A former CIA programmer was found guilty in a federal court in New York on Wednesday of leaking the US spy agency’s most valuable hacking tools to WikiLeaks in 2017, two years after his initial charge ended in a court case.
Joshua Schulte33, was working for the CIA’s elite hacking unit when he quietly took the “Vault 7” tools they used to break into target computers and technology systems and, after quitting his job, gave them to the anti-secrecy group sent.
Vault 7 was a collection of malware, viruses, trojans and “zero-day” exploits that, after being leaked, could be used by foreign intelligence groups, hackers and cyber-extortionists around the world.
Prosecutors said Schulte was a disgruntled employee and leaked the 8,761 documents to harm the agency.
“Schulte was aware that the collateral damage of his retaliation, if made public, could pose an extraordinary threat to this nation and would render it essentially useless,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following the sentencing.
The leak “had a devastating effect on our intelligence community, providing vital information to those who wanted to harm us,” Williams said.
Schulte was an early suspect after WikiLeaks began releasing the secrets, but was quietly indicted in September 2017 simply for having a large cache of child pornography on his computer.
Charges of theft and transmission of national defense information were later added under the Espionage Act.
In 2020, a jury convicted him of two lesser charges of lying and contempt of court, but was hung on the other charges.
On Wednesday, a new jury convicted Schulte of eight counts under the Espionage Act and one count of obstruction. Each of the espionage charges carries up to 10 years in prison.
The leak, which stunned the CIA in March 2017, has been called one of the most damaging leaks of classified material the Central Intelligence Agency has ever witnessed.
It spurred the government to consider a crackdown on WikiLeaks, which then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo called a “hostile intelligence agency.”
The US government then filed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on allegations of espionage. Assange is currently fighting extradition to the United States in Britain.
Schullte still has to be tried separately for the pornography allegations.
Read: WikiLeaks releases details of CIA hacking tools