A jury found Joshua Schulte, 33, guilty of leaking Vault 7 tools to the entity established by activist Julian Assange. The former engineer, who has been in custody since 2018, had also been awaiting trial for possession and transport of child pornography – charges Schulte pleaded not guilty to.
"The government's case is riddled with reasonable doubt," he said, adding that there is no motive in his case. He further claimed that the U.S. government set him up as the "fall guy" for the leaks that revealed Washington's terrifying surveillance power.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton remarked that the evidence showed Schulte is guilty of leaking sensitive information. "This is someone who's hiding the things that he's done wrong," he said. The federal prosecutor accused Schulte of breaking into the system, creating a backup and sending the said backup to WikiLeaks.
The Vault 7 leaks, which were made public in March 2017, showed that the CIA could "spoof" malware to show that it originated from a foreign government, when it really came from the United States. They also showed that the government can spy on people using smart TVs – even when they are turned off – using the Weeping Angel tool. (Related: Wikileaks CIA dump reveals how the Deep State can hack databases and make it SEEM like the Russians did it.)
CIA spokeswoman Tammy Thorp commented on Schulte's July 13 conviction in a statement to the Verge.
"Today's verdict affirms that maintaining the security of our nation’s cyber capabilities is of the utmost importance. It’s critical to the security of the American people, and it’s critical to our advantage against adversaries abroad. As set forth in the trial, unauthorized disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm," Thorp said.
Schulte had been described as "abrasive" in a lengthy profile, with the same piece detailing that the CIA's Operations Support Branch where he was assigned had turned prototype hacking tools into actual surveillance programs.
Federal investigators obtained evidence against him through his own lapses in personal security, such as storing passwords on his phone. They also found proof of an attempted cover-up, including a list of tasks Schulte drew up. The list included an entry that read "delete suspicious emails," which Denton asked the jury to consider.
The government's first attempt to prosecute Schulte in 2020 ended in a mistrial, as the jury convicted him on contempt of court charges and lying to investigators. The rest of the jury were unable to agree on the rest.
Schulte chose to represent himself on the second trial, where he was convicted of charges specifically related to gathering, stealing and transmitting classified information and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators.
According to Military.com, Schulte "watched without visibly reacting" as U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman read the guilty verdict on nine counts. His sentencing date is yet to be announced, as the child pornography charges filed against him are yet to be heard in court.
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