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Joshua Schulte, largest leaker of CIA material in history, sentenced to 40 years in prison

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(NEW YORK) — Joshua Schulte, who was convicted of orchestrating the largest leak of classified material in CIA history, was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday.

Schulte, 35, handed WikiLeaks a trove of CIA cyber espionage tools known as Vault 7, in what federal prosecutors called “some of the most heinous, brazen violations of the Espionage Act in American history.” He was convicted in July 2022 of illegally handling classified information and obstruction of justice after an earlier trial had ended in a hung jury.

WikiLeaks began publishing the classified data from the stolen CIA files, the first of 26 disclosures, on March 7, 2017.

The trove of information revealed that the CIA had hacked smartphones in spying operations, and revealed the spy agency’s efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices, according to The Associated Press.

The CIA had said Schulte “placed directly at risk CIA personnel, programs, and assets; and jeopardized U.S. national security.”

“The impact on the CIA was immediately catastrophic,” federal prosecutors said. “The effect of the WikiLeaks Disclosure was a ‘digital Pearl Harbor. We were dead in the water.'”

There was no altruistic motive behind Schulte’s leak, prosecutors said, instead arguing it was an act of revenge against superiors who had reassigned him, revoked some of his IT privileges and criticized him for increasingly obstreperous behavior.

Schulte was also convicted last September of possessing child pornography.

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

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