Ex-CIA employee charged with leaking to WikiLeaks
A former CIA engineer who was already under indictment on child pornography charges has now been indicted on charges that he masterminded the largest leak of classified information in the agency's history.
Joshua Schulte, 29, was charged in a new grand jury indictment with providing WikiLeaks with a massive trove of U.S. government hacking tools that the online publisher posted in March 2017, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
Schulte was previously facing child pornography charges in federal court in New York, but the indictment broadens the case to accuse him of illegally gathering classified information, damaging CIA computers, lying to investigators and numerous other offenses.
In January, attorneys involved in the child porn case revealed in court that Schulte was the target of a major investigation into WikiLeaks' release of a CIA collection known as "Vault 7."
The Justice Department's news release announcing Schulte's indictment does not mention WikiLeaks by name, signaling that it has not been charged in the case. There was no mention of any other individuals being charged.
Attorneys for Schulte did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The new charges make Schulte the fourth individual to face charges related to classified leaks since President Donald Trump took office and vowed a crackdown on leaks.
WikiLeaks called the classified info given to WikiLeaks by Schulte "Vault 7."
The leaks, which Wikileaks called "Vault 7," revealed tools used by the CIA to hack phones, TVs and computers as part of its investigations. The disclosures showed the lengths to which government investigators go to access electronic evidence, tailoring hacks for specific smart TVs, for example.
They also caused an uproar, with some in tech saying they'd further harm relations between Silicon Valley and the US government. But some privacy advocates saw an upside, saying the leaks showed investigators were relying on hacking individual suspects to find evidence of crimes, rather than using dragnet surveillance techniques that scoop up information on everyone's online activities.
The US government hasn't officially acknowledged the CIA was hacked, but President Donald Trump has revealed a breach occurred at the CIA during the Obama administration. "I just want people to know: the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken," Trump told Fox in March 2017. "That was during the Obama years."
The leak put US national security in jeopardy, Justice Department officials said.
"Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims. As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of classified Information," William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the New York FBI office, said in a statement Monday.
As with Edward Snowden, who leaked massive amounts of NSA secrets, the CIA somehow let this guy slip through the cracks. Snowden was a befuddled "patriot." Schulte's motivation is unclear at this point, but the material he gave to WikiLeaks suggests that he was not enamored of the CIA's ability to spy on people.
Both men violated sworn oaths to keep secrets, fancying themselves answering to higher authority – namely, their own consciences. If what they did bothered them, they could have resigned. Instead, they endangered national security by employing a personal sense of morality that under some circumstances might be seen as admirable.
In Schulte's case, that personal sense of morality is quite selective.
But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found 10,000 illicit images on a server he created as a business in 2009 while studying at the University of Texas at Austin.
Court papers quote messages from Mr. Schulte that suggest he was aware of the encrypted images of children being molested by adults on his computer, though he advised one user, "Just don't put anything too illegal on there."
Again, the question must be asked: why did the CIA miss this? He may have used a computer application that hide his online activities, but shouldn't a psych evaluation have raised red flags somewhere?
It makes you wonder how many more Schultes are employed by the agency and how endangered our nation's secrets have become.