Ex-C.I.A. engineer convicted of "brazen and damaging" theft of agency secrets

Joshua Schulte was convicted Wednesday for one of the biggest acts of espionage in American History

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published July 13, 2022 8:03PM (EDT)

Flag of the CIA  (Gwengoat/Getty Images)
Flag of the CIA (Gwengoat/Getty Images)

Joshua Schulte, a former C.I.A. software engineer, was convicted on Wednesday for what a federal prosecutor in Manhattan is referring to as "one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history."

Representing himself in a New York City retrial for charges stemming back to 2017, Schulte told jurors that the CIA and FBI used him as a scapegoat for the massive release of CIA intel via WikiLeaks that's been dubbed the Vault 7 leak.

According to Politico, the Vault 7 leak "revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations," and Schulte was  responsible for creating the hacking tools used for those operations.

Although Schulte claims that "hundreds of people had access to (the information). … Hundreds of people could have stolen it;" U.S. Attorney David Denton says that "He's the one who broke into that system . . . He's the one who took that backup, the backup he sent to WikiLeaks," according to Politico.

During trial, prosecutors presented a case for Schulte's motive in the espionage claiming that he felt disrespected by the C.I.A. and thus attempted to "to burn to the ground" the work they were doing.

"The government's case is riddled with reasonable doubt," Schulte said in his defense. "There's simply no motive here."


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Wednesday's verdict comes "two years after a previous jury failed to agree on eight of the 10 charges he faced then," according to The New York Times. This most recent verdict consists of nine counts including "illegally gathering national defense information and illegally transmitting such information." 

Although ultimately convicted, Schulte was complimented by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on his efforts to represent himself in court saying "Mr. Schulte, that was impressively done. Depending on what happens here, you may have a future as a defense lawyer."


By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends editor, and her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere

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Aggregate C.i.a. Espionage Joshua Schulte