A former CIA software engineer was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Thursday after his convictions for what the government described as the biggest theft of classified information in CIA history and for possession of child sexual abuse images and videos, The Associated Press reports. Most of the sentence imposed on Joshua Schulte, 35, in Manhattan federal court came for an embarrassing public release of a trove of CIA secrets by WikiLeaks in 2017. He has been jailed since 2018. “We will likely never know the full extent of the damage, but I have no doubt it was massive,” said Judge Jesse Furman. The so-called Vault 7 leak revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations, and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices. Prior to his arrest, Schulte had helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va..
In requesting a life sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney David William Denton Jr. said Schulte was responsible for “the most damaging disclosures of classified information in American history.” Given a chance to speak, Schulte claimed that prosecutors had once offered him a plea deal that would have called for a 10-year prison sentence and that it was unfair of them now to seek a life term. He said he objected to the deal because he would have been required to relinquish his right to appeal. Immediately afterward, the judge criticized some of Schulte’s half-hour of remarks, saying he was “blown away” by Schulte’s “complete lack or remorse and acceptance of responsibility.” The judge said Schulte was “not driven by any sense of altruism,” but instead was “motivated by anger, spite and perceived grievance” against others at the agency who he believed had ignored his complaints about the work environment. Furman said Schulte continued his crimes from behind bars by trying to leak more classified materials and by creating a hidden file on his computer that contained 2,400 images of child sexual abuse that he continued to view from jail. CIA Deputy Director David Cohen described Schulte’s crimes as causing “exceptionally grave harm to U.S. national security and the CIA.”