US Government Reveals It Has Video Evidence of Joshua Schulte Sharing Classified Information as Ecuador Restricts Assange’s Legal Visits

In a letter sent Thursday to Paul Crotty, the judge in the case of alleged Vault 7 WikiLeaks source, Joshua Schulte, prosecutors described the investigation conducted when, “in or about early October 2018,” they discovered he had been communicating clandestinely with third parties outside of the Metropolitan Corrections Center, where he has been held since December. They described discovering a truly stupendous amount of communications gear to store in a jail cell, amounting to multiple cell phones and other devices, from which Schulte was running 13 email and social media accounts.

In or about early October 2018, the Government learned that Schulte was using one or more smuggled contraband cellphones to communicate clandestinely with third parties outside of the MCC. The Government and the FBI immediately commenced an investigation into Schulte’s conduct at the MCC. That investigation involved, among other things, the execution of six search warrants and the issuance of dozens of grand jury subpoenas and pen register orders. Pursuant to this legal process, in the weeks following the Government’s discovery of Schulte’s conduct at the MCC, the FBI has searched, among other things, the housing unit at the MCC in which Schulte was detained; multiple contraband cellphones (including at least one cellphone used by Schulte that is protected with significant encryption); approximately 13 email and social media accounts (including encrypted email accounts); and other electronic devices.

Now, the prosecutors use that word “encrypted” twice, as if it means extra spooky, but these days, a cellphone with significant encryption could mean an iPhone (though in jail Schulte might be able to get state of the art spook or crook phones) and “encrypted email accounts” often means ProtonMail.

In any case, that’s a whole lot of legal process for a one month investigation of someone sitting in a jail cell (Schulte was moved to solitary when the investigation started on October 1), but then Schulte allegedly had a shit-ton of hardware. The 6 search warrants were presumably used for Schulte’s devices, and the “dozens of grand jury subpoenas and pen registers” would probably have been used for those email and social media accounts, perhaps with both used for each account (I have a working theory that for encrypted comms it may take more than one pen register to get the data).

Schulte was using all this hardware and software, according to the prosecutors, to — among other things — do two things: send details about the search warrants to investigate him, as well as yet more classified information, to third parties.

As a result of these searches and other investigative steps, the Government discovered that Schulte had, among other things, (i) transmitted classified information to third parties, including by using an encrypted email account, and (ii) transmitted the Protected Search Warrant Materials to third parties in direct contravention of the Court’s Protective Order and the Court’s statements at the May 21 conference.

The prosecutors included a superseding indictment with their letter, adding two extra counts to his already life sentence-threatening indictment: a new Count Eleven, which is contempt of court for blowing off the protective order covering his search warrant starting in April, and a new Count Four, which is another count of transmitting and attempting to transmit unlawfully possessed national defense information (793(e)) during the period he has been in MCC.

With regards to Count Eleven, on Monday a letter Schulte sent to Judge Crotty that was uploaded briefly to PACER (I believe this is the third time Schulte has succeeded in getting such letters briefly uploaded to the docket), revealing that he had been moved to solitary, but also complaining about corrections the government had made to his original search warrant:

I beg you Judge Crotty to read the first search warrant affidavit and the government’s Brady letter; the FBI outright lied in that affidavit and now acknowledge roughly half of these lies. Literally, they [sic] “error” on seeing dates of 3/7 where there were only 3/2 dates and developing their entire predicate based on fallacious reasoning and lies. They “error” in seeing three administrators where there were “at least 5” (ie. 10). They [sic] “error” in where the C.I. was stolen who had access, and how it could be taken — literally everything.

While I absolutely don’t rule out the government either focused on Schulte back in March 2017 for reasons not disclosed in the search warrant application, or that they parallel constructed the real reasons badly (both of which would be of significant interest, but both of which his very competent public defender can deal with), the docket suggests the Vault 7 case against him got fully substantiated after the porn case, perhaps because of the stuff he did last year on Tor that got him jailed in the first place. As I noted, that Tor activity closely followed one of Julian Assange’s more pubic extortion attempts using the Vault 8 material Schulte is accused of sharing, though Assange has made multiple private extortion attempts both before and since.

