Former CIA Software Engineer Faces Second Trial for Child Pornography as Judge Upholds Espionage Conviction
NEW YORK - Joshua Schulte, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) software engineer, will face a second trial on September 11, this time for allegedly receiving over 10,000 images and videos of child pornography. The trial comes after a U.S. judge threw out an obstruction charge but upheld Schulte's conviction for carrying out the largest theft of classified information in the agency's history.
In a landmark case, Schulte, 34, was convicted in July 2022 on four counts each of espionage and computer hacking, as well as one count of lying to FBI agents. These charges stemmed from Schulte's involvement in leaking classified materials to WikiLeaks, which exposed the CIA's surveillance techniques in what became known as the Vault 7 leak. Beginning in March 2017, WikiLeaks published the stolen materials, shedding light on how the CIA compromised electronic devices and networks of foreign governments, alleged terrorists, and other individuals.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan described Schulte's theft as "one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history" following the conviction. In a detailed 14-page decision, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan mostly upheld the espionage and hacking convictions, stating that there was "more than sufficient" evidence to support them. However, Furman threw out the obstruction charge, highlighting that Schulte's alleged lies to FBI agents did not meet the threshold for obstruction of justice.
The judge drew a parallel between Schulte's case and a 1995 Supreme Court decision, U.S. v. Aguilar, which reached a similar conclusion. Furman explained, "At best, the government proved that Schulte, knowing of the existence of a federal grand jury investigation, lied to federal investigators regarding issues pertinent to the grand jury's investigation. Under Aguilar, that does not suffice."
Representing himself at trial and in his attempt to overturn his conviction, Schulte had previously faced a mistrial when the jury was deadlocked. Prosecutors alleged that Schulte leaked the classified materials in retaliation for how he perceived the CIA's mistreatment leading up to his resignation in November 2016. Currently, Schulte is being held at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center.
The upcoming trial for child pornography charges stems from the CIA leaks probe, during which prosecutors discovered the illicit material in Schulte's Manhattan apartment. The files were stored in an encrypted container, protected by three layers of password security. Schulte's lawyer in the child pornography case has not responded to requests for comment, while Williams' office declined to provide a statement.
Schulte's second trial is expected to shed more light on his alleged involvement with child pornography. As the date approaches, the public awaits further developments in this high-profile case that has exposed the CIA's vulnerabilities and raised questions about national security.
themes: WikiLeaks New York (state) CIA