World News

Suspect identified in Central Intelligence Agency hacking methods leak

Suspect identified in Central Intelligence Agency hacking methods leak

The Federal Bureau of Investigation suspects that a former Central Intelligence Agency employee separately charged with possessing child pornography had a role in the unauthorized release of a trove of CIA hacking tools to the WikiLeaks website past year, according to a court transcript. Public court documents show that investigators obtained a warrant to search Schulte's residence in NY back on March 13, 2017, about a week after WikiLeaks had publicly released the first batch of stolen Central Intelligence Agency tools.

The NYT quoted Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in California, as saying that WikiLeaks had magnified the danger posed by the Vault 7 leaks and that the tools were aimed only at small groups of high-value targets.

The report says that, while the government thinks Schulte was the one who handed the cache of documents over to WikiLeaks, they do not now have enough evidence to bring charges. It was then a series of unlucky coincidences, he said, that led the government to focus in on him as a suspect in the leak investigation.

But the prosecutor, Matthew Laroche, an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of NY, said that the government has not brought an indictment, that the investigation "is ongoing" and that Schulte "remains a target of that investigation", according to a court transcript of the January 8 hearing that escaped public notice at the time. While it was embarrassing for the CIA to lose so many documents, the dump itself provided little in the way of juicy intel: mostly it just showed that, yes, the CIA engages in covert intelligence operations. He maintained the agency targeted him because he was the only member of his team to leave the agency after reporting "incompetent management" to the CIA's inspector general.

The breach, known as Vault 7, was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history. "He remains a target of that investigation". According to the transcript, the evidence immediately made Schulte a target in the leak investigation. They conducted a number of search warrants on the defendant's residence. "In fact, our investigation is ongoing", Laroche said.

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The CIA declined to comment.

Jacob Kaplan, Schulte's attorney at the January hearing, told the court that "the government had full access to his computers and his phone, and they found the child pornography in this case, but what they didn't find was any connection to the WikiLeaks investigation".

The full scope of the case against Schulte is unclear.

Prosecutors said in court last week that they plan to file a new indictment in the next 45 days.


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