Former CIA worker sentenced to 40 years for secrets shared with Wikileaks in 2017

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Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A former Central Intelligence Agency programmer convicted of stealing and sharing classified information was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday.

Joshua Adam Schulte was sentenced for stealing classified information in the "Vault 7" leak that was published by Wikileaks in 2017.

Prosecutors had sought a life term for Schulte, alleging his actions "placed directly at risk CIA personnel, programs, and assets; and jeopardized U.S. national security."

"Schulte stands convicted of some of the most heinous, brazen violations of the Espionage Act in American history," prosecutors said in the sentencing memo.

His defense had asked for nine years, arguing Schulte already has been detained for six years, first under the "deplorable conditions" of the now shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center, and later at the Metropolitan Detention Center, "where the inhumane conditions are just as bad or worse."

Schulte was convicted in July 2022 on nine counts of espionage, computer hacking and obstruction of justice.

A U.S. District Judge in August 2023 dropped one charge of obstruction against Schulte, but upheld four counts of espionage and four counts of computer hacking.

The judge ruled Schulte's false statements to law enforcement do not constitute obstruction of justice, but the proof at trial was "more than sufficient" to sustain the espionage and computer hacking charges.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams has accused Schulte of harboring resentment toward his former employer, which supposedly motivated him to steal intelligence-gathering tools and leak them to Wikileaks, a media nonprofit that publishes classified and secret documents anonymously.

Wikileaks released the documents in March 2017, which detailed how the CIA used these tools to hack electronic devices such as smart phones and smart TVs and access users' personal messages and information.

According to the prosecutors' memo, Schulte declared "my information war," after being caught and tried to leak even more classified information while he was detained.

Schulte also was convicted in September 2023 of three counts of receiving, possessing and transporting child pornography, which FBI agents discovered on his personal computer while investigating his theft of classified information.

"Schulte fed an abhorrent personal fixation through his collection and viewing of an enormous trove of child sexual abuse materials," according to the prosecutors' memo.