United States identifies suspect in major leak of Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools

A man walks across the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency in the lobby of CIA headquarters in McLean Virginia.                        Alex Wong Getty Images

Federal investigators suspect a former CIA employer is responsible for giving top secret CIA documents to Wikileaks a year ago, which resulted in the agency's biggest leak of classified information.

The 2017 breach, codenamed Vault 7, details how the CIA can take over iPhones through malware and turn smart TVs into surveillance devices and is believed to be the agency's largest leak of classified documents.

News reports that he's now in a Manhattan federal jail on the child porn charges.

Government prosecutors say the man is a target of the ongoing leak investigation.

According to The Huffington Post, photos obtained from one of Schulte's phones taken in April 2015 allegedly depicted him assaulting his female roommate, which prosecutors in Virginia confirmed.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that officials also suspect he had provided Wikileaks with massive amounts of data in the "Vault 7 leak," which was published by the global organization last March. It is not clear whether the government is pursuing contractors as part of the leak investigation, but prosecutors have not mentioned anyone other than Schulte in court proceedings.

Laroche accused Schulte of using Tor - a web browser that gives user privacy, anonymity, and security while surfing the web - to transmit classified documents.

At a January hearing, Laroche said Schulte was a target of an ongoing investigation into the theft of tools that were used by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy overseas.

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Schulte, 29, has pleaded not guilty to the child pornography charges. Prosecutors say he used the program at his apartment in NY, but they haven't provided evidence that he did it to leak classified information.

According to the Times, FBI agents said they found images of children being molested by adults on a server Schulte created as a business in 2009 while he was a student at the University of Texas.

Schulte is in a Manhattan jail on charges of possessing, receiving and transporting child pornography, according to an indictment filed in September.

In court documents, Schulte's attorney argued that numerous other people had access to the server and passwords for accessing it. The former prosecutor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an open investigation, also said that if government lawyers acknowledged in a public hearing that Schulte was a target, they probably suspect he acted alone. He left the agency in November 2016 and moved to NY to work for Bloomberg L.P.as a software engineer.

Clarification: An earlier version of this report quoted Laroche as saying that "those search warrants haven't yielded anything that is consistent with [Schulte's] involvement in that disclosure".

U.S. federal agencies launched a criminal investigation at the time and, according to USA media, the software engineer's home in New York City was searched within a week.

The CIA is not commenting on the latest developments.

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