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Security

Ex-CIA employee charged in leak of classified hacking tools

Joshua Adam Schulte has been accused of leaking sensitive information to WikiLeaks.

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

A former CIA employee was charged Monday with leaking information on CIA hacking tools to Wikileaks.

Joshua Adam Schulte, 29, was charged with the theft of classified national defense information in a 13-count indictment handed down by a grand jury, the Justice Department said Monday. According to the indictment, Schulte stole the classified information from a CIA network in 2016 and then transmitted it to an organization that was unidentified in the indictment.

Schulte is also accused of intentionally damaging a CIA computer system, deleting records of his activities and blocking others from accessing the system. Schulte is currently in custody on child pornography charges. He's pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The leaks, which Wikileaks called "Vault 7," revealed tools used by the CIA to hack phones, TVs and computers as part of its investigations. The disclosures showed the lengths to which government investigators go to access electronic evidence, tailoring hacks for specific smart TVs, for example.

They also caused an uproar, with some in tech saying they'd further harm relations between Silicon Valley and the US government. But some privacy advocates saw an upside, saying the leaks showed investigators were relying on hacking individual suspects to find evidence of crimes, rather than using dragnet surveillance techniques that scoop up information on everyone's online activities.

The US government hasn't officially acknowledged the CIA was hacked, but President Donald Trump has revealed a breach occurred at the CIA during the Obama administration. "I just want people to know: the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken," Trump told Fox in March 2017. "That was during the Obama years."

The leak put US national security in jeopardy, Justice Department officials said.

"Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims. As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of classified Information," William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the New York FBI office, said in a statement Monday.

The CIA and Schulte's attorney didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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