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Security

Former CIA employee suspected in Vault 7 leak to Wikileaks

The US government says the investigation is ongoing, and it hasn't filed any charges relating to the leak yet.

James Martin/CNET

The US government has a suspect in its search for the source of the leak of information on CIA hacking tools to Wikileaks, according to a court transcript. A federal prosecutor named former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte as a target of the government's investigation.

So far federal prosecutors haven't charged Schulte for crimes stemming from the incident. Schulte is in custody on other charges.

"The government immediately had enough evidence to establish that he was a target of that investigation," Assistant US Attorney Matthew Laroche said in January at a hearing related to Schulte's case. "He remains a target of that investigation."

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.

Laroche said prosecutors got a warrant and searched Schulte's devices after identifying him as a target in the Wikileaks investigation. Schulte is in custody after being charged with possessing child pornography. He's pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The CIA declined to comment. Schulte's attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.