16:42 GMT +320 July 2019
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    Alleged CIA Hacker’s Child Porn Charges May Cover Up Questionable Investigation

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    On Monday, Joshua Schulte, a former CIA software engineer, was charged by the US Attorney's Office from the Southern District of New York for child pornography offenses and for stealing classified national defense information from the CIA in what is being called the Vault 7 project.

    Professor Bryan Ford, who leads the Decentralized/Distributed Systems lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear that the suspected Vault 7 leaker may have been charged with a sex crime before a natural security crime as part of a parallel construction technique, which builds parallel — or separate — evidence for a criminal investigation to distract from how the original investigation actually began.

    ​"So, these Vault 7 leaks came out in March last year as a leak to WikiLeaks, the well-known organization led by Julian Assange. This Vault 7 leak was an enormous cache of hacking tools developed by the CIA and was different from Ed Snowden's leaks, which were about what the NSA was doing," Ford told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker. The Vault 7 leaks detailed the capabilities of US intelligence agencies to manipulate everyday technologies.

    "From one respect, it's accurate to say that the Vault 7 leaks were a bigger leak than the Snowden leaks from a technical perspective, in terms of the amount of technical details of the hacking tools that were being used by the CIA," Ford noted. "On the other hand, some might argue that it may not be as important as the Snowden leaks because, while they added a lot of detailed technical knowledge, the Vault 7 leaks didn't create a change in the big picture of the way people view what these government organizations are doing."

    "It is somewhat still under debate what we learned from it and what its implications are," Ford said.

    The US Department of Justice said Monday that 29-year-old Schulte, who designed malware that could break into the computers of suspected terrorists, is currently being detained on child pornography charges. He will be arraigned by US District Judge Paul Crotty, Sputnik reported.

    According to a New York Times report in May, FBI agents obtained a warrant to search Schulte's apartment in March 2017, a week after WikiLeaks released the first batch of Vault 7 documents, which highlighted how the CIA tapped into iPhones and smart TVs and turned them into surveillance devices. 

    Instead of charging Schulte for the leak in March, prosecutors ended up charging him in August 2017 with possessing, receiving and transporting child pornography after investigators stated they'd found porn content on a server he'd created in 2009. Though he was released in September, Schulte wound up back behind bars by December after violating the rules of his release. However, on Monday, Schulte was charged for both stealing classified information from the CIA and sending it to an organization that publishes such information publicly and for child pornography offenses.

    Schulte has pleaded not guilty to the child porn charges and stated that anywhere from 50 to 100 people had access to the server, which he used to share movies and other digital files, according to the Washington Post.

    "It seems like charging hackers with a sex crime before charging them with a national security crime, with the purpose of separating them from people who would otherwise be their natural supporters, has become a pattern," Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, noted.

    "It might be," Ford responded, pointing to Assange, who faced alleged assault charges in Sweden and Matt Dehart, the 31-year-old former US Air National drone team member and alleged WikiLeaks hacker who was also accused of possessing child pornography. 

    "Of course, we can't be sure," Ford said. "There is some precedence that there is a general broader technique that has been known to be used by multiple agencies for quite awhile now, and that technique is called parallel construction, which is when investigators find evidence, possibly through illegal means or possibly through evidence which they don't want released in court, to incriminate someone. They use that information to construct a different trail of evidence that gives them the ability to charge people even though that's not the way they originally found them."

    "This is purely speculation, but we could perhaps be seeing a new flavor of parallel construction being used here," Ford told Radio Sputnik.

    When asked if he thought the government would try to "make an example" out of Schulte, Ford responded, "Based on the pattern we've seen, the situation definitely does not look good for him. From a technical perspective and an institutional embarrassment perspective, it was a hugely impactful leak and I would be surprised if they didn't do anything they can to make an example out of him."

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    Child Pornography, espionage, CIA, United States
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