Justice considers him responsible for one of the biggest leaks of secret information in history. The defendant declares himself a scapegoat, and with delayed effect, of the WikiLeaks scandal, which years ago revealed the intervention of computer systems of governments and corporations by the United States. Joshua Schulte, a former computer engineer who worked for the CIA until November 2016, has been found guilty this Wednesday of eight charges of espionage and one of obstruction by a federal court in Manhattan. The 33-year-old computer scientist defended himself at trial, the second against him after a previous process, in March 2020, was declared null because the judges did not reach any agreement on the charges.
Schulte, 33, has been convicted of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks from the spy agency, in what many consider the biggest data leak in CIA history. The WikiLeaks revelations, which are still part of the recent extradition order to the US of its founder, Julian Assange, took place in 2017 and brought to light the secret methods of the agency to penetrate the computer networks of foreign governments and networks terrorists. Schulte was arrested in the wake of the revelation.
At the 2020 trial, Schulte was found guilty of contempt of court and making false statements to the FBI, but received no convictions. This Wednesday, Manhattan federal judge Damian Williams argued in a statement, he has been convicted of “one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in United States history” by undermining efforts to fight “terrorist organizations and other malign influences” around the world, exposing “some of our most critical intelligence tools to the public and therefore to our adversaries.” The nine proven crimes include the illegal collection of national defense information and the illegal transmission – or leak – of such information.
The leaked materials derived from CIA software tools used to monitor people outside the United States, through the hacking of smartphones and Internet-connected televisions. WikiLeaks began publishing the leaked documents in March 2017.
The Justice Department maintains that Schulte, who had resigned from his CIA job in late 2016, leaked the secret documents out of spite because he was unhappy with the way he was treated as a worker. That is why he has repeatedly presented himself as a scapegoat, alluding to his tensions with the administration. He was arrested in August 2017 on charges unrelated to the present case, and entered prison, where he has remained until now, since his bail was revoked four months later. The Justice Department filed the WikiLeaks-related charges a year later, in June 2018.
Last month, the British government ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Assange to the United States. The free speech activist, who in 2012 caused a diplomatic crisis by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, faces federal criminal charges in Virginia for his alleged involvement in the publication of secret military documents in 2010. In 2019, Chelsea Manning, the former US Army Intelligence analyst who leaked thousands of secret Pentagon and State Department documents to Wikileaks in 2010, was arrested, then released, for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange’s organization. .
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