More than 14 months after WikiLeaks published its “Vault 7” leak of secret codes that the United States Central Intelligence Agency employed to snoop on enemy countries, the agency appears to be sure who the suspect is.
At least that is what has been revealed now, though the information might have been with the agency’s sources for some time.
The suspect is a former employee at the CIA’s computer coding department and his name has been revealed as Joshua Adam Schulte.
The 29-year old engineer had already resigned from the CIA and after the WikiLeaks exposure, he was arrested and has been in detention since.
CIA Yet to File Charges
The curious part of this leakage of secret information from the CIA is that their prime suspect is incarcerated on a charge related to receiving and possessing child exploitation material, nothing remotely connected to the actual crime they suspect him to have committed.
This follows a raid that the Federal Bureau of Investigation mounted at his home immediately after WikiLeaks published the “Vault 7” codes in March of 2017. The raid was supposed to have seized the computer and other material from his residence which led the authorities to charge him with receiving, possessing and transporting child exploitation material. He is currently being held in a Manhattan jail facility.
Did Schulte Use the Tor Browser?
According to reports, the crucial link that is missing in the entire case is the evidence of Schulte having passed on the information to WikiLeaks. Here, the suspicion is that he might have used the onion browser, Tor, which is used for anonymous browsing and communication.
Possibly if the prosecutors can bring on evidence that Schulte did use the Tor browser, it could make their case stronger. They claim the investigation is still in progress.
Stout Defense by Schulte
Schulte, the suspect in the CIA’s eyes, has however denied all these accusations, both on the explicit content charges and on the CIA secret codes leak case.
His defense is that though he had taken up the assignment after having worked for the National Security Agency—in response to an inner call after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks—he had found some serious flaws in the way the CIA functioned and had made complaints about it even when he was working inside.
He subsequently left the agency. This was in 2016 and he had taken up a job in a private firm. His leaving might have turned the suspicion towards him, Schulte claims.
Just because he left the agency under unfavorable circumstances cannot be used against him, his lawyer states and dares the agency to file the charges against his client.
Again, in his defense of the exploitative content charge, he says the computer he used could be accessed by many others. But the prosecution counters this by saying they found a message he had posted to the other users warning them of not holding anything incriminating in the system, confirming that he was very much in the know that wrongful content was on the system.
The prosecutors allege Schulte was fleeing the country and claimed it was a sign of guilt, whereas Schulte claims he was just planning to go on a holiday to Mexico along with his brother.
In yet another angle, the colleagues of Schulte in the CIA feel instead of targeting regular employees, the investigators must check on the contractors.
A Major Embarrassment for the Premier Investigative Organization
Such revelations like the tools and codes employed by CIA to conduct spying activities cause a lot of damage to the agency’s image as a premier intelligence agency of arguably the most powerful country in the world.
Observers may recall the 2013 leaks by Edward Snowden about the NSA’s intelligence-gathering and surveillance practices. But these WikiLeaks documents involving codes and cyberweapons could be much more harmful, experts feel. It could even be used against the U.S. by elements inimical to the country, particularly in the context of the ultra-right stance adopted by the Trump administration on many issues.
The significance of this information now is that the prosecution into the CIA leak case had not disclosed the name of any suspect so far, but it has now emerged through some of the submissions made in the court. The case will have to be taken to its logical conclusion.