A New York court found hacker Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), guilty of one of the biggest file leaks in history.
According to estimates, 8,761 documents ended up on the Wikileaks platform in 2017. They revealed how American intelligence agents hacked smartphones abroad and turned them into listening devices.
“Schulte was convicted of one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history,” said prosecutor Damian Williams.
During the trial, the hacker denied the allegations.
But who is Joshua Schulte?
Joshua Schulte was born on September 25, 1988 in Lubbock, a small town of 250,000 in the State of Texas, halfway between Dallas and Albuquerque.
He grew up with his parents and three brothers — he’s the oldest of them. In 2007, he moved to Austin, where he studied computer engineering at the University of Texas.
Joshua Schulte was born in Texas, United States. — Photo: BBC
Between 2008 and 2009, Schulte interned at IBM, and the following year he worked briefly at the US National Security Agency.
Then, in May 2010, at just 21 years old, he joined the CIA, according to his profile on social media.
According to the account of one of his schoolmates, most of those who knew him in Lubbock could not believe that he was employed by the American intelligence service.
“Not that he wasn’t smart, but he wasn’t someone who stood out as a super brain or anything,” said Chrissy Covington, who now hosts a rock show on local radio.
Schulte worked on the ninth floor of an office building that looked like any other in Langley, Virginia.
He was hired to staff a unit called the Operations Support Branch — a department where the CIA keeps its hackers.
From that office, it created malware (software designed to cause damage to computer systems) that was inserted into devices that the CIA I wanted to keep a listen. Computers, smartphones and even smart TVs were used to spy on some people.
In the department, everyone had his nickname. Schulte liked to be called Bad Ass (something like “tough” or “bad guy” in Portuguese) – although he was usually called Voldemort, in reference to the villain of the Harry Potter saga, according to a report in the American magazine The New Yorker published in the beginning of June.
Due to his good performance, Schulte gained access as a system administrator to the CIA’s development network, known as Devlan.
But a bad relationship with one of his colleagues — and the indifference he felt from his superiors about it — made him decide to quit his job in November 2016. He then moved to New York and started working at the news agency. Bloomberg Financials as a software engineer.
In early 2018, he was arrested and the trial began to unfold.
Schulte was found guilty of submitting the CIA-developed Vault 7 tool to Wikileaks, a website that posts photos, documents and confidential information from companies or governments.
The hacker will now spend decades in prison.
Prosecutors alleged that in 2016 Schulte passed the stolen information to Wikileaks and then lied to FBI agents about his role in leaking the files.
The prosecution added that Schulte was apparently motivated by a workplace dispute, in which some of his complaints were ignored.
Prosecutors also asked jurors to consider evidence of a cover-up attempt, including a to-do list Schulte did at the time that reads the phrase “delete suspicious emails.”
Schulte declared that the government had no evidence that he was motivated by revenge, calling the accusation “pure fantasy”.
In his plea to the court, he claimed that “hundreds of people had access” to the leaked files and that “hundreds of people could have stolen them”.
Schulte also faces another trial on charges of possession of child abuse images and videos, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
This text was originally published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-62176238