Ex-CIA Software Engineer Sentenced 40 Years For Data Leak

A former CIA software engineer who was convicted for carrying out the most significant data leak of classified information in the agency’s history, and of charges related to child abuse was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Thursday.

The 40-year sentence given by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman was for “crimes of espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI, and child pornography,” federal prosecutors said in a statement. The judge did not impose a life sentence as hoped by prosecutors.

“Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history. He caused untold damage to our national security in his quest for revenge against the CIA for its response to Schulte’s security breaches while employed there,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Schulte, who worked as a computer engineer within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, was accused of handing over classified data to WikiLeaks.

The FBI interviewed Schulte several times after WikiLeaks published the data, where he denied responsibility.

Investigators working on the leak investigation also found thousands of child abuse photographs and videos in Schulte’s Manhattan flat in an encrypted container beneath three layers of password protection.

In 2022, Schulte was brought up on federal charges after the leak revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spy operations and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices.

Prosecutors said, “It was the largest data breach in the history of the CIA, and his transmission of that stolen information to WikiLeaks is one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in U.S. history.”

FBI agents said that after his arrest, Schulte attempted to transmit more information. He smuggled a phone into jail, where he tried to send a reporter information about CIA cyber groups and drafted tweets that included information about CIA cyber tools under the name Jason Bourne, a fictional intelligence operative.

“Today, Joshua Schulte was rightly punished not only for his betrayal of our country but for his substantial possession of horrific child pornographic material. The severity of his actions is evident, and the sentence reflects the magnitude of the disturbing and harmful threat posed by his criminal conduct,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said in a statement following sentencing.