Posts

Government Confirms that WikiLeaks Didn’t Release All the Vault 7 Files

Accused Vault 7 hacker Joshua Schulte’s lawyers seem really intent on preventing the government from using evidence obtained while he was using a contraband phone at MCC in his trial for the main leak of CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks.

They’ve already challenged warrants obtained using evidence found in notebooks marked as attorney-client privileged information but then released after a wall team review; in my NAL opinion, that challenge is the most likely of any of his motions to succeed. Last week, they also moved to sever the two MCC charges from the main Espionage ones (they’ve already severed the child porn and copyright violation charges from the Espionage ones), explaining that two of his attorneys, including his lead attorney Sabrina Shroff, would testify to something about discussions from May and June 2018 that would address his state of mind when he leaked and tried to leak CIA materials later in 2018.

To defend against the government’s allegations, Mr. Schulte would call two of his attorneys—Matthew B. Larsen and Sabrina P. Shroff—to present favorable testimony bearing on his state of mind.

This pertains, in some way, to the government’s claim that Schulte wrote classified information in his prison notebooks as part of a plan to leak it.

The government has indicated that its evidence on the MCC Counts will include portions of notebooks seized from Mr. Schulte’s cell, in which he allegedly documented his plans to transmit classified information.

[snip]

Defense counsel expects that at trial, the government will seek to introduce excerpts of Mr. Schulte’s writings in his notebooks as evidence of his specific intent to violate the law.

If they succeed at severing count four from the main Espionage charges, it might make it harder to link what Schulte was doing in jail with what he was allegedly doing over two years earlier. As I noted when Schulte’s team first challenged the MCC warrants, it’s clear why they’re doing this: the MCC evidence indicates he had an ongoing relationship with WikiLeaks.

The FBI investigation proceeded from those notebooks to the WordPress site showing him claiming something identical to disinformation he was packaging up to share with WikiLeaks. They also got from those notebooks to ProtonMail accounts where Schulte offered to share what may or may not be classified information with a journalist. The reason why the defense is pushing to suppress this — one of the only challenges they’re making in his prosecution thus far — is because the stuff Schulte did in prison is utterly damning and seems to confirm both his familiarity with WikiLeaks and his belief that he needed to create disinformation to claim to be innocent.

The government, in a fairly scathing response to Schulte’s motion to sever the trials, confirms that it believes the MCC charges include evidence that help support the main charges on leaking the files to WikiLeaks (what the government calls CIA counts). The government had a “reverse proffer” on December 18, 2018 and laid out all the evidence against Schulte, including pointing out that (as I described) the material seized from MCC helped prove the CIA charges.

About six weeks later, on December 18, 2018, the Government met with defense counsel (the “Reverse Attorney Proffer”). At this meeting, the Government described for defense counsel the theory of the Government’s case with respect to the charges in the Second Superseding Indictment, and answered defense counsel’s questions about the charged counts, including the new counts. The Government also explicitly noted during the Reverse Attorney Proffer that it believed that the material recovered pursuant to the MCC Warrants was relevant evidence with respect to not only the MCC Counts, but also the CIA Counts.

Having laid out the interconnectedness of these charges, the government then explains at some length why having different attorneys defend Schulte in the CIA and MCC counts would cause delays in both, because replacement counsel would need to familiarize themselves with both sets of charges. Now, as I noted, there’s unclassified information that Schulte clearly shared with WikiLeaks both before and while he was in jail. But right there in the middle of this passage is the revelation that Schulte identified classified information in his prison notebooks that he shared with WikiLeaks but that WikiLeaks has not yet published.

Regardless, Schulte’s proposal—further severed trials and new counsel for the MCC Counts—would neither prevent trial delay nor resolve the ethical issue. Rather, it is likely to exacerbate both. First, appointing new counsel on the MCC Counts is likely to cause, rather than prevent, further trial delay and would complicate Schulte’s defense across all counts. Because of the interconnectedness of the MCC Counts and the CIA Counts, as well as the child pornography and copyright counts, new counsel would need to become familiar with the evidence as to all counts in order to appropriately advise and defend Schulte. Indeed, new counsel might determine that the best course with respect to the MCC Counts would be to seek to negotiate a plea that resolves those charges along with some combination of the CIA Counts, child pornography counts, and/or copyright count. Those negotiations could not occur until new counsel was fully familiar with all aspects of the case. This would take a substantial amount of time given that new counsel would have to be cleared and that a substantial portion of the evidence is classified and, thus, must be reviewed in sensitive compartmented information facilities. Moreover, even after new counsel became familiar with the case, it is possible that new counsel might have different views than current counsel concerning a variety of trial strategy decisions, including, among others, the desirability of Schulte testifying, which could impact one or all of the severed trials and would need to be coordinated among all of Schulte’s attorneys. As a result, trial on the CIA Counts could not proceed until new counsel for the MCC Counts was familiar with the entire case. In short, the appointment of new counsel would likely further complicate this case and lead to substantial delays.

Second, severing the CIA Counts from the MCC Counts also would not resolve the purported ethical issue. Even if the trials were severed, evidence of Schulte’s prison conduct, including the Schulte Cell Documents, would still be admissible at the trial addressing the CIA Counts as both direct evidence and Rule 404(b) evidence of those crimes. For example, in the Schulte Cell Documents, Schulte specifically identifies certain classified information that was provided to WikiLeaks but which WikiLeaks has not yet published, which is direct evidence that Schulte transmitted classified information to WikiLeaks as charged in the WikiLeaks Counts. Similarly, Schulte’s prison conduct is also admissible as to the WikiLeaks Counts for a variety of Rule 404(b) purposes including to show, among other things, consciousness of guilt, motive, opportunity, intent, absence of mistake, and modus operandi.5

5 Similarly, during a trial addressing the MCC Counts, the Government would introduce evidence relating to the CIA Counts as direct evidence to complete the story of the crime and, in the alternative, as Rule 404(b) evidence. For example, evidence related to the CIA Counts would establish Schulte’s motive for committing and ability to commit the MCC Counts, as well as his knowledge that the information he unlawfully transmitted was classified national defense information. As a result, even a trial on the MCC Counts would entail introduction of much of the evidence from the Espionage Trial. [my emphasis]

The government doesn’t say whether it knows that WikiLeaks received this information because it found it after seizing Julian Assange’s computers or some other way.