Which brings me to the second new charge, transmitting and attempting to transmit national defense information to a third party, with a time span of December 2017 to October 2018. Effectively, the government claims that even after Schulte was jailed last December, he continued to share classified information.

I’m particularly interested in the government’s use of “attempted” in that charge, not used elsewhere. The time period they lay out, after all, includes a period when Ecuador restricted Julian Assange’s communication. Effectively, the government revealed on Wednesday that they have video evidence of Schulte sharing classified information with … someone.

Meanwhile, in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, things have been heating up between Assange and his hosts.

About halfway through the period after which Schulte had been put into solitary so the government could investigate a bunch of communications devices they claim they didn’t know about before around October 1, Ecuador announced what seemed to be a relaxation of restrictions on Assange, but actually was more of an ultimatum. He could have visitors, but first they’d have to apply 3 days in advance and supply their social media handles and identifying details for any devices they wanted to bring with them. Assange, too, has to register all his devices, and only use Ecuador’s wifi. If anyone uses unapproved devices, they’ll be deemed a security threat to Ecuador under the protection of the UK, basically giving the UK reason to prosecute them to protect Ecuador. Assange has to have regular medical exams; if he has a medical emergency, he’ll be treated off site. Starting on December 1, he has to start paying for food and other supplies. He has to start cleaning up the joint. He has to start taking care of his cat.

Assange immediately sued over the new rules. But he lost that suit on Monday. But even as he appeals that verdict, according to Courage Foundation, Ecuador has restricted even legal visits, something that hadn’t been the case before. Those restrictions appear to have been put in place on Wednesday, the same day the new Schulte charges were rolled out. They’ll remain in place until Monday.

A piece by Ryan Goodman and Bob Bauer renewed discussion this morning about the First Amendment limits on suing or prosecuting WikiLeaks for conspiring with Russia to swing the 2016 election; I hope to respond to it later, but wrote about the same lawsuit in this post. I think their view dangerously risks political journalism.

But I also think that you don’t necessarily need to charge WikiLeaks in the conspiracy to sustain a conspiracy charge; you can make them unindicted co-conspirators, just like Trump would be. I have long noted that you could charge Assange, instead, for his serial attempts to extort the United States, an effort that has gone on for well over 18 months using the very same files that Schulte is alleged to have leaked to WikiLeaks (extortion attempts which may also involve Roger Stone). Assange has accomplished those extortion attempts, in part, with the assistance of his lawyers, who up until this week (as far as I understand from people close to Assange) were still permitted access to him.

Say. Have I observed yet that these events are taking place in the last days before Mueller’s election season restrictions end?

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

36 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Doesn’t say much for routine prison security, if those more than a dozen electronic devices amounted to contraband.  If Assange’s lawyers helped him commit a felony, then under US rules, a probable cause showing should negate any attorney client privilege and leave open those lawyers to indictment.

    Separately, I see that Donald Trump thinks that saying whatever comes into his head is the same thing as being honest.  I think what he means is that he’s honestly saying whatever he thinks is good for him at the moment he says it.  I suspect that he knows that other people think there is a difference between objective facts and inventions that would be good for him if true.  But like the law, he thinks such distinctions are for suckers.  Because, Roy Cohn.

    • orionATL says:

      yeah. the security matter is just astounding for a presumed computer whiz under suspicion of theft of government material at the highest level of classification.

      i think you are right about what prez thinks, but i think it does not mean what he thinks it means. 😂

      because – stroke of midnight, tuesday november 6th.

