Wikileaks source and former CIA worker Joshua Schulte sentenced to 40 years jail

'Vault 7' leak detailed cyber-ops including forged digital certs

Joshua Schulte, a former CIA employee and software engineer accused of sharing material with WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the US Southern District of New York on Thursday.

Schulte was sent down for crimes including espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI, and child sexual abuse material, following convictions decided in March 2020, July 2022, and September 2023.

In addition to the prison term, Schulte – who is 35 years old – was sentenced to a lifetime of supervision upon his eventual release.

"Schulte's theft is the largest data breach in the history of the CIA, and his transmission of that stolen information to WikiLeaks is one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the history of the US," declared the court.

Schulte allegedly stole the files that would become known as the Vault 7 leak in April 2016 while he worked at the Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), a division of the CIA that conducts offensive cyber operations.

He then allegedly transferred those files to Wikileaks using anonymized tools like the Linux-based Tails operating system and Tor browser before wiping and reformatting his home computer's internal hard drives.

The files he shared began appearing on Wikileaks almost a year later, in March of 2017. They detailed how the CIA conducted surveillance of foreign governments and alleged terrorist organizations – mostly through hacking and tactics like forged digital certificates.

The child sexual abuse material accusations emerged after the FBI searched Schulte's home in March of 2017 and claimed to have turned up frankly vile material tallying approximately 3,400 images and videos.

Schulte has a reputation as a difficult character and his attorney argued in his March 2020 trail that being hated by almost everyone at work made him a great patsy. Meanwhile, while in the clink, he allegedly sent reporters classified information and waged what he called an "information war."

As if Schulte needed to further prove how unlikeable he could be, his closing remarks reportedly compared his plight to figures like Nelson Mandela. He drew parallels between New York prisons and Auschwitz, and claimed to have "been tortured worse than any other prisoner in the Western hemisphere."

"Any comparison to Nazi concentration camps is to my mind offensive. Their only crime was being Jewish," responded US district judge Jesse Furman.

Judge Furman, for his part, claimed it was not an exaggeration to refer to Schulte's crimes as a "digital Pearl Harbor" – with an impact on national security measured at greater than $300 million. ®

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