The detail that Schulte referred to information that the government apparently knows WikiLeaks received — but that WikiLeaks has never published — is interesting for an entirely different reason.

On top of asking to sever two more charges, Schulte is also asking for a delay in trial, from November to January. The government says it’s cool with that delay, so long as there won’t be any further delay.

The Government understands that the defendant is seeking to adjourn the Espionage Trial until January 13, 2020. Although the Government is prepared to start trial as scheduled on November 4, 2019, the Government does not oppose the defendant’s adjournment request with the understanding that the defendant will not seek another adjournment of the Espionage Trial absent exceptional and unforeseen circumstances[.]

This story on Jeremy Hammond’s subpoena in EDVA clarifies something about which there has been a great deal of confusion. The US can still add charges against Julian Assange at least until his extradition hearing, which starts on February 25.

Nick Vamos, former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service in England, said the treaty between the two countries still allows for the U.S. to add charges to the Assange case, but that will become more difficult and problematic for the American prosecutors as they get closer to the scheduled extradition hearing in February.

The discussion today has focused on the Stratfor hacks that Hammond is serving time for. Because the five year statute of limitations for CFAA would normally have tolled by now, they are likely pursuing some kind of conspiracy charges, for a conspiracy that continued past 2012.

But given the seeming cooperation while Schulte was in jail and the knowledge that WikiLeaks sat on — or used — one of the other files provided by Schulte, if the government is planning on more conspiracy charges, chances are good that Vault 7 will eventually be included in them.

The Classified Conversation Trump Had with Comey Was Two Days after the Vault 7 Leak

The other day, I did a long post showing that Trump blabbed details about the FBI’s investigation into the theft of CIA’s hacking tools the same day that the FBI was preparing to take the first step that would alert Joshua Schulte he was FBI’s suspect, a search of his apartment. While in fact, Trump’s comments probably were broadcast after the search had commenced, he made the comments at a time when they could have tipped off Schulte.

In the post, I noted that Jim Comey had had one classified conversation about an intelligence investigation with Trump. “I had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our, an ongoing intelligence investigation, it was brief and entirely professional,” Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The DOJ IG Report on Comey’s memos released today (which I’ll cover at length later) reveals that that conversation took place on March 9, 2017.

On March 9, 2017, Comey had a secure one-on-one telephone call with President Trump. Comey told the OIG that the secure telephone call was “only business,” and that there was “nothing untoward” about the call, other than it was “unusual for the President to call the Director directly.” Comey said he did not prepare a memo to document this call with the President, but said he had [Jim] Rybicki arrange a secure call to Attorney General Sessions immediately afterwards to inform the Attorney General about the telephone call from the President in an effort “to keep the Attorney General in the chain of command between [Comey] and the President.”

That means the conversation took place just two days after the March 7 initial release of the Vault 7 files. The timing makes it far more likely that that’s what they two men spoke about.

More crazy, however, is the detail that Trump initiated that call.

If Trump were calling the FBI Director for information about an investigation into a leak to WikiLeaks (at a time a long effort to get Julian Assange a pardon had already begun), that would change the import of the call significantly.

Revisiting the First Time President Trump Blabbed Out Classified Information for Political Gain

I’d like to revisit what might be the first time in his presidency that Donald Trump blabbed out highly classified information for political gain. Trump appears to have endangered the investigation into CIA’s stolen hacking tools, all to blame Obama for the leak.

It happened on March 15, 2017, during an interview with Tucker Carlson.

Amid a long exchange where Tucker challenges Trump, asking why he claimed — 11 days earlier — that Obama had “tapped” Trump Tower without offering proof, Trump blurted out that the CIA was hacked during the Obama Administration.

Tucker: On March 4, 6:35 in the morning, you’re down in Florida, and you tweet, the former Administration wiretapped me, surveilled me, at Trump Tower during the last election. Um, how did you find out? You said, I just found out. How did you learn that?

Trump: I’ve been reading about things. I read in, I think it was January 20th, a NYT article, they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article, I think they used that exact term. I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier, the day previous, where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping. I said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about. I’ve been seeing a lot of things. Now, for the most part I’m not going to discuss it because we have it before the committee, and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon, that hasn’t been submitted as of yet. But it’s potentially a very serious situation.

Tucker: So 51,000 people retweeted that, so a lot of people thought that was plausible, they believe you, you’re the president. You’re in charge of the agencies, every intelligence agency reports to you. Why not immediately go to them and gather evidence to support that?

Trump: Because I don’t want to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency. You know we have enough problems. And by the way, with the CIA, I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during, us, that was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now, doing a fantastic job. But we will be submitting certain things, and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. But it’s right now before the Committee, and I think I want to leave it at that. I have a lot of confidence in the committee.

Tucker: Why not wait to tweet about it until you can prove it? Does it devalue your words when you can’t provide evidence?

Trump: Well because the NYT wrote about it. You know, not that I respect the NYT. I call it the failing NYT. They did write on January 20 using the word wiretap. Other people have come out with —

Tucker: Right, but you’re the President. You have the ability to gather all the evidence you want.

