riddled with reasonable doubts,” he added. “There’s just no pattern here.”

Prosecutors alleged that Schulte, 33, was motivated to orchestrate the leak because he believed the CIA disrespected him by ignoring his complaints about the work environment. So he tried to “burn down” the very work he helped the agency create, they said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton encouraged jurors to review evidence of an attempted cover-up, including a to-do list Schulte made that included an entry that read “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.”

Williams said Schulte, driven by resentment toward the CIA, leaked to the public and to U.S. adversaries some of the nation’s “most valuable intelligence-gathering computer tools, used to combat terrorist organizations and other malign influences in the whole world “.

The prosecutor said Schulte knew the leak would render CIA tools “essentially useless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to harm us.”

While behind bars awaiting trial, prosecutors said he was continuing his crimes by attempting to release other classified documents as he waged an ‘information war’ against the government.

After the jury left the courtroom for deliberations, the judge congratulated Schulte on his closing argument.

“Mr. Schulte, that’s been done in an impressive way,” Furman said. “Depending on what happens here, you might have a future as a defense attorney.”

A mistrial was declared at Schulte’s original trial in 2020 after jurors deadlocked on the most serious counts, including unlawful collection and transmission of national defense information. . Schulte told the judge last year that he wanted to be his own attorney for the retrial.

He has not announced whether he wishes to represent himself in his upcoming trial, which involves allegations that after leaving the CIA, Schulte moved to New York from Virginia with a computer containing images and videos of pornography. juvenile that he had downloaded from the Internet from 2009. to March 2017.

Schulte has been held behind bars without bail since 2018. Last year he complained in court papers that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, awaiting both trials in solitary confinement in an infested cell of vermin in a prison unit where inmates are treated like “caged animals”.



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