A former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency programmer has been found guilty over the theft of secret hacking tools and documents in 2016 that were subsequently published by Wikileaks.

Joshua Schulte was arrested in 2017 after Wikileaks started publishing the stolen material and first faced trial in 2020 over the theft. A jury, in that case, failed to agree on eight of the ten charges he was facing but found Schulte guilty of contempt of court and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In the new trial that concluded on Wednesday, he was found guilty on nine counts, including illegally gathering national defense information and illegally transmitting that information. The New York Times reports that Schulte, who defended himself in the trial, argued that he was being made a scapegoat for the CIA’s failings.

The stolen data, dubbed the “Year Zero” release by Wikileaks, included 8,761 documents and files said to have been obtained from the high-security CIA Center for Cyber Intelligence division. The stolen documents detailed the use of malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized zero-day exploits, malware remote control systems by the CIA and associated documentation.

The CIA’s tools included forms of malware and zero-day exploits that had been used to obtain data and spy on users of Apple Inc.’s iPhone, Google LLC’s Android phones, Microsoft Corp. Windows computers and even Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. smart televisions, including the ability to turn all of those devices into covert microphones. The tools are also said to be able to compromise otherwise encrypted messaging apps, including Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Weibo and Confide.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams claimed that Schulte was motivated by resentment toward the CIA and that he was aware his retribution could pose an extraordinary threat to the nation if made public.

“Today, Schulte has been convicted for one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history,” Williams said, adding that the leak had “a devastating effect on our intelligence community by providing critical intelligence to those who wish to do us harm,”

Schulte is facing a maximum combined sentence of up to 80 years in prison on the nine counts he was found guilty on. Schulte is also facing a federal trial on child pornography charges after more than 10,000 illegal pictures were found on his devices in the course of the Vault 7 investigation.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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