Trump: I do, I do. But I think that frankly we have a lot right now and I think if you watch, uh, if you watched the Brett Baier and what he was saying and what he was talking about and how he mentioned the word wiretap, you would feel very confident that you could mention the name. He mentioned it and other people have mentioned it. But if you take a look at some of the things written about wiretapping and eavesdropping, and don’t forget when I say wiretap, those words were in quotes, that really covers, because wiretapping is pretty old fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes but that’s a very important thing. But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re going to find some very interesting items over the next two weeks. [my emphasis]

It was clear even at the time that it was a reference to the Vault 7 files, now alleged to have been leaked to WikiLeaks by Joshua Schulte; the first installment of files were released eight days earlier.

The next day, Adam Schiff, who as the then-Ranking HPSCI member, likely had been briefed on the leak, responded to Trump’s comments and suggested that, while Trump couldn’t have broken the law for revealing classified information, he should nevertheless try to avoid releasing it like this, without any kind of consideration of the impact of it.

Last night, the President stated on Fox News that “I just wanted people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken–that was during the Obama years.” In his effort to once again blame Obama, the President appears to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information,

It would be one thing if the President’s statement were the product of intelligence community discussion and a purposeful decision to disclose information to the public, but that is unlikely to be the case. The President has the power to declassify whatever he wants, but this should be done as the product of thoughtful consideration and with intense input from any agency affected. For anyone else to do what the President may have done, would constitute what he deplores as “leaks.”

Trump did reveal information the CIA still considered classified. At the very least, by saying that CIA got hacked, he confirmed the Vault 7 documents were authentic files from the CIA, something the government was not otherwise confirming publicly at that time. (Compare Mike Pompeo’s oblique comments about the leak from a month later.)

His reference to the volume of stolen files may have been based on what the CIA had learned from reviewing the initial dump; court filings make it clear the CIA still did not know precisely what had been stolen.

His reference to a hack, rather than a leak, is an interesting word choice, as the compromise has usually been called a leak. But Schulte’s initial search warrants listed both Espionage and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, meaning the government was treating it as (partly) a hacking investigation. And some of the techniques he allegedly used to steal the files are the same that hackers use to obfuscate their tracks (which is unsurprising, given that Schulte wrote some of the CIA’s obfuscation tools).

Perhaps the most damning part of Trump’s statement, however, was the main one: that the theft had taken place under Obama. WikiLeaks’ initial release was totally noncommittal about when they obtained the files, but said it had been “recent[].” By making it clear that the government knew the theft had taken place in 2016 and not more “recently,” Trump revealed a detail that would have made it more likely Schulte would realize they believed he was the culprit (though he knew from the start he’d be a suspect), given that he’d left the agency just days after Trump was elected.

The most damning part of all of this, though, is the timing. Trump made these comments at an unbelievably sensitive time in the investigation.

Tucker did the interview while accompanying Trump to Detroit on March 15, 2017, which means the interview took place sometime between 10:50 AM and 3:30 PM (Tucker said the interview happened at Willow Run Airport, but this schedule says he flew into DTW). Unless it was given special billing, it would have aired at 9PM on March 15.

That means Trump probably made the comments as the FBI was preparing a search of Schulte’s apartment, the first step the FBI took that would confirm for Schulte that he was the main suspect in the leak. Trump’s comments likely aired during the search, before the moment Schulte left his apartment with two passports while the search was ongoing.

CIA had had a bit of advanced warning about the leak. In the lead-up to the leaks (at least by February 3), a lawyer representing Julian Assange, Adam Waldman, was trying to use the Vault 7 files to make a deal with the US government, at first offering to mitigate the damage of the release for some vaguely defined safe passage for Assange. The next day, WikiLeaks first hyped the release, presumably as part of an attempt to apply pressure on the US. Shortly thereafter, Waldman started pitching Mark Warner (who, with Richard Burr, could have granted Assange immunity in conjunction with SSCI’s investigation). On February 17, Jim Comey told Warner to stop his negotiations, though Waldman would continue to discuss the issue to David Laufman at DOJ even after the initial release. Weeks later, WikiLeaks released the initial dump of files on March 7.

An early WaPo report on the leak (which Schulte googled for its information about what the CIA knew before WikiLeaks published) claimed that CIA’s Internal Security had started conducting its own investigation without alerting FBI to the leak (though obviously Comey knew of it by mid-February). The same report quoted a CIA spox downplaying the impact of a leak it now calls “catastrophic.”

By March 13, the day the FBI got its first warrant on Schulte, the FBI had focused on Schulte as the primary target of the investigation. They based that focus on the following evidence, which appears to incorporate information from the CIA’s own internal investigation, an assessment of the first document dump, and some FBI interviews with his colleagues in the wake of the first release:

  • The FBI believed (and still maintains) that the files were stolen from the onsite backup server
  • Schulte was one of a small group of SysAdmins who had privileges to that server (in the initial warrant they said just three people did but have since revised the number to five)
  • The FBI believed (mistakenly) that the files were copied on March 7, 2016, a time when one of the other two known SysAdmins was offsite
  • Schulte had had a blow-up with a colleague that led to him souring on his bosses
  • During the period the CIA was investigating that blow-up, Schulte had reset his administrative privileges to restore his access to the backup server and one project he was working on
  • As part of his August security clearance renewal, some of Schulte’s colleagues said they thought he could be subject to coercion and was not adhering to rules on removable media
  • Just before he left, Schulte created two documents claiming to have raised concerns about the security of the CIA’s servers that (the government claims) he didn’t actually raise
  • Names identifying the two other SysAdmins who had access to the backup server, but not Schulte’s, were included in the initial release
  • In six days since the initial Vault 7 release, Schulte had contacted colleagues and told them he thought he’d be a suspect but was not the leaker

Having obtained a warrant based off that probable cause, on the afternoon of March 13, FBI agents went to conduct a covert search of Schulte’s apartment. The FBI was trying to conduct the search before a trip to Mexico Schulte was scheduled to take on March 16, which (as the affidavit noted) would have been only his second trip outside the US reflected in DHS records. But when the FBI got to Schulte’s apartment, they found a slew of computer devices (listed at PDF 116), making the covert search impractical. So overnight, they obtained a second warrant for an overt search; the FBI obtained that warrant at 1:36 AM on March 14. During that same overnight trip to the magistrate, the FBI also obtained warrants for Schulte’s Google, Reddit, and GitHub accounts.

