Former CIA software engineer who leaked to WikiLeaks sentenced to 40 years

05.02.2024

 

A former CIA software engineer, Joshua Schulte, has been handed a 40-year prison sentence for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and possession of child sexual abuse material. Convicted in 2022 on charges of espionage, computer hacking, and lying to the FBI, Schulte had leaked classified data to WikiLeaks, exposing the CIA’s covert activities overseas in the infamous Vault 7 leak.

The leak, characterized by the CIA as a “digital Pearl Harbor,” laid bare the agency’s techniques for hacking Apple and Android smartphones and attempting to convert internet-connected televisions into surveillance devices. The breach led to heightened concerns, prompting discussions among US officials about strategies, including extreme measures like kidnapping or assassinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In 2020, Schulte faced additional convictions for contempt of court and making false statements. Last year, he was found guilty of possessing child abuse material. During the sentencing, Judge Jesse M Furman emphasized that the full extent of the damage caused by Schulte might never be fully known, but it was undoubtedly substantial.

Schulte’s actions were condemned by US Attorney Damian Williams, who described them as “some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history.” Williams highlighted the significant harm Schulte inflicted on national security while seeking revenge against the CIA for its response to his security breaches during his employment.

In a plea to the court before sentencing, Schulte raised concerns about the harsh conditions he faced in detention, alleging denial of hot water and exposure to constant noise and artificial light. He also argued that seeking a life sentence was unfair, pointing out that prosecutors had previously offered a plea deal for a 10-year prison term.

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