    • Trip says:

      There’s so much going on this piece, I’m not sure what to focus on. Like: Who smuggled the cellphones in? Who were the third parties he was transmitting info to: Assange again, since he’s mentioned, right? Where and when did he get the additional unlawfully possessed national defense information that he was caught with while incarcerated? Was he in possession of it prior to that, or did someone else hand off new stuff to him through the smuggled phones? (Although I’ve read quite a few stories about guards actually smuggling phones, for a price, and drugs easily getting into prisons).

      Any clue what was in it for him? Dispersing dangerous intelligence malware tools, etc. into the wild doesn’t come across as some conscientious objector/whistleblower act, at least not to me. Was he some kind of Assange loyalist, trying to gain leverage for him, was it riches, was he a spy, or was he just a disgruntled employee?

      The weirdest bit on Assange is forcing him to get regular medical check-ups. What’s up with that?
      And FFS, Julian, take care of your damned cat!

      • orionATL says:

        i hope i’m repeating ew correctly. my recollection is that schulte was a dissafected nsa government contract employee who really, really did not like president obama. was that enough to motivate him? well, after the last five weeks of chaos like this nation has not seen in decades: who knows what madness lurks in the minds of men – and their leaders.

    • BobCon says:

      I have to wonder if the Feds knew he had the phones and decided the value to the investigation of letting him communicate was greater than the risk.

      If that’s true, the risks were undoubtably high, which means that the possible value of tracking his communications were also high.

      It could just be a screwup, but cells are typically searched pretty regularly for phones, and they’re not the easiest thing to conceal, unlike, say, a couple of ounces of drugs.

      • emptywheel says:

        That’s my operative assumption, yes. They ignored the phones so as to collect evidence about Assange and maybe others.

        • Michael Keenan says:

          Could you refer me to more about blackmail that Assange committed? Is that apart of any of your archived timelines? Thanks.

  2. orionATL says:

    yes, yes. i read the whole post thru, dying to know who the disgruntled schulte was communicating with. this reads like a charles dickens; i need the next installment.

    as for the bauer and goodman article, the legal part is unclear to me, but this assertion, repeated, and key to their argument, seems questionable:

    “… It also relies on a demonstrable falsehood—that the Trump campaign had no involvement in the Kremlin and Wikileaks’ conspiracy to violate U.S. election law in acquiring and distributing the emails….”

    as devoutely as i believe that the trump campaign did have involvement in a kremlin-wikileaks conspiracy, i don’t think that the negative is yet a demonstrable falsehood, or has yet been proven in court. i assume i’m missing something, which is probably that to qualify as a conspirator is ridiculously easy, prima fascie, in this situation and does not even need jury or judicial sanction, but i raise the question nonetheless.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Well, little about these cases has yet seen a courtroom, although there have been several guilty pleas.

      I would think that a thorough reading of this blog, though, would have demonstrated that there exists a prima facie case that the Trump campaign included a large number of people with Russian contacts, that those contacts were aggressively and intentionally pursued by both sides for long periods of time, and that various Russian government- related persons serially aided and abetted the Trump campaign and attempted to harm the Clinton campaign.

      I think Goodman and Bauer are correct that the Trump campaign was not engaged in interested or disinterested journalism.  It was not a disseminator of public information.  Rather, it arguably worked with the Russians to use illegally obtained information in a manner and at times advantageous to the campaign.  That’s a criminal conspiracy.  It did so by working with foreigners, but apparently did not pay them fair market value for their services, which would mean it received illegal campaign contributions.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Meanwhile, Trump feigns concern for the innocents among the would be immigrants and asylum seekers some 800 miles from the nearest US border crossing.  But he’s sending thousands of troops to the border anyway, cause people are bad – and he needs the GOP to keep control of the House.

        If a few troops fire at and kill innocents because they imagine a few mothers, grandmothers, and children might throw rocks at the mighty US, well, shit happens.  (“I hope not, but it’s the military.”)  Sounds like he’s been on the phone too much with Bibi.

  3. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    JEEzus H KEErist on a couple of crutches!!! WTF is goin’ on in jail? Is the Metropolitan Correctional Facility federal? I have been worried about the FBI and federal district prosecution operations for years but this s**t is just unreal. Between the political corruption of the federal judiciary and investigative services (including SDNY) there is no room for “faith” in our judicial system.