There’s a lack of clarity about this detail in the public record: the warrant is dated March 14, but it is described as the “March 15 warrant.” The overt search continued through the night in question, so it could either be March 14-15 or March 15-16. The government’s response to Schulte’s motion to suppress the search says, “The Overt Warrant was signed during the early morning hours of March 14, 2017, and the FBI executed the warrant the same day.” But a May 5, 2017 affidavit (starting at PDF 129) says the overt search of Schulte’s apartment took place on March 15.

Whatever day the search happened, it appears that the search started when the lead agent approached Schulte in the lobby of Bloomberg, perhaps as he was leaving work, and asked if he had a role in the leak, which Schulte denied. (This conversation is one basis for Schulte’s false statements charge; the Bill of Particulars describing the interview says it took place on March 15.) The agent got Schulte to confirm he was traveling to Mexico on March 16, then got Schulte to let them into his apartment (Bloomberg is at 120 Park Avenue; Schulte lived at 200 E 39th Street, five blocks away). The search of Schulte’s apartment went through the night. Sometime between 10 and 11 PM, Schulte left his apartment, telling the FBI Agents he’d return around 11:30 PM. By 12:15 AM he hadn’t returned, so the lead FBI Agent went and found him leaving Bloomberg. They told him they had found classified information in his apartment, and asked for his passports. He went back to his workstation to retrieve them, and voluntarily handed them over. The affidavit describes Schulte being put on leave by Bloomberg on March 16, the last day he reported to work at Bloomberg (which would be consistent with the search taking place on the night of March 15-16).

If the search took place overnight on March 14-15, Trump’s statements might have reflected knowledge the search had occurred (and that FBI had found classified information in Schulte’s apartment that would sustain an arrest on false statements and mishandling classified information charges, if need be). If the search took place overnight on March 15-16 (which seems to be what the record implies), it would mean Trump made the comments before the search and they would have been aired on Fox News during it.

In other words, Trump may well have made the comments at a time when FBI was trying to avoid giving Schulte any advance notice because they were afraid he might destroy evidence.

In addition, Trump undoubtedly made the comments (and Schiff highlighted the significance of them) before Schulte had follow-up interviews on March 20 and 21, at which he denied, among other things, ever making CIA’s servers more vulnerable to compromise. If Schulte had read Trump’s comment he’d be more worried about anything akin to hacking.

The question is, how much of what Trump said reflected real knowledge of the investigation, and to what degree should he have known that blurting this out could be unbelievably damaging to the investigation?

Given Trump’s imprecision in speech, his comments could derive entirely from the Vault 7 release itself, or at least a really high level briefing (with pictures!) of the compromise and CIA’s efforts to mitigate it.

But there are two pieces of evidence that suggest Trump may have been briefed in more detail about Schulte as a target.

Jim Comey testified on June 8, 2017 that, in addition to asking him to, “let this [Flynn thing] go,” Trump had asked him about a classified investigation, but that conversation was entirely professional.

WARNER: Tens of thousands. Did the president ever ask about any other ongoing investigation?

COMEY: No.

WARNER: Did he ever ask about you trying to interfere on any other investigation?

COMEY: No.

WARNER: I think, again, this speaks volumes. This doesn’t even get to the questions around the phone calls about lifting the cloud. I know other members will get to that, but I really appreciate your testimony, and appreciate your service to our nation.

COMEY: Thank you, Senator Warner. I’m sitting here going through my contacts with him. I had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our, an ongoing intelligence investigation, it was brief and entirely professional.

Obviously there were a ton of investigations and this conversation could have taken place after Trump made the public comments. But the Vault 7 investigation would have been one of the most pressing investigations in the months before Comey got fired.

More directly on point, in his Presumption of Innocence blog, Schulte describes the interactions with the FBI during the search — which are consistent with them taking place on March 15 — this way (he has not sought to suppress the statements he made that night, which suggests his claims of coercion aren’t strong enough to impress his attorneys):

The FBI set an artificial and misguided deadline on the night before I was to depart NYC for Cancun to prevent me from leaving the country. Despite my insistence with them that the notion someone would flee the country AFTER the publication literally made no sense—if it were me communicating with WikiLeaks then obviously I would have made damn sure to leave BEFORE it happened—they were persistent in their belief that I was guilty. The FBI literally told me that everyone ”up to the top” knew we were having this conversation and that “they” could not afford to let me leave the country. “They” could not afford another national embarrassment like Snowden. “They” would not, under any circumstances, allow me to leave the country. The FBI were prepared and willing to do anything and everything to prevent me from leaving the country including threaten my immediate arrest arrest unless I surrendered my passport. I did NOT initially consent, but the FBI held me against my will without any arrest warrant and even actively disrupted my attempts to contact an attorney. Intimidated, fearful, and without counsel, I eventually consented. I was immediately suspended from work

Schulte’s an egotist and has told obvious lies, especially in his public statements attempting to claim innocence. But if it’s true that the FBI agents told him everyone “up to the top” knew they were having the conversation with him on March 15, it might reflect knowledge that people at least as senior as Comey or Sessions or Pompeo knew the FBI was going to conduct an overt search with one goal being to prevent Schulte from leaving the country. And given the purported reference to Snowden and the way the entire government pursued him, it is not impossible that Trump had been asked to authorize Schulte’s arrest if he didn’t surrender his passports.

