A former CIA software engineer was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison after his conviction for what the government described as the largest theft of classified information in CIA history and for possessing images and child sexual abuse videos.
Most of the sentence given to Joshua Schulte, 35, in Manhattan federal court came for the embarrassing public disclosure of a trove of CIA secrets by WikiLeaks in 2017. He has been imprisoned since 2018.
“We will probably never know the extent of the damage, but I am convinced that it was enormous,” Judge Jesse M. Furman said in announcing the sentence.
The so-called Vault 7 leak revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones as part of overseas spying operations, as well as its efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices. Before his arrest, Schulte helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
In seeking a life sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney David William Denton Jr. said Schulte was responsible for “the most damaging disclosures of classified information in American history.”
Joshua Adam Schulte, former CIA officer, sentenced to 40 years in prison for espionage and child pornography crimes https://t.co/Fz19pIs2Vp
When given the opportunity to speak, Schulte primarily complained about the harsh conditions at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, calling his cell “my torture cage.”
But he also claimed that prosecutors once offered him a plea deal that would have required a 10-year prison sentence and that it was unfair of them to now seek a life sentence. He said he opposed the deal because he would have had to give up his right to appeal.
“The government is not seeking justice, but revenge,” Schulte said.
“Total absence of remorse”
Immediately afterward, the judge criticized some of Schulte’s half-hour remarks, saying he was “blown away” by Schulte’s “complete lack of remorse and acceptance of responsibility.”
The judge said Schulte “was not motivated by any sense of altruism” but was instead “motivated by anger, spite and perceived grievances” against others in the agency who he said , had ignored his complaints about the work environment.
Furman said Schulte continued his crimes behind bars by trying to release more classified documents and creating a hidden file on his computer containing 2,400 images of child sexual abuse that he continued to view from prison.
During a two-hour proceeding, Furman took note of a one-page letter the government passed from CIA Deputy Director David S. Cohen that described Schulte’s crimes as causing “harm exceptionally serious to the national security of the United States and to the CIA.
He added: “His actions cost the Agency hundreds of millions of dollars; degraded its ability to collect foreign intelligence against U.S. adversaries; directly endangered CIA personnel, programs, and assets; and jeopardized U.S. national security by degrading the CIA’s ability to take action. his mission. In short, Mr. Schulte’s actions have inflicted heavy costs on the United States.
A mistrial was declared during Schulte’s initial trial in 2020 after jurors deadlocked on the most serious charges, including the illegal collection and transmission of national defense information. He was convicted at a July 2022 trial on charges related to the classified leak.
Last fall, he was convicted in the child sex abuse images case, which arose when a computer Schulte owned after he left the CIA and moved from Virginia to New York contained the images and videos he had downloaded from the Internet from 2009 to March 2017.
Nearly 7 years in prison for child sexual abuse
Of the 40-year sentence, Furman said most of it was related to the CIA flight, while six years and eight months were related to the child sexual abuse material convictions.
In a later statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Schulte “betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen and heinous espionage crimes in American history.”
“When the FBI arrested him,” Williams continued, “Schulte redoubled his efforts and attempted to cause even more harm to this nation by waging what he describes as an ‘information war’ involving to publish top secret information behind bars.”
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains in legal limbo in Britain, where he has fought for years in court to avoid being sent to the United States, where he faces 17 charges of espionage and to a charge of misuse of a computer.
US prosecutors say Assange, an Australian citizen, helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files later released by WikiLeaks, putting lives at risk .
To his supporters, Assange was behaving like a journalist in denouncing the wrongdoing of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.