  4. Avattoir says:

    I’ve had cases where for whatever reasons – not always wrong – law enforcement or at least some local LEOs effectively decide someone’s a ‘public enemy’ and, when they can’t make the case, up pops kiddie porn.

    All those sorts of cases that I agreed to take on turned into dismissals or pleas to minor charges. But that may well have been a function of the fact that other criminal trial attorneys knew I didn’t fear what taking them on WHERE THEY SEEMED BOGUS might do to my rep (especially since I’ve never had any ambitions for elected office), and also I was cautious about taking on cases where I couldn’t see a way out after having met with the client (A lot of them weren’t prepared to accept my conditions of retainer, and by that I don’t always or even mostly mean money), or where I had sufficient preview of the government’s case (There are specialists in guilty pleas, attorneys much better at those than I am.)

    What this Schulte case looks like, to me, admittedly from distance, is a possibly quite dubious case of exclusive control (We’re unable to judge Schulte’s excuse about giving it up to an unknown horde of pervy wankers, especially given his own published views on the somehow almost ‘heroic’ role he sees porn playing in society), an extremely impetuous egotistical and very difficult client with some truly beyond naive actually crackpot Randian thought processes, and what appears to be an unshakeable determination to sabotage his own cause.

    None of that, of course, correlates with him being guilty or complicit with the Wikileaks publication of the so-called Vault 7 files. And I’m certainly not prepared to accept the CIA or DoJ view on faith. But whatever he’s done or not done, this young idiot sure ain’t no Ellsberg, Drake or Snowden.

    • orionATL says:

      i always have reservations about child pornography when it shows up in national security cases playing a very noisy second fiddle. why? well, i just said why – because they seem to show up in national security cases. in the natsec cases this site has discussed, this rare (i’m assuming) pyschological compulsion has shown up with what seems to me surprising frequency. it would be helpful to be able to find statistics on use of child porn in the general population. no doubt that data exists among academic experts, but it surely isn’t readily available on search engines.

      in any event my personal conviction is that doj introduces child porn where it finds that it can do so primarily to sway judges and, even more so, juries. child porn charges, even indirect ones, can also be used as a club in plea bargaining. i suppose it is just part of the game for prosecutors, but when they exploit child porn for psychological manipulation and negotiating purposes, it seems to me they have violated the original protective intent of the law in a questionable, if not unprofessional, way – do whatever it takes to win. what about just going with the strength of the original natsec violation?

    • bmaz says:

      If you are going to plant, especially for a Fed, this is kind of the go to thing, no? I just do not have enough info to have a clue here. Don’t ever forget how the Sachtleben case proceeded though.

      • orionATL says:

        bmaz –


        thanks for the memories – literally. that’s the guy who was the fbi bomb expert, right? that is one of the first child porn cases i personally remember being discussed here, but there was no way i was going to remember that name.

        i just went and looked up ew discussions on it. while i’m not very adept at that and there may be numerous others,  i finally found this one post which i think tells a good story that needs to be told, and again:

        i am going to add what may seem as a nonsequitur here to finish out stating my strong objections to what i consider doj’s exploitative use of child pornography as an ancillary part of  non-pornography cases.

        it is my memory from a few years back that i was angry when i sensed that doj was using child pornography as a kind of coast guard ice cutter to clear the way with APPELLATE courts for certain national security legislation that had not yet been litigated. i am out on a limb here because i do not have the specfic case in mind, but i am going to stay here for purposes of discussion and others can chop it off if warranted. schachtleben is NOT that case.

    • emptywheel says:

      While I definitely think it could be planted, if that were the plan I would have thought they would have fought more aggressively on either denying him bail or enforcing the comms restriction. SO in this case, I think it possible that USG knew about the porn and knew that if and when they searched him they’d find it, which would give them time to collect evidence on the case in chief.