In other words, it is certainly possible that when Trump boasted that the CIA’s hacking tools had been stolen under Obama and not under his Administration (an interesting claim to begin with, given the delay in CIA alerting the FBI that WaPo reported), he had been briefed about Schulte within the last 48 hours or even that morning.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this comment was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the FBI investigation. Trump has a habit of mindlessly repeating whatever he has heard most recently, so if Trump were briefed on the investigative steps against Schulte on the 14th or 15th, it’s not surprising he brought it up when sitting with Tucker mid-day on the 15th, particularly given that they were discussing surveillance.

But imagine how this would look to the FBI as Trump started engaging in outright obstruction of the Russian investigation, particularly by firing Comey. There’s nothing in the public record that suggests a tie between Schulte’s leaks and Russia. But Schulte’s leaks (most notably the Marble Framework he authored) not only would have made it easier for Russia to identify CIA’s Russian targets, but they would have forced CIA to rebuild during a period it was trying to figure out what had happened in 2016 (and NSA would be in the same position, post Shadow Brokers). When the FBI was trying to keep their focus on Schulte secret for one more day so they could get to his apartment before he started destroying things, Trump sat before a TV camera and made a comment that might have alerted Schulte the FBI did, indeed, believe he was the culprit.

And Trump did so all to blame Obama for a catastrophic leak rather than himself.

DOJ Says It Never Offered Accused Vault 7 Leaker Joshua Schulte a Plea Deal

As the Joshua Schulte prosecution has inched along against the backdrop of the Julian Assange indictment, I’ve heard chatter about his plans: that the two sides might prosecute the child porn charges and leave the leak untried; that the government was trying to get him to cooperate against Assange.

In the former case, the opposite now seems more likely. Last week, Judge Paul Crotty granted Schulte’s motion to sever his child porn and copyright charges from his Espionage ones. But the minute order states that the Espionage charges will be tried first, in November, with the child porn charges tried some time after that. That’s true, even though the Espionage charges are far more complex to try than the child porn ones. If the government wanted to use the child porn charges to put Schulte away indefinitely and avoid the difficulties of an Espionage trial, they’d try those first. (Update: at the hearing where this was decided, the defense said they wanted the Espionage trial to go first, and all other parties agreed.)

As to the latter, Schulte himself has sown the belief he was being offered a plea deal. In one version of his “Presumption of Innocence” blog, for example, he claimed (falsely, given the warrants he himself released) the government never obtained any evidence implicating him in the leak, and was just pursuing the child pornography charges to “break” him so he’ll cooperate against WikiLeaks.

I’m arrested and charged with a crime that had nothing to do with the initial search warrant and that I was completely innocent. The U.S. Attorney unethically and immorally misleads the court regarding what the initial investigation was about, when they found the illicit materials, and the fact that they did not think I was involved for 5 months until their initial investigation came up empty. I’m denied bail and thrown into prison immediately and they use the situation as leverage telling my attorney every day that he can make this huge embarrassment and misunderstanding all go away if only I would agree to cooperate on the WikiLeaks investigation and admit to it. They admit, unabashedly that these entire charges are nothing more than a ruse, an attempt at leverage to break me.

A version of this claim was repeated in a piece the Intercept did yesterday claiming to track how (a select group of) leakers got identified by the FBI.

Of the four Espionage Act cases based on alleged leaks in the Trump era, the most unusual concerned Joshua Schulte, a former CIA software developer accused of leaking CIA documents and hacking tools known as the Vault 7 disclosures to WikiLeaks. Schulte’s case is different from the others because, after the FBI confiscated his desktop computer, phone, and other devices in a March 2017 raid, the government allegedly discovered over 10,000 images depicting child sexual abuse on his computer, as well as a file and chat server he ran that included logs of him discussing child sexual abuse images and screenshots of him using racist slurs. Prosecutors initially charged Schulte with several counts related to child pornography and later with sexual assault in a separate case, based on evidence from his phone. Only in June 2018, in a superseding indictment, did the government finally charge him under the Espionage Act for leaking the hacking tools. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Schulte was identified as the suspect just like all the other people profiled in the story were: because he was one of the few people who had access to the files that got leaked and his Google searches mapped out a damning pattern of research involving the leak, among other things. In his case, WikiLeaks itself did several things to add to the evidence he was the source. It is true that Schulte was charged with the porn charges first and that it took 15 months for the government to ultimately charge the leak, but the theory of Schulte’s role in the leak has remained largely unchanged since a week after the first files were dropped.

Schulte again suggested he might get a plea deal in his lawsuit against then Attorney General Jeff Sessions for imposing Special Administrative Measures against him when he raised 5K1 letters that might allow someone to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing.

But in last week’s opposition to Schulte’s motion to suppress most of the warrants against him — including some on the grounds that they relied on poisonous fruit of attorney-client privileged material — the government denies ever offering a plea deal.

Schulte claims that the FBI read his thoughts on severance (which the Government has consented to) or a plea offer (which the Government has not made), but none of those “thoughts” are referenced in any subsequent search warrant.

The claim that the government left unredacted a reference to Schulte’s views on a plea deal does not appear in the unredacted version of Schulte’s motion to suppress, but given his lawyers’ claim that his journals were intended to be a discussion of his legal remedies, it may be an attempt to suppress the Presumption of Innocence notes cited above (even though Schulte made the same notes public).

Mr. Schulte’s narrative writings and diary entries contain information he “considered to be relevant to his potential legal remedies.”

There’s lot of room for a discussion short of a plea offer that might be true even given the government claim that “the Government has not made” any offer (such as that one of the series of attorneys who have represented Schulte has recommended that he seek a deal).

