Ex-CIA hacker jailed 40 years over data leak to WikiLeaks

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

Former CIA operative Joshua Schulte has been handed a 40-year prison sentence for leaking classified hacking tools to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

In addition to this, Schulte was found guilty of possessing child abuse images. The charges stem from Schulte’s alleged leak of the “Vault 7” technologies, which the CIA employs for phone hacking and surveillance.

Prosecutors argue that this breach ranks among the most audacious in U.S. history. The U.S. Justice Department contends that Schulte, 35, orchestrated the largest data breach in CIA history, sharing 8,761 records with WikiLeaks in 2017.

Despite his denial of accusations, Schulte faced convictions in three separate federal trials held in New York during 2020, 2022, and 2023. The charges include espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI, and possessing child abuse images. U.S.

Attorney Damian Williams remarked, “Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history.”

Trial testimony disclosed Schulte’s role as a software engineer at the Centre for Cyber Intelligence, specializing in cyber espionage against foreign governments and terrorist groups.

Prosecutors claim that in 2016, Schulte sent stolen data to WikiLeaks, providing false information to FBI investigators about his involvement.

Following the WikiLeaks release, FBI questioning followed, with consistent denials from Schulte. Subsequent searches of his residence revealed “tens of thousands of images of child sexual abuse materials.”

Schulte has been in custody since 2018.

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