Ex-CIA Coder Joshua Schulte Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Leaking Hacking Tools to WikiLeaks

Former CIA officer Joshua Schulte faces 40 years in prison for leaking a trove of classified hacking tools to WikiLeaks, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York announced Thursday. He was also found guilty of possessing child abuse images.

Prosecutors accused the onetime coder of passing on the CIA’s “Vault 7” tools, which allow intelligence officers to hack smartphones and use them as listening devices in what was variously described as one of the most “brazen” leaks in U.S. history.

Schulte, 35, shared some 8,761 documents to WikiLeaks in 2017, the U.S. justice department found. It was the single largest data leak in the agency’s history.

He denied the allegations, but was convicted on the various counts of espionage at three separate federal trials in New York in 2020, 2022, and 2023.

File/The outside of the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York. Joshua Schulte, ex-CIA software engineer charged with leaking government secrets to WikiLeaks says it’s cruel and unusual punishment that he’s awaiting trial in solitary confinement, housed in a vermin-infested cell of a jail unit where inmates are treated like “caged animals.” In court papers Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 Schulte maintained conditions were “below that of impoverished persons living in third world countries.” (AP Photo/Osamu Honda, File)

On Thursday, he was sentenced for charges of espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI and possession of child abuse images.

Schulte defended himself at trial. An earlier trial ended in a hung jury in 2020.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement Schulte’s activities saw him “rightly punished not only for his betrayal of our country, but for his substantial possession of horrific child pornographic material,” further adding:

Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history. He caused untold damage to our national security in his quest for revenge against the CIA for its response to Schulte’s security breaches while employed there.

When the FBI caught him, Schulte doubled down and tried to cause even more harm to this nation by waging what he described as an ‘information war’ of publishing top secret information from behind bars… And all the while, Schulte collected thousands upon thousands of videos and images of children being subjected to sickening abuse for his own personal gratification.

Schulte worked for the CIA’s elite hacking unit from 2012 to 2016 when he quietly took cyber tools used to break into computer and technology systems, according to court documents.

After quitting his job, he sent them to WikiLeaks, which began publishing the classified data in March 2017.

AFP reports the leaked data included a collection of malware, viruses, trojans, and “zero day” exploits that, once leaked out, were available for use by foreign intelligence groups, hackers and cyber extortionists around the world.

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