But the detail is particularly interesting given the timing of his trial and something the government claimed the last time Chelsea Manning and her lawyers tried to get her out of jail. It insisted they want Manning’s testimony for subjects and charges not included in Assange’s current indictment, and said the submission of the extradition request against Assange does not preclude future charges based on those offenses.

As the government’s ex parte submissions reflect, Manning’s testimony remains relevant and essential to an ongoing investigation into charges or targets that are not included in the superseding indictment. See Gov’t’s Ex Parte Mem. (May 23, 2019). The offenses that remain under investigation are not time barred, see id., and the submission of the government’s extradition request in the Assange case does not preclude future charges based on those offenses, see Gov’t’s Supplement to Ex Parte Mem. (June 14, 2019).

Barring a delay because of Classified Intelligence Protect Act proceedings, Schulte will face trial on the Espionage charges in November, three months before the next hearing in Assange’s extradition. And while there’s no hint in Schulte’s case that WikiLeaks played a role in the front end of Schulte’s alleged leak, there’s abundant evidence that they continued to cooperate with him in the aftermath and even in the initial release itself. Indeed, that’s some of the most damning evidence against Schulte.

Schulte seems to think he could cooperate against Assange and face lesser charges. If the government told the truth last week, he may have little prospect to diminish what would amount to a life sentence if he’s found guilty.

The Dance between Joshua Schulte and WikiLeaks

Way back when Joshua Schulte was first charged for leaking the CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks, I noted a loose coincidence between WikiLeaks’ release, for the first time, of some of CIA’s hacking source code rather than just development notes and the activity on Tor that led to Schulte getting his bail revoked. Since then, however, court documents have laid out a number of other interactions between Schulte and WikiLeaks. This post lays all of those out.

The government currently maintains that Schulte stole the CIA’s hacking tools in late April 2016 and sent them (it’s unclear whether they believe he sent them directly to WikiLeaks or not), using Tails, in early May. In court documents (the most informative warrant affidavit starts at PDF 129, though the FBI would revise some of its understanding of events after that time), that timeline is based off the searches Schulte did in Google (!!!) mapping out his actions.

April 24, 2016: Schulte searches for a SATA adapter (which lets you connect a computer hard drive via a USB connection); Schulte searches how to partition a drive

April 28, 2016: Schulte searches, for a second time, on how to restrict other admins from seeing parts of a LAN

April 30, 2016: Schulte researches how to delete Google history, Western Digital disk wipe, and Samsung ssd wipe (the search of Schulte’s apartment would find both Western Digital and Samsung drives)

May 1, 2016, 3:20AM: Schulte searches on “how can I verify that a 1 tb file transferred correctly?”

May 4, 2016: Schulte searches on “can you use dban on ssd,” referring to a wiping software called Darik’s Boot and Nuke

May 6, 2016: Schulte researches Tor

May 8, 2016: Schulte researches how to set up a Tor bridge

In August 2016, Schulte for the first time started tracking WikiLeaks coverage via a number of Google searches, but without visiting the site. He also researched Tails for a second time, as well as throwaway email.

Schulte’s first trackable visit to the WikiLeaks site itself was on March 7, 2017, the day of the first Vault 7 release (though WikiLeaks had started hyping it earlier, starting in February 2017).

From that first release on March 7 through September 7, WikiLeaks would release another Vault 7 release fairly regularly, often every week, other times at two week intervals and, at one point in June, releasing files on consecutive days. WikiLeaks then released the one and only Vault 8 file — source code rather than development notes — on November 9.

In general, that rhythm of releases is not obviously remarkable, though of course it took place against the background of serial efforts to get Julian Assange a pardon in the US.

But it intersects with the investigation of Schulte laid out in search warrant applications and other filings in a few key ways. As I’ll show in a follow-up, it’s clear that Schulte provided WikiLeaks with a story about the files to offer a rationale for their publication, so it’s clear that he did more than provide the files as a dead drop. After the first files dropped, he realized he’d be the prime suspect. Court filings reveal that he contacted a number of his former colleagues (using Google!), trying to find out what they knew about the investigation, acknowledging that he would be a key suspect, and denying he had done the leak.

Then, between the first and the second Vault 7 release, on March 15, the FBI interviewed Schulte as they were searching his apartment. As part of that interview, Schulte lied to the FBI so as to be able to leave his apartment with the CIA diplomatic passport he had never returned (he had plane tickets to leave the country the following day). When he left his apartment, he told FBI Agents he’d be back in roughly an hour. He went to Bloomberg (where he still worked), stashed his passports there, and got on his work computer. 45 minutes after the time he said he’d return, the FBI found him leaving the lobby of Bloomberg, and on threat of arrest, got him to surrender his passports. After all this happened, Bloomberg did an analysis of what Schulte had done on his work computer and phones in this period; FBI seized his work hard drive in May 2017. If Schulte had on-going communications with WikiLeaks, this would have provided an opportunity to reach out to them to tell them he was under imminent threat of arrest.

From that point forward, the FBI asked Schulte new questions based off what had been released by WikiLeaks. Most notably, on June 29, they asked Schulte whether he altered Brutal Kangaroo, a file released by WikiLeaks just a week earlier, outside the CIA.

The rhythm of WikiLeaks’ regular releases continued through August 24, when Schulte was arrested for child porn, with a file released that day, and another file released on September 7, while he was in jail. But after Schulte was released on bail after a September 13 hearing, WikiLeaks released no more Vault 7 files.

