Former CIA programmer convicted for ‘one of the most damaging acts of espionage in American history’

A former CIA programmer was convicted by a federal jury Wednesday of transmitting thousands of classified CIA files to WikiLeaks.

The files, all of which were pertaining to the CIA’s “covert techniques and spying tools,” were later published in 2017 by WikiLeaks as part of its “Vault 7” collection.

“The month of its release, authorities searched the home of ex-CIA coder Joshua Adam Schulte and later charged him in connection with the record-breaking leaks. He was indicted on more than a dozen federal crimes,” according to Law & Crime.

“The first nine related to the breach of the files and alleged cover-up, while the remainder focused on unrelated child pornography allegations. The cases were severed, and the first attempt to prosecute Schulte under the espionage charges led to a mistrial in 2020.”

On Wednesday, however, a federal jury convicted Schulte on the first set of nine charges.

In a statement issued after the conviction, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams accused Schulte of having transmitted the files because of resentment.

“Joshua Adam Schulte was a CIA programmer with access to some of the country’s most valuable intelligence-gathering cyber tools used to battle terrorist organizations and other malign influences around the globe. When Schulte began to harbor resentment toward the CIA, he covertly collected those tools and provided them to WikiLeaks, making some of our most critical intelligence tools known to the public – and therefore, our adversaries,” he said.

“Moreover, Schulte was aware that the collateral damage of his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation if made public, rendering them essentially useless, having a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to do us harm. Today, Schulte has been convicted for one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.”

WikiLeaks released its own statement of sorts accusing Trump-era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of having been so enraged by the “Vault 7” leak that he’d begun planning the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Look:

According to the Associated Press, the files that Schulte shared specifically “revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations” and also uncovered the agency’s “efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices.”

The only catch is that Schulte had reportedly helped design these very tools before he’d turned against the agency.

“Prosecutors alleged the 33-year-old Schulte was motivated to orchestrate the leak because he believed the CIA had disrespected him by ignoring his complaints about the work environment. So he tried ‘to burn to the ground’ the very work he had helped the agency to create, they said,” the AP reported.

Schulte for his part continues to maintain his innocence. In his closing trial statement, he claimed he’d been singled out even though “hundreds of people had access to” the files, and therefore “hundreds of people could have stolen it.”

“The government’s case is riddled with reasonable doubt. There’s simply no motive here,” he added.

Some of the evidence does indeed seem flimsy.

“Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton encouraged jurors to consider evidence of an attempted cover-up, including a list of chores Schulte drew up that had an entry reading, ‘Delete suspicious emails,'” as noted by the AP.

He could have maybe been joking?

Regardless, critics of the government say Schulte is ultimately nothing more than a whistleblower and thus deserves to be freed from jail, where he’s reportedly been languishing since 2018.

Critics also say that the real criminals are the legions of intelligence officials who’ve brazenly lied to Congress and the public, and gotten away with it:

Schulte’s conviction comes amid the hubbub over Assange being extradited to the United States to face prosecution and perhaps even worse. Many world leaders disagree with the extradition and upcoming prosecution, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

About a week ago, in fact, Obrador said that if the U.S. government convicts Assange, then the Statue of Liberty should be torn down.

“If he is brought to the US and sentenced to the maximum penalty, to death in prison, it will be necessary to start a campaign to dismantle the Statue of Liberty in New York, donated by the French, because it will no longer be a symbol of freedom,” he said.

His point was that a nation that prosecutes whistleblowers is no free nation at all.

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Vivek Saxena

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