Accused CIA Leaker Files Complaint Against The Government Seeking $50 Billion In Damages

from the good-points-terribly-made dept

Some CIA phone hacking tools made their way into the wild back in 2017. It didn't take long for the DOJ to find a suspect to charge. Joshua Schulte, a former NSA and CIA operative, was hit with a long list of charges, including espionage, child porn possession, and (at least momentarily) copyright infringement -- the last one on the list being the result of feds discovering a bunch of pirated movies and music on Schulte's server.

As this prosecution has slowly moved forward, it has gotten wilder. The DOJ claimed Schulte was continuing to leak classified info, even after being jailed while awaiting his trial. According to the DOJ's filing, Schulte was using a number of smuggled-in phones to smuggle out classified documents turned over to him by the DOJ in response to discovery requests. The government's filing also made mention of "significant encryption" stymieing its attempts to break into Schulte's contraband phone but left the definition of that term open to discussion.

Marcy Wheeler (of Emptywheel) was the first to come across Josh Schulte's latest filing in his case. And it's… something. Schulte has been openly critical of his incarceration and the US prison-industrial complex generally. Now, he's attempting to nail down the specifics by filing a complaint [PDF] against the US government for depriving him of a number of his rights and demanding, in a Dr. Evil-esque move, 50 BILLION DOLLARS.

The 88-page [!] complaint opens with Schulte's handwritten claim the government has ended a career headed for Bill Gates/Jeff Bezos-level personal fortune. The "Relief" section says:

Section 6: Monetary damages associated with illegal Federal Terrorist actions including torture and the loss of income (p. 65-69)

Total loss of income: $50,000,347,000
Total punitive damages: 5,359,270,693

Among the "illegal Federal Terrorist actions" leading to this $55 billion prayer for relief are a long list of things the government routinely subjects prisoners to, including solitary confinement, 24/7 exposure to bright lights, prison library bans, prison commissary bans, television-viewing bans, shackling, use of certain criminal charges (child porn possession) to leverage plea deals on other charges (espionage), a lack of access to hot water, indefinite pre-trial detention, and so on.

Schulte isn't wrong. A lot of what happens in federal prisons is inhumane. Whether or not it's worth $55 billion is up to the court and I'm pretty sure this complaint will be greeted with a swift dismissal. Construed liberally, it alleges a host of Constitutional violations that could meet the bar needed to move forward. On the other hand, it demands the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment be declared unconstitutional, along with plea deals, mandatory minimum sentences, and the Classified Information Procedures Act. As a bonus, it asks for the "disbandment of the Fascist Police State including the FBI."

At best, this all seems unlikely to find a judge willing to entertain while presiding over Schulte's criminal trial. Many of Schulte's complaints are legitimate, but they're also things courts have not found to violate anyone's rights while they're incarcerated. Limited contact, extortionate phone call rates, constant surveillance, vetted mail, etc. are part of the prison experience. Many agree these things go above what's needed to keep prisons secure, but few courts (or legislators) are doing anything about it.

But along with the legitimate complaints about prison life, there's other stuff. It's not just the $50 billion Schulte thinks he could have earned if he hadn't been arrested and jailed. It's his comparing his experience to Jews during the Holocaust and insisting that his Second Amendment rights are being violated because they won't let him have a gun in jail.

But perhaps the nadir of the complaint is Schulte claiming possessing child porn is a "victimless crime."

The plaintiff was charged with a non-violent, victimless crime and subject to the presumption of detention. Even though the plaintiff has never been charged before with ANY crime and had worked for the government at the Central Intelligence Agency, the government knowingly lied and claimed the plaintiff was a danger to society.

Schulte's underlying point is solid -- that the government hasn't properly demonstrated why he should not be released to await his trial -- but it's made so badly it almost manages to negate itself.

If you can make your way past some of the heated -- but not helpful -- language, you'll find a depressing depiction of everyday prison life. It makes no difference to the government whether or not it's secured a conviction. If it can, it will lock you up until you finally are able to defend yourself against its charges. Until then, your life is over. It belongs to the government and it is willing to treat the presumptively-innocent just as terribly as it treats the guilty.

Filed Under: cia, joshua schulte, leaker, leaks, nsa, prison conditions


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 12:53pm

    If it can, it will lock you up until you finally are able to defend yourself against its charges.