      Remember, too, they’ve got a sexual assault case from VA.

      It seems like they had to spend a lot of time parallel constructing the evidence on Vault 7. And I think Schulte’s behavior since then strongly suggests they got the right guy. But how they got to that is another thing.

      • bmaz says:

        “How they got there is another thing”. Yeah, exactly, and that was really more my point than that it was an absolute plant. And still the thing that bugs the shit out of me about the Indiana case. They may actually be kiddie porners!

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Perhaps relevant, perhaps not, but I have heard that abusers of children often receive less than kind treatment from fellow prisoners. There is the case of the imprisoned whistleblower whose name I forget, who the FBI screwed with in prison by planting lies, in typically ham-handed fashion, among the prison populace in hopes of getting him killed by a leader of some gang. Our hero dealt with it easily by going straight to the murderous prisoner in question and clearing the air.

    • orionATL says:

      thanks. i shouldn’t be surprised, but info on the distribution of this behavior is not easy to find. at least the psychology today article has some numbers in it – 5k credit card and paypal purchases of porn, but what is the denominator? schactleben, gartenlaub, and i think at least one other case have been discussed here.

      • Eureka says:

        From your comment above re:  wanting to find statistics in the general population, difficulty finding same, and here:

        but what is the denominator?

        PubMed might be helpful.  Maybe a general search of something like ~ paraphilias incidence~ or other keywords might get you leads to what you’re looking for.  (Something like PsychINFO might be even more germane, but is paywalled as far as I know.)

  5. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Take this situation of apparently close to zero control of a security threat in custody along with yesterday’s description of US intelligence choosing to fire a whistleblower rather than fix a fatal communications problem, and one is left with less than complete confidence that our civil servants are up to the task of protecting us from the ruthless assaults we are undergoing. Perhaps as a nation we’re too busy watching sports or porn? Perhaps we think our exceptionalism renders us invulnerable? Perhaps sticking it to liberals is an insufficient basis for decision-making? Unfortunately for us, bluster and patriotic posturing are no match for competence.

  6. Allison Holland says:

    I think he probably is a child porn addict  I thought so when it said he possessed so many phones.  keeping them separate.  a Randian libertarian hates the government because the government locks these people up and makes them feel like monsters openly accusing them of being gross, vile and foul. which they are.  most child molesters hate the government.  hate all restrictions. its why they love libertarianism.  just because he has been accused of being a pervert by the doj doesnt mean he isnt.  i think that to turn away from your nation and to leak national security information that can seriously threaten your own country is to be deviant in an emotional way. in other words i think its more than likely that people who do not see the world normally are not normal. as a mother i dont like libertarianism. i think its a selfish notion that we are all out for ourselves.  i think it detsroys the fabric of society which is woven by the contributions of all.  no taxes means no anything. nothing that would interfere in a child porn addict’s cyber adventures. he doesnt love our country. and he doesnt love its people. especially its children.

  7. CaliLawyer says:

    I’ve long suspected that the Obama administration had a draft indictment for Assange ready to file should they ever get personal jurisdiction over him – that way they could say with a straight face that he hadn’t been indicted but still do it on a moment’s notice should he ever get kicked out of the embassy. At least one report ( describes Assange requesting Russian security, which, if true, marks him as a potential Kremlin asset as far back as 2012 (obviously, his laser-like focus on wrongdoing by the west at the expense of significantly less transparent regimes such as in Russia or China has aroused suspicion in many). I’d expect that any indictment related to Wikileaks would be narrowly tailored to focus on Assange and his ties to the Kremlin, which would allow appellate courts to issue narrowly tailored rulings and minimize the risk of getting the case tossed on First Amendment grounds – and by narrow I mean extremely narrow, in the way Bush v. Gore was tailored so narrowly as to wipe it of any precedential value. The organization itself could well be left off. The depth of his Kremlin connections would seem to be the deciding factor, in my opinion. It looks like we’ll find out pretty soon.

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