Letter To Judge Details Vault 7 Leaker's Post-Incarceration Leaking

from the sticking-it-to-the-CIA-by-burning-yourself-to-the-ground dept

The accused leaker of CIA phone hacking tools — the “Vault 7” collection released by Wikileaks in early 2017 — is still awaiting trial. To pass the time, alleged leaker Joshua Schulte is suing the government for $50 billion and, apparently, generating a whole lot of evidence against himself.

The criminal complaint against Schulte contained far more than accusations of leaking sensitive material. Searches performed on Schulte’s devices also turned up 10,000 child porn images and a lot of copyrighted content Schulte was sharing from his own server. Stealing government secrets + child porn + copy infringement: that’s the weirdness this case is.

Schulte continues to make the worst case for himself. While some leakers have acted more like whistleblowers, making the public aware of hidden misconduct or civil rights abuses, Schulte has presented himself as a martyr for his own cause. This isn’t helping his criminal case (or the civil lawsuit he’s filed). After being jailed, Schulte continued to leak classified info from his jail cell, using contraband phones and his access to the evidence the government planned to use against him.

The government pointed this out to the court in November 2018. A recent filing by the government (h/t Emptywheel) details Schulte’s post-arrest efforts to continue leaking classified info to journalists — including the use of his family members to contact journalists and set up new encrypted communications channels for him.

Unfortunately for Schulte, the seizure of contraband from his cell has given the government a lot more evidence to work with, especially when it comes to proving his criminal intent. Schulte really wanted a white knight, but none arrived. Taking matters into his own hands (and ignoring the advice of his lawyer), Schulte appears to have engaged in one-man war against the federal government, armed with nothing but shovels.

The letter [PDF] to the court details the contents of notebooks seized from Schulte’s cell, as well as communications made to his family and members of the press. While under a protective order forbidding him from discussing the government’s search warrants publicly, Schulte sent the warrant (along with several articles he had written) to a reporter. His desire to wage an “information war” against the government while behind bars was stymied by his inability to draft fellow combatants.

Because he was incarcerated, the defendant enlisted his family to communicate with reporters and to post the defendant’s articles online, including on a public Facebook page (the “John Galt Facebook Page”). While the defendant’s family was able to post a version of the defendant’s articles on the John Galt Facebook Page, the articles apparently did not result in the swell of press attention for which the defendant hoped. Over the summer and into the fall of 2018, the defendant grew angrier at his detention, but also his family’s inability, and eventually unwillingness, to publish all of the defendant’s articles and the media’s apparent lack of interest in the defendant’s case.

From there, Schulte went on to attempt to scrub his Gmail accounts of incriminating communications, and to create a number of new accounts for ProtonMail, Twitter, and Facebook so he could continue distributing classified info he knew or had access to. The letter describes four separate occasions Schulte revealed classified info to family members or the public. In total, the letter describes a pretty comprehensive case Schulte has built against himself, detailing everything from the deletion of evidence to the continuous generation of new evidence via Schulte’s handwritten “information war” plans.

There’s also stuff in there that undermines the whistleblower narrative Schulte has tried to craft.

On this page in the Red Notebook, the defendant states: “If govt doesnt pay me $50 billion in restitution & prosecute the criminals who lied to the judge and presented this bs case then I will visit every country in the world and bear witness to the treachery that is the USG. I will look to breakup diplomatic relationships, close embassies, and U.S. occupation across the world & finally reverse U.S. jingoism. If this is the way the U.S. govt treats one of their own, how do you think they treat allies?” This statement is obviously Intent Evidence—it shows not only that the defendant is growing increasingly frustrated, but, more importantly, that his frustration has risen to the point that he now—according to his own words—plans to destroy the United States’ relationships with its allies, leading to, for example, the shuttering of U.S. embassies in other nations.

The “intent evidence” here sounds more like a personal vendetta than the dissemination of classified info for the good of the public.

[T]he defendant recommends to U.S. intelligence agency employees to “send all your govt’s secrets here: WikiLeaks” until the U.S. government “honors” their service.

There are also things like this, that show even more hubris than the above examples suggest. Here’s Schulte stating he feels his family should be willing to put themselves at legal risk for him.

The defendant states: “I text my dad from whatsapp & signal incessantly & finally got a response @ 1% battery. I said please put articles on drafts in gmail. Response: My lawyer advised me not to. Fucking incredible. Fucking. Incredible.”

And here he is mocking the FBI.

[T]he defendant also goes on to write that he designed his “own crypto – how better to fool bafoons like forensic examiners and the FBI then to have custom software that doesn’t fit into their 2-week class where they become forensic ‘experts.’” The defendant then provides classified details of specifics of his work at the CIA.

The government’s letter tells the court there’s plenty of evidence it wishes to use against Schulte, a lot of it gleaned from the “information war” he tried to wage from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

[T]he MCC Notebooks and the Malware Article help to demonstrate a pattern of conduct that is highly probative of Schulte’s guilt of the WikiLeaks charges. In both instances, the defendant (1) grew infuriated with components of the U.S. government; (2) threatened to expose allegedly damaging information about the CIA to coerce the agency into acting as Schulte wished; and (3) used technologically sophisticated means to conceal his actions, using encrypted accounts and cellphones, and IP-masking techniques at the MCC and deleting logs and securely wiping removable media at the CIA.

Not much of this sounds like whistleblowing. If there is something honorable or altruistic in Schulte’s actions, it can’t be found here. That’s not saying it doesn’t exist. The government is a notoriously unreliable narrator and this filing only covers the stuff prosecutors think will help prove their case. But Schulte’s narration isn’t that reliable either. And he still doesn’t appear to realize that acting in your own interest isn’t always the same thing as acting in your best interest.

