Former CIA engineer Joshua Schulte suspected of leaking thousands of ‘Vault 7’ files

A former CIA engineer has been identified as the suspect behind the largest leak of classified documents in CIA history.

Joshua Schulte, 29, has been accused of handing over thousands of stolen files to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks.

The archive of files detailed the CIA’s use of hacking tools, including malware to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices.

Mr Schulte, a software engineer, spent six years at the CIA and designed malware to break into terrorism suspects’ computers. 

He left to work in the private sector in 2016, according to his LinkedIn page.

In March 2017, Wikileaks published thousands of documents, which they dubbed "Vault 7", describing the spy agency’s cyber-warfare programme.

Within a week of the first batch of leaks, US intelligence agencies launched a criminal investigation and searched Mr Schulte’s apartment in New York 

The files detailed the CIA's use of hacking tools, including malware to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices  Credit:

Officials suspected the engineer of distributing "national defence information" and told a court they had seized "NSA and CIA paperwork" and a computer, tablet and phone, the New York Times reported.

However after searching his home, prosecutors charged Mr Schulte on unrelated child pornography charges in August, claiming they found 10,000 abuse images on a server he created as a business.

Mr Schulte denies the charges and remains suspected of leaking extensive CIA data to the anti-secrecy group.

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The FBI claim messages from Mr Schulte suggests he was aware of the abuse images being hosted on the server he created as a business while a university student in 2009.

He was jailed in December after violating his bail terms, which included not using a computer or leaving New York.

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Mr Schulte’s family lawyers have demanded that the engineer should either be charged or cleared of the Vault 7 leak claims.

Last week, prosecutors said in court they planned to file a new indictment in the next 45 days, while his lawyer asked the judge to impose a deadline on any CIA leak related charges.

Both the CIA and the US justice department have not yet commented.