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Jury convicts ex-CIA engineer for leaking the agency's hacking toolset

·Contributing Reporter
·2-min read
Gwengoat via Getty Images

Joshua Schulte, the former CIA engineer arrested for what's being called the biggest theft of classified information in the agency's history, has been convicted by a federal jury. Schulte was arrested in relation to the large cache of documents that Wikileaks had published throughout 2017. That string of CIA leaks known as "Vault 7" contained information on the tools and techniques the agency used to hack into iPhones and Android phones for overseas spying. It also had details on how the CIA broke into computers and how it turned smart TVs into listening devices. A federal jury has found Schulte guilty on nine counts, including illegally gathering national defense information and then transmitting it.

According to The New York Times, Schulte was arrested after investigators traced the leaks to him. The former CIA engineer worked with a team in a secret building protected by armed guards to create tools, like malware, that were used to target the devices of suspected terrorists. In 2018, he was formally charged with 13 counts that included theft of classified information, obstruction of justice, as well as possessing and sending images and videos with child pornography. He's still awaiting trial on charges of possessing child pornography, which he allegedly downloaded from 2009 until March 2017.

Schulte's original trial back in 2020 was declared a mistrial after jurors couldn't come to an agreement regarding some of hist most serious charges, illegally gathering and transmitting national defense information included. After that event, the former CIA engineer had decided to represent himself. As part of his closing arguments, he told the jurors that the CIA and the FBI made him a scapegoat for their embarrassing failure, repeating what his side had been saying from the time he was arrested.

While the judge, AP said, was impressed with his closing arguments, they weren't enough to get the jury on his side. In court, he argued that the government's case is full of holes and that he didn't even have motive to leak the CIA's hacking tools. Prosecutors, however, accused him of being a disgruntled employee who felt that he was disrespected when the agency ignored his complaints about his work environment. As retaliation, he allegedly tried "to burn [the CIA] to the ground." US Attorney Damian Williams said his actions rendered the "most valuable intelligence-gathering cyber tools used to battle terrorist organizations and other malign influences around the globe" essentially useless. Williams also accused Schulte of trying to leak more classified materials against the government while he was behind bars.

Schulte will have to face the court again to face charges related to possession of child pornography before a sentencing date can be set. The nine counts he was convicted of, however, are enough to keep him in prison for up to 80 years.

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