Former CIA software engineer a “target” in breach probe

Former CIA software engineer Josh Schulte is a target of an FBI investigation looking into damaging leaks of classified information from the CIA, CBS News has confirmed. 

The disclosures were later referred to as the “Vault 7” leak when they were published by WikiLeaks last year. The stolen, secret CIA files detailed hacking tools the U.S. government deployed to break into users’ computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs.

Schulte has not been charged in connection with the breach, but is instead being held on child pornography charges in New York City, according to court documents. But in a January court appearance, prosecutors called him a target in the CIA breach investigation. The New York Times first identified Schulte as a target.

“As defense counsel noted, in March of 2016, there was a significant disclosure of classified material from the Central Intelligence Agency,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche said, according to a transcript of a January court hearing. “The material that was taken was taken during a time when the defendant was working at the agency. The government immediately had enough evidence to establish that he was a target of that investigation.”

As CBS News reported last year, the stolen documents describe clandestine methods for bypassing or defeating encryption, antivirus tools and other protective security features intended to keep the private information of citizens and corporations safe from prying eyes. U.S. government employees, including President Trump, use many of the same products and Internet services purportedly compromised by the tools. 

“This is CIA’s Edward Snowden,” former CIA acting director Michael Morrell told CBS News Justice correspondent Jeff Pegues last year, referring to the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents in 2013.

“This is huge, in terms of what it will tell the adversaries,” Morrell said. “We’ll have to essentially start over in building tools to get information from our adversaries, just like we did with Snowden.”

The CIA is not commenting on the latest developments. 

CBS News’ Jeff Pegues, Andres Triay, Juliana Kimani, Pat Milton and Clare Hymes contributed to this report. 

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