    Or more often, until you run out of money and hope, and accede to a plea deal to avoid being given an even longer sentence should you manage to get to a trial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      Pleading guilty in return for time already served makes perfect sense, especially when the alternative is even more jail time before trial.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 7:50pm

        Re: Re:

        Except it gets you a criminal record, with all the employment/housing/banking problems that implies

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 8:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yeah they fuck you either way, but at least if you get out earlier than later, you can go home and feed the cats if they're still alive.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 1:21pm

    It seems a bit strange that many of those targeted by the government are found to have child porn on their computer/cell/whatever. It is probably very easy to find copyright material on anyone's personal equipment considering how much of the stuff they blast upon your machine without your knowledge or consent. The webpage cache gets full of crap you have no idea about nor care ... until someone blasts down the door and steals all your stuff so they can trump up the charges and get you to cooperate. Makes one wonder what they would do to someone who does not have any easily compromised systems, like the granny who has never owned a computer or an internet connection was accused of downloading some crap movie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 1:34pm

      Re:

      Makes one wonder what they would do to someone who does not have any easily compromised systems, like the granny who has never owned a computer or an internet connection was accused of downloading some crap movie.

      This has already happened, and cases are easily dismissed when they explain they've never used a computer. We should worry more about the people who do own a computer, and are not in some sympathetic group like "grandmothers" or "elderly".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Another Shameful Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 8:01pm

      Re: gov targets

      You mean like Scott Ritter, UN weapons inspector that proclaimed a bit too loudly that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to King George launching a profitable invasion?

      One would be a cynic to suggest that Julian Assange and Edward Snowden would be conveniently found guilty of the same.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 8:22pm

        Re: Re: gov targets

        Iraq had anthrax sold to them by Rumsfeld to use against Iran.. more than a thousand tons of it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 6:17am

      Re:

      Yes, how very... convenient.
      A rather perfect tool for demonising, and nigh impossible to disprove, especially when the accused is locked up without access to the machine or the resources to hire professionals to determine whether the material existed there prior to seizure.
      Even were that the case, the damage is mostly done regardless, and the general presumption of guilt lingers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 7 May 2019 @ 2:16pm

    Plea bargaining needs to be completely banned. Period. The government ought to be limited to charging people with offenses they are willing to try in court and that they think they can win. If that clogs up the court system, then society needs to think more seriously about what should and should not be criminalized. Plea bargaining is nothing more than extortion used to satisfy public opinion that someone was convicted for something without regard as to whether or not it was even the right person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 7 May 2019 @ 2:50pm

    Plea Deals

    I remember reading something about the UK plea deal system - the prosecutor cannot ask for more that 50% more time than the inmate is offered in a plea deal. That's enough that a person insisting on their innocence is not gambling a huge amount, but enough of a deal that people who realize they WILL be found guilty has something to gain by pleading out. An Aaron Schwarz level of extortion - "take 8 months or we ask for 35 years" - is criminal extortion on the prosecutor's part.

    As for the filing itself - I have to think "take away concession privileges"??? This sinks to the level of petty tyranny that we used to experience from teachers who were royal pricks. It should be beneath the dignity of a prison administration to be reduced to "no candy bar for you!" The purpose of putting someone in prison is to separate them from society, not to practice whatever indignities and petty psychological tortures stir the tepid loins of the prison administration. Supposedly the non-adult behaviour is on the other side of the bars, but it's hard to tell in the Land of the Free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 4:01pm

      Re: Plea Deals

      You are obviously confused about the "purpose of putting someone in prison", you see historically prison was to punish and rehabilitate the inmates to allow them to return to functioning society.

      In reality, prisons are Money Farms, where corporate fat cat's make millions of dollars by herding 'inmates' in the worst conditions imaginable, while pretending to the public that they are doing something for the good of society.

      Now who do prisons hire to herd the inmates? The worst society has to offer, those with psychopathic tendencies, control problems, and anger issues that they get to 'work out' while on the job. So yes they are WORSE than "those teachers" as they often come up with new and creative ways to 'educate' their inmates... it's not like they have anything else to do with their time in there, now is it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 3:57pm

    Getting open-source developers to agree on anything is both an allusion and an delusion.

