Ex-CIA Worker Linked to WikiLeaks Data Dump Appears in Court

(Bloomberg) -- A former Central Intelligence Agency software engineer charged with leaking classified national defense secrets appeared in a federal courtroom in New York, almost 10 months after he was arrested for possession of child pornography.

Joshua Adam Schulte, 29, was indicted on Monday by a grand jury in Manhattan on 13 charges, including theft of government property and illegally gathering national defense information. He pleaded not guilty on Wednesday during an arraignment before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty. He appeared in court shackled, wearing dark blue prison fatigues with a lengthy beard that partially covered his neck.

Schulte is accused of sending classified information to an organization that publicly disseminates such data. Prosecutors said the group, identified by the government as “Organization-1” released the information on March 7, 2017. That’s the same date WikiLeaks published thousands of documents under the name “Vault 7.”

The massive data dump was one of many embarrassing disclosures for the intelligence community from WikiLeaks, which the U.S. has cited as working with Russian government hackers in tampering with the 2016 presidential election. The documents describe agency efforts to hack mobile phones and even “smart TVs,” using methods they bought or developed, and stealing techniques and code from other nation-state hackers to hide their tracks.

Schulte faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted of the child pornography charges and as long as 10 years if found guilty of any of the other charges. His attorney, Sabrina Shroff, told Crotty her client just this morning began to receive the government’s evidence against him at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he has been held since his bail was revoked in December.

"There is a level of frustration with not having access," Shroff said.

Evidence Disclosure

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche said prosecutors have produced some evidence related to the theft of CIA information and intend to begin handing over more on a rolling basis. Shroff said those charges should have been brought in the Eastern District of Virginia and not Manhattan but that her client hasn’t decided whether to waive his right to be tried in Virginia on those counts.

Schulte worked at the National Security Agency from January to May 2010 and for the Central Intelligence Agency from May 2010 to November 2016. After he left the CIA, he worked briefly for Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, leaving the company in March 2017.

He was first publicly connected to the leak in May, when the Washington Post reported that the government had identified him as a suspect in the disclosure, citing interviews and documents.

Prosecutors also said Schulte damaged an agency computer system by granting himself unauthorized access to the system, deleting evidence of his activity and denying access to the system, and made false statements to FBI agents.

The case is U.S. v Schulte, 17-cr-548, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

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