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Wednesday, 16 May 2018 08:39

US names suspect in Vault 7 leaks, but unable to file charges Featured

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The US Government has named a suspect in the theft of documents from the CIA, which WikiLeaks released under the name Vault 7 from March last year, but has been unable to file charges against the man even though he has been detained since a week after the first leak.

Reports in both The New York Times and the Washington Post said the man, Joshua Schulte, had worked for both the CIA and the NSA. the latter as an intern.

In August last year, authorities filed child pornography charges against Schulte, who is in a jail in Manhattan, after claiming to have found 10,000 illicit images on a server that he had set up in 2009 while studying at the University of Texas in Austin.

The Vault 7 leaks, touted by WikiLeaks as the biggest dump of CIA secrets, ended in September last year. Nothing that was leaked has been considered as damaging as the NSA exploits leaked by a group known as the Shadow Brokers in April 2016.

When Schulte's apartment was searched, a week after the first Vault 7 dump on 7 March, the search warrant application said he was suspected of “distribution of national defence information". Agents told the court they had found “NSA and CIA paperwork” in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics.

He was released in September but arrested in December when it was found that he had violated the rules governing his release.

An assistant US attorney, Matthew Larouche, claimed during a court hearing in January that “the government immediately had enough evidence” to investigate Schulte as a suspect in the Vault 7 leaks. But to this day, no charges have been brought against Schulte in the Vault 7 leaks investigation.

Last week, Schulte's lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, told a court that a deadline should be set for the government to file charges on the allegation that he was behind the CIA leaks.

“This case has been dragging since August 2017,” Shroff told the NYT in an interview. “The government should be required to indict so Mr Schulte has the opportunity to defend himself. Otherwise he is just languishing.”

Schulte's father, Roger, said he was scared to death. "“I think he’s innocent of all these crimes, as far as everything I’ve seen,” he added.

Roger said his son was in college when he set up the server later claimed to contain child pornography, and that he “had so many people accessing it he didn’t care what people put on it”.

According to Schulte's LinkedIn page, he was an intern at the NSA while studying. He worked in the CIA's Engineering Development Group which designed the hacking tools used by its Centre for Cyber Intelligence. After quitting the CIA in November 2016 — according to Roger he had complained about security vulnerabilities at the agency — he joined Bloomberg as a software engineer.

The NYT quoted Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in California, as saying that WikiLeaks had magnified the danger posed by the Vault 7 leaks and that the tools were aimed only at small groups of high-value targets.

Weaver added that the fact the leak could happen was more significant as it came well after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden released masses of documents in 2013 about the agency's surveillance of American citizens.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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