An April 2019 Bill of Particulars released last month strongly suggests there may be a tie between Schulte’s Tor activities starting on November 16, 2017. The document suggests that Schulte may have met with someone on November 8, 2017, then lied to the FBI or prosecutors about it 8 days later. Among the four lies the government described to substantiate False Statements and Obstruction charges in his indictment, it explains,

On or about November 16, 2017, Schulte falsely described his trip to a court appearance from the vicinity of Grand Central Terminal to the vicinity of the courthouse, and also falsely claimed to have been approached on the way to that court appearance by an unknown male who allegedly stated, in substance and in part, that he knew that Schulte had been betrayed and bankrupted by the U.S. Government.

This incident almost certainly happened on November 8. As noted, he was arrested on August 24, 2017. He was denied bail at first (so remained in jail). But when he was arraigned on the first (child porn) indictment on September 13, he was granted bail, including house arrest. While he would have had to check in with Parole Officers, the next “court appearance” he had (because the first status hearing got delayed a few times) — and the only court appearance before November 16 — was on November 8. He’d have gone to his first and second arraignment from jail; he was only out on bail to travel to a court appearance from his home for that first status conference.

It seems likely that an FBI surveillance team tracked Schulte on that day doing something suspect between the time he left his home and arrived at the courthouse. The mention of Grand Central suggests he may have met someone there, though that’s not dispositive because his apartment was just a few blocks away. But Schulte’s description of meeting a man he didn’t know, which the government alleges is false, seems like the kind of lie you’d tell if you were covering for meeting a man you did know. As noted, that probably happened on November 8.

On November 9, WikiLeaks released their single Vault 8 file.

Then, Schulte was asked, by some “law enforcement agents and/or prosecutor[] at the U.S. Attorney’s Office” about the incident on November 16.

That same day that he was interviewed about the incident on the way to the courthouse, November 16, he got on Tor for the first of five times, as laid out in his detention memo.

Separately, since the defendant was released on bail, the Government has obtained evidence that he has been using the Internet. First, the Government has obtained data from the service provider for the defendant’s email account (the “Schulte Email Account”), which shows that the account has regularly been logged into and out of since the defendant was released on bail, most recently on the evening of December 6, 2017. Notably, the IP address used to access the Schulte Email Account is almost always the same IP address associated with the broadband internet account for the defendant’s apartment (the “Broadband Account”)—i.e., the account used by Schulte in the apartment to access the Internet via a Wi-Fi network. Moreover, data from the Broadband Account shows that on November 16, 2017, the Broadband Account was used to access the “TOR” network, that is, a network that allows for anonymous communications on the Internet via a worldwide network of linked computer servers, and multiple layers of data encryption. The Broadband Account shows that additional TOR connections were made again on November 17, 26, 30, and December 5.

[snip]

First, there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has violated a release condition—namely, the condition that he shall not use the Internet without express authorization from Pretrial Services to do so. As explained above, data obtained from the Schulte Email Account and the Broadband Account strongly suggests that the defendant has been using the Internet since shortly after his release on bail. Especially troubling is the defendant’s apparent use on five occasions of the TOR network.

When it ultimately came time to explain away this use of Tor, Schulte pointed to a series of posts that would form part of what the government claims Schulte called an “information war” attempting to discredit the US government. That was first made broadly available when WikiLeaks posted it on June 19, 2018, the day after Schulte was charged with leaking the Vault 7 files.

The government alleges that a copy posted to Facebook later that year, on September 25, 2018, was posted by Schulte from his jail cell himself, using a contraband cell phone, which makes the WikiLeaks tweet part of Schulte’s deliberate information campaign from jail.

And around the same time Schulte posted his diaries from jail, the government claims, Schulte was prepping to send Wikileaks materials from a fake FBI agent attesting that the Bureau had framed Schulte by planting child porn on his computer.

iii. A document that appears to be an article for release by WikiLeaks.org (“WikiLeaks”), in which a purported FBI “whistleblower” claimed to have provided the discovery in this case to WikiLeaks and that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer to frame him (the “Fake FBI Document”).

[snip]

What appears to be a “to-do” list dated September 12, 2018, in which Schulte wrote that on September 17 and 18, he would “DL Disc. UL WL,” and.that on September 19, 20, and 21, he would “schedule tweets[.]” I believe that here, “DL Disc. UL WL” means that Schulte planned to download his discovery (”DL Disc.”) from the Schulte Laptop and upload that discovery to WikiLeaks (“UL WL”). As noted above, in another place in the Schulte Cell Documents, Schulte drafted the Fake FBI Document, a purported statement by a supposed FBI “whistleblower” who provided Schulte’s discovery to WikiLeaks and claimed that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer.

As I’ll show, Schulte gave WikiLeaks several claims it used to introduce the series in March 2017.

Then, several key events — an incident that probably occurred on November 8 which the government accuses Schulte of trying to cover up, WikiLeaks’ sole release of source code from the CIA, the interview at which Schulte allegedly lied about the November 8 incident, and some activity on Tor — makes it more likely the events are more than a coincidence.

And then WikiLeaks contributed early to Schulte’s “Information War,” and Schulte may have expected he could get WikiLeaks to cooperate again, with even more blatant disinformation.

That’s a fairly remarkable degree of coordination at a time when WikiLeaks was trying to coerce an Assange pardon and Schulte was (according to the government) trying to lie his way out of a great deal of legal trouble.

On CNN’s WikiLeaks Exclusive: Remember the Other Document Dumps

CNN has a report on leaked security records describing some of the visitors and improved computer equipment Julian Assange got in 2016, as Russia was staging the election hack-and-leak. The story is a better expose of how increased pressure from the US and a change of president in Ecuador dramatically changed Assange’s freedom to operate in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, with many details of the internal Ecuadorian politics, as it is proof of anything pertaining to the hack-and-leak.

