Nearly three years after WikiLeaks’ publishing of “Vault 7” content in March 2017, Schulte appeared in a federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday as his defense and the CIA’s prosecutors delivered their opening arguments.
David Denton, assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, contended that Schulte had carried out the “ultimate act of betrayal” against the CIA and, according to a notebook recovered from his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, kept “a detailed battle plan” for his “information war,” reported the New York Daily News. The prosecution claimed Schulte clearly had a grudge against the agency and that he wrote “Top secret? F**k your top secret!” in his notebook.
Denton alleged that investigators found that Schulte had made various attempts to cover his tracks as he stole information and cybersecurity tools from the CIA in March 2016 - one year prior to the infamous leak, which is the “largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” according to WikiLeaks.
The content published by the website included not only documents, but also information pertaining to the CIA’s cyber-tools that were vital to overseas espionage operations.
“The leak was instantly devastating,” Denton said. "Years of work and millions of dollars spent developing these tools went up in smoke.”
Sabrina Shroff, Schulte’s defense attorney, argued that the 31-year-old was being made a scapegoat to cover up for the agency’s “wide open” system that stored the now-leaked information.
“After nearly three years, this massive CIA leak still remains a mystery,” she said, asserting that it was an open secret that the system was vulnerable. “Hundreds of people could have and did have the opportunity to take that information. [The CIA] went a whole year without knowing that their super-secure system had been hacked."
Though it was assumed WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange would also be charged for the “Vault 7” leak, Sputnik reported in July 2019 that the opportunity had passed. According to US extradition laws, additional charges against Assange had to be filed within 60 days of his first indictment - which occurred on March 6, 2018, when prosecutors accused him of assisting whistleblower and then-US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining classified information, which was later published by WikiLeaks.
Schulte, who has pleaded not guilty, is facing a total of 11 criminal counts, including theft of government property and lying to the FBI, the most serious of which carries a 10-year prison sentence.