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Comments on “Letter To Judge Details Vault 7 Leaker's Post-Incarceration Leaking”

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Seems convenient.

Your concern over the FBI planting terrabytes of digital evidence onto his server and getting the Wayback Machine to replace genuine conversations with confessions of his crimes doesn’t really address the issues at play within this article, nor do you draw any significant conclusions or cite any evidence that might make the base speculation a topic of interest at this time. We will wait for a trial or legal filing to see if that claim is made at trial. But absent you actually trying to converse, just stirring the pot is more spam than discussion.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Seems convenient.

As far as I can tell, it’s extremely rare for law enforcement agents to plant digital evidence, particularly when the FBI is involved, and I’ve never heard of a case where they screwed with the metadata, too.

I’ll grant that some local and state LEOs (especially those involved with drugs) and maybe members of the DEA have fabricated physical evidence, and maybe even forged some documents, but digital evidence is different. It requires a lot more planning and a lot more knowledge of the inner workings of computers to do well enough to pass any decent examination (not even necessarily a thorough one).

Do you have any evidence of this particular sort of thing ever having happened?

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Zof (profile) says:

The Most Depressing Thing, Walking Into This Blind:

I can’t trust a word of this. Yet. I have to do my own research thanks to how the media treated Edward Snowden. It’s like everyone forgot when the Media went after him hard because their corporate masters told them too, and all we got was how he was the devil incarnate for weeks. And yeah, that all turned out to be lies.

So yeah, unfortunately government talking points are suspect until investigated. Looks like I have a lot of research to do.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: The Most Depressing Thing, Walking Into This Blind:

To be fair, there are at least some differences between the two cases, including the fact that, in this case, government prosecutors are claiming in a legal document upon penalty of perjury that they have actual evidence to back up these claims, rather than just the media going off of government spokespersons or just speculating wildly.

Still, I can respect that you want more info and more evidence before assuming anything at this stage at the very least. I won’t hold your caution and cynicism against you, particularly in this case where even TD’s writer doesn’t seem to be completely certain how accurate the government’s characterization is. Good luck with your research!

bob says:

Re: Re:

You are assuming he practiced good OPSEC (operational security) standards. You can know everything about how to secure something but if you don’t rigorously follow through all the time you open up yourself to a wide range of potential vulnerabilities.

For example, when your phone is not in your hands currently being used do you lock the screen or do you have it autolock after a short time out for convenience? Are you using a long passcode to unlock the phone or a simple 4 digit pin, face, fingerprint, or connect the dots pattern? Did you remove the bloatware from the manufacturer or vet in detail every system program running on your phone? How about a firewall for your Wi-Fi or Cell data lines? Do things run in the background because it makes checking email and other things on the phone easier or do you shut all that down so it only happens when you want it to? Did you remove/disable the find my phone features so that no one can unlock your device or does someone have access because you might forget your login or lose your phone?

No encryption in the world will protect you if a trusted recipient just hands out a plain text copy of a message.

Plus I doubt the CIA needed much effort to look through an unencrypted notebook.

So while I bet he did do somethings to better protect his info than an average person he really is not going to be able to properly protect anything once it leaves his control and the jailers have full physical access to his belongings.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t really see that. In particular, while I do have a problem when the existence of a criminal case or lawsuit or the identity of the defendant are concealed by a protective order, when court filings or rulings are done under seal without much justification or are redacted unnecessarily, when journalists are held responsible for reporting info they shouldn’t have had but did obtain lawfully (or through means that they wouldn’t know was unlawful), or when subpoenas or search warrants to third parties are kept hidden, I don’t really have the same problem with preventing someone in custody leaking a search warrant targeting them.

As long as the government is being truthful here and the reporter isn’t held liable for the leak, I don’t really have a major problem with that statement.

I. Dunno says:

Tim, any ideas?

Child porn cases of any kind are the gold standard of repressive government.

And, the tarball in a goal post shifting game of tarbaby hot potato

1- render a topic so taboo, that there is no way to discuss it, or its political utility in rational terms without the speaker being accused of being a pedophile, via,ad hominem, and forced to defend the nearly indefensible, and an assault on all children, everywhere by association (good luck with that)

2- induct journalists as complicit snitches, discrediting agents, and spies Marcy Wheeler for example( see her posts from back in 2018-19, duringbthe Steele dossiere/Manafort debacle, when she became an FBI informant)

3-repeat often, and always, folliwed by but wutabout JFK, HUH, HUH!? while never criticizing agency blackops in the now pwned US domestic theater of information operations

4- a win/win for CIA pedophile/compromise/controlled asset operations, with convenient, flabbergasted scapegoats, isolated as Schulte is, styck with acstory bigger than he knows what to do with (journalists seldom are useful, and frequently controlled assets themselves. See point ntmber two, above)

5- sounds of God Bless America….playing from a tin plate gramophone, ad nauseum, as CP becomes the exactbarbed wire fence between free speech and controlled and divisive speech that this was designed to be since the free love era

The strange and bizarrely similar case of Matt deHart provides a comparison:



and of course, the bizarre narrative of the Pensacola shooter, and 26 Saudis having contact with CP, but not prosecuted bocause…?

And Stephen Paddock, and a few(a shitload, actually) other mass shooters, and even a famous Lebanese CIA asset, named…whats his name?

….patterns in CIA/Mi5-6/et agency asset control….

[cue the JFK conspiracy theory! brigade of cowardly ACs above]

But yes, acting in your own interest isn’t always the same thing as acting in your best interest

So, how exactly should a whistleblower approach this government gaming the first amendment, and freedom of association on this topic, @timcushing ?

Or, are you also of the belief that the gubmint and the US democratic narrative via controlled dissemination of child pornography should hinge on repression of discussion of this topic?

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