Accused CIA leaker Josh Schulte says gov mounted ‘witch hunt’ | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack


A former CIA programmer on trial for the second time for allegedly turning over an enormous trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks accused the feds of launching a “witch hunt” against him in his opening statement Tuesday.

Joshua Schulte — who is representing himself at his Manhattan federal court trial — claimed to jurors that while investigators have singled him out as the culprit, they actually still have no idea who was behind the worst leak in CIA history.

“They first singled me out as the guilty party then worked backward,” he said. 

“It was a political witch hunt from day one.”

A jury deadlocked on the most serious crimes Schulte is charged with — including illegal transmission of national defense information — at the end of his first trial in 2020. He was convicted of lesser contempt and false statement charges.

At the start of his retrial Tuesday, Schulte told the panel that he is not a traitor to the US, rather a gifted and accomplished software engineer who was motivated to go into government service after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Schulte accused the federal government of launching a “witch hunt” against him in his opening statement.
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Speaking about the leak, he said, “Someone stole their crown jewels and they failed to realize that for an entire year. It’s not a good look for the CIA.”

The so-called “Vault 7” material that was published by WikiLeaks in 2017 showed, in part, how the agency could hack smartphones in spying operations abroad and detailed its attempts to turn certain televisions into listening devices. 

Schulte told jurors the hacked information was kept in a space so unsecure it was nicknamed “the wild wild west by the programmers who worked on it.”

After the leak, Schulte said the CIA immediately pointed a finger at him — and then worked backward to prove his guilt in a sort of “Twilight Zone” investigation. 

During his time in the agency, Schulte said he worked on a team that helped verify the location of Osama Bin Laden before the terror mastermind was killed by US forces. 

The former government hacker made his opening statement after prosecutor David Denton told jurors Schulte is a dangerous, disgruntled former employee who exposed CIA operatives and critical tools used by the agency with his alleged illegal dissemination of the material. 

Schulte claimed the CIA immediately blamed him and then conducted a "Twilight Zone" investigation into him.
Schulte claimed the CIA immediately blamed him and then conducted a “Twilight Zone” investigation into him.
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

“This man, Joshua Schulte, the defendant, is responsible for the single biggest theft of classified intelligence information in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Denton said.

The prosecutor said evidence will show Schulte became disillusioned with the CIA after he accused a fellow hacker of threatening his life – and that he felt singled out after the agency “didn’t take his side.”

“He started breaking the rules,” Denton said. “He did it out of spite. He did it because he was angry and disgruntled at work.” 



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