A former software engineer of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Thursday after his convictions for what the government described as the biggest theft of classified information in the agency's history.
The bulk of the sentence imposed on Joshua Schulte, 35, in Manhattan federal court came for an embarrassing public release of a trove of CIA secrets by WikiLeaks in 2017. He has been jailed since 2018.
"We will likely never know the full extent of the damage, but I have no doubt it was massive," Judge Jesse Furman said as he announced the sentence.
The so-called "Vault 7" leak revealed how the CIA hacked Apple and Android smartphones in overseas spying operations, and efforts to turn internet-connected televisions into listening devices. Prior to his arrest, Schulte had helped create the hacking tools as a coder at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, U.S.
In requesting a life sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney David William Denton Jr. said Schulte was responsible for "the most damaging disclosures of classified information in American history."
Given a chance to speak, Schulte complained mostly about harsh conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, calling his cell "my torture cage."
But he also claimed that prosecutors had once offered him a plea deal that would have called for a 10-year prison sentence and that it was unfair of them to now seek a life term. He said he objected to the deal because he would have been required to relinquish his right to appeal.
"This is not justice the government seeks, but vengeance," Schulte said.
Immediately afterward, the judge criticized some of Schulte's half-hour of remarks, saying he was "blown away" by Schulte's "complete lack of remorse and acceptance of responsibility."
Furman said Schulte continued his crimes from behind bars by trying to leak more classified materials and by creating a hidden file on his computer.
Of the 40-year sentence, Furman said the bulk of it was for the CIA theft, while six years and eight months of it were for the convictions over the child sexual abuse materials that Schulte continued to view from jail.