    If it was easy there would be a decent Linux that would run Windows programs but there is not and will never be (not counting Microsoft's attempt to take over Linux).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2019 @ 6:35pm

      Re:

      Getting egomaniacal business types to agree on anything is both an allusion and an delusion.

      If it was easy there would be a decent product that would not contain bugs or spys.

      but there is not and will never be (not counting Trump's attempt to take over the world.

      ftfy

      On a side note, did you mean to type illusion rather than allusion?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 9:50am

      Re:

      ... there would be a decent Linux that would run Windows programs

      Well, considering that a great chunk of the Linux developer community suffers from ABM-ism, the chances of that ever happening are on par with the MafiAA coming out of the Mesozoic period, and peacefully joining the rest of us in the 21st century.

      -> ABM - Anything But Microsoft

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re:

        You want them both to be the same thing? Why?
        Seems a bit silly.

        One can run windows on a linux machine ... I have done it. Simply make use of a virtual machine.

        The applications written to run on a microsoft operating system are a mixed bag though, perhaps they have improved over the past several years. Some of them understand Direct Memory Access requirements while others do not. The apps that do not experience difficulties.

        Joining the 21st century ... with Microsoft? Why? Soon it will be a subscription service - why would I want such an albatross?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 7 May 2019 @ 4:18pm

    he can try.

    So he's using a spaghetti defense. I see that causing more problems then helping because your lesser credible complaints and ridiculous complaints will start to eclipse any credible complaints you have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 9:31am

      Re: he can try.

      The proper name for this is The Chewbacca Defense. Outside of the food domain, the term 'spaghetti' is reserved for coding practices that give nightmares to programmer-wannabe's.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 8 May 2019 @ 11:30am

        Re: Re: he can try.

        Seems more like it should be called the red herring fallacy based on a web search of the Chewbacca defense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sumgai (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 2:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: he can try.

          They're not quite the same thing. A red herring is meant to mislead someone in pursuit; to give them a new, and plausible, direction to follow. A Chewbacca espousage is meant to totally confuse, to leave one wondering what the hell to do next.

          They're both distractive, but one works by putting an incorrect sign at a fork in the road; the other leads you into a maze with no easily discernable exit.

          sumgai

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhajicek (profile), 7 May 2019 @ 9:01pm

    Technically he's correct.

    There is no prisoner exception to the bill of rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 9:26am

      Re: Technically he's correct.

      You go down a very bumpy road with that one. Unless you're on the short list for Supreme Court nominee, I suggest you let the USSC handle that one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 8 May 2019 @ 9:28am

        Re: Re: Technically he's correct.

        C'mon, Bernie the Pinko is on the campaign trail screeching that prisoners should be allowed to vote.

        I suspect he's looking for a "new visitation" of "cruel and unusual punishment".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 10:40am

          Re: Re: Re: Technically he's correct.

          You mean the prisoners that were forced into a plea bargain because they lack the resources to properly defend themselves in a court of law? How about the ones who were not given their due process? How about those who have done their time?

          You expose your personal biases with your juvenile attacks, perhaps you would do better by discussing the issues.

          I find a lack of any rational in support of your pov, is there a reason why?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2019 @ 8:28pm

    What is this $50 Billion going after the government? Where does he get off? Fucking egos in the government. Why not just make it a $1 Trillion? Or $100 Trillion? At least when he loses the first suit, he can turn around and sue everyone who could give a flying fuck for him and laughed their fao.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rog $, 11 May 2019 @ 5:33am

    Child porn is the Hail Mary pass of a society in constitutional freefall, desperate to claim it has any basis at all in pervtecktin chilrens.

    And, any high level (male ) whistleblower gets the CP ball dropped on their heads conveniently close to the time they begin whistle blowing.

    Google Matt DeHart for fun... and shitloads of so-called mass shooters too.

    The FBI /CIA /via NCMEC /Et Alphabet run so many cp sites offshore (and from Las Vegas ) that it defies logic or reason to claim the US /Britain /Sweden/AUS actually want to eradicate it.

    Maybe we need a few more Catholics and Jews on the supreme court, to help us save all the chilrens, while flubbing the ball on how distributing CP is weak pretext to use to obliterate CP and the first amendment that challenges their buhliefs .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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