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Former CIA Officer Sentenced to 40 Years for Largest Data Leak in Agency’s History: ‘Heinous Crimes'

Joshua Schulte was also convicted of possessing child pornography in a trial that concluded last September

<p>Elizabeth Williams via AP</p> Joshua Schulte courtroom sketch

Elizabeth Williams via AP

Joshua Schulte courtroom sketch

A former CIA software engineer has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the largest data breach in the agency’s history.

Joshua Schulte, 35, was sentenced in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

His crimes included espionage, computer hacking, contempt of court, making false statements to the FBI and child pornography.

Schulte leaked huge amounts of stolen information to WikiLeaks in what federal prosecutors called “one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the history of the U.S.”

WikiLeaks began publishing the classified data from the stolen CIA files in March 2017, which Schulte transmitted from his home computer in 2016, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York states. Prosecutors said Schulte “wiped and reformatted his home computer’s internal hard drives” after the transmission.

<p>AP Photo/Osamu Honda</p> Schulte has been jailed at the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York City

AP Photo/Osamu Honda

Schulte has been jailed at the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York City

“Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in the release. “He caused untold damage to our national security in his quest for revenge against the CIA for its response to Schulte’s security breaches while employed there.”

“We will likely never know the full extent of the damage, but I have no doubt it was massive,” Judge Jesse M. Furman said as he announced Schulte’s sentence, according to the Associated Press.

Per the outlet, the leak revealed that the CIA hacked smartphones in overseas spying operations, along with their efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices.

Schulte’s sentencing came after convictions at trials that concluded in 2020, 2022, and 2023. He was convicted of possessing child pornography in the trial that ended last September.

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“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, per the release. “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."

U.S. Attorney Williams said Schulte had “collected thousands upon thousands of videos and images of children being subjected to sickening abuse for his own personal gratification.”

The former CIA employee, who has been jailed since 2018, downloaded the images and videos from 2009 to March 2017, per AP. The media was found on a computer that Schulte owned after he left the CIA and moved to New York from Virginia.

During his sentencing on Thursday, Schulte said that the government was seeking “vengeance” against him, “not justice,” according to the outlet.

Meanwhile, Judge Furman said he was “blown away” by the 35-year-old’s “complete lack of remorse and acceptance of responsibility,” for his crimes.

He added that Schulte was “motivated by anger, spite and perceived grievance” against those at the CIA that he believed had ignored his complaints about the work environment.

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