As for the latter, the story itself insinuates ties between WikiLeaks and Russia’s hack-and-leak operation by matching the profile of Assange’s known (and dramatically increased number of) visitors in 2016 with the timing of those visits. Those people are:

  • A Russian national named Yana Maximova, about whom CNN states almost nothing is known, who visited at key moments in June 2016 (though CNN doesn’t provide the specific dates)
  • Five meetings in June 2016 with senior staffers from RT, including two visits from their London bureau chief, Nikolay Bogachikhin
  • German hacker Andrew Müller-Maguhn
  • German hacker Bernd Fix (who visited with Müller-Maguhn a few times)

These visitors have, in generally, been identified before, and with the exception of Müller-Maguhn, CNN doesn’t give the precise dates when people visited Assange, instead providing only screen shots of entry logs (which, CNN notes, key visitors wouldn’t be on). The exception is Müller-Maguhn, whose pre-election visits the TV version lists as:

  • February 19 and 20, 2016
  • March 14, 2016
  • May 8, 2016
  • May 23, 2016
  • July 7, 2016
  • July 14, 2016
  • July 28, 2016
  • August 3, 2016
  • August 24, 2016
  • September 1, 2016
  • September 19, 2016
  • October 21, 2016
  • October 31, 2016

And, yes, some of those visits match the known Russian hack-and-leak timeline in enticing ways, such as that Müller-Maguhn, who told WaPo that, “he was never in possession of the material before it was put online and that he did not transport it,” showed up the same day Mueller documents describe WikiLeaks obtaining an archive that had been uploaded (“put”) online and by that means transferred to WikiLeaks.

But that would be entirely consistent with Müller-Maguhn helping to process the emails — something the Mueller team determined did not violate US law — not serving as a mule. Not that Müller-Maguhn would be best used as a mule in any case.

The descriptions of the changes in computer and other gear are more interesting: with Assange bumping up his resources on June 19, a masked visitor dropping off a package outside the embassy on July 18, and exempt WikiLeaks personnel removing a ton of equipment on October 18, as Ecuador finally threatened to shut WikiLeaks down.

Shortly after WikiLeaks established contact with the Russian online personas, Assange asked his hosts to beef up his internet connection. The embassy granted his request on June 19, providing him with technical support “for data transmission” and helping install new equipment, the documents said.

[snip]

Days later, on July 18, while the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland, an embassy security guard broke protocol by abandoning his post to receive a package outside the embassy from a man in disguise. The man covered his face with a mask and sunglasses and was wearing a backpack, according to surveillance images obtained by CNN.

[snip]

The security documents lay out a critical sequence of events on the night of October 18. Around 10 p.m., Assange got into a heated argument with then-Ecuadorian Ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz. Just before midnight, Abad banned any non-diplomatic visitors to the embassy and left the building. Behind the scenes, Assange communicated with the foreign minister in Quito.

Within an hour of Abad’s departure, he called the embassy and reversed the ban.

By 1 a.m., two WikiLeaks personnel arrived at the embassy and started removing computer equipment as well as a large box containing “about 100 hard drives,” according to the documents.

Security officials on site wanted to examine the hard drives, but their hands were tied. The Assange associates who removed the boxes were on the special list of people who couldn’t be searched. The security team sent a memo back to Quito raising red flags about this late-night maneuver and said it heightened their suspicions about Assange’s intentions.

Again, none of that proves a knowing tie with Russian intelligence. But it does show an interesting rhythm during that year.

But this schedule doesn’t consider the other things going on with WikiLeaks in 2016. At almost the same time that WikiLeaks released the DNC emails, after all, they also released the AKP email archive.

More interesting still, according to the government’s current allegations about Joshua Schulte’s actions in leaking the CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks, he made a copy of the CIA’s backup server on April 20, then transmitted the files from it to … someone (I suspect these may not have gone directly to WikiLeaks) … in late April to early May.

But then for some reason, on August 4, Schulte for the first time ever started conducting Google searches on WikiLeaks, without visiting the WikiLeaks site until the first release of the Vault 7 leaks.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks claimed in August 2016  — and ShadowBrokers invoked that claim, in January 2017 — that WikiLeaks had obtained a copy of the original ShadowBrokers files released on August 13, 2016. A Twitter account claiming to be ShadowBrokers reiterated this claim late last year.

Consider the continued presence of highly skilled hackers at the Embassy and the removal of tons of computer equipment as Ecuador cracked down from the viewpoint of what happened to all of NSA and CIA’s hacking tools, rather than what happened with John Podesta’s risotto recipe. Add in the fact that the government seems to think Schulte altered the air gap tool he allegedly wrote for CIA outside of CIA.

To the extent they provide these dates (again, they do so with specificity only for Müller-Maguhn, and only before the election; not to mention, his emails appear to fit a fairly regular twice-monthly pattern), a few of them are quite intriguing. But there was a whole lot else going on with WikiLeaks that year that might be even more important for describing the true nature of WikiLeaks.

As I disclosed last 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. 

Joshua Schulte Keeps Digging: His Defensible Legal Defense Continues to Make a Public Case He’s Guilty

To defend him against charges of leaking the CIA’s hacking tools to WikiLeaks, Sabrina Shroff has made it clear that Joshua Schulte is the author of the CIA’s lies about its own hacking.

In a motion to suppress all the earliest warrants against Schulte submitted yesterday, Shroff makes an unintentionally ironic argument. In general, Shroff (unpersuasively) argues some things the government admitted in a Brady letter sent last September are evidence of recklessness on the part of the affiant on those earliest warrants, FBI Agent Jeff Donaldson. She includes most of the items corrected in the Brady letter, including an assertion Donaldson made, on March 13, 2017, that Schulte’s name did not appear among those published by WikiLeaks: “The username used by the defendant was published by WikiLeaks,” the prosecutors corrected the record in September 2018. To support a claim of recklessness, Schroff asserted in the motion that someone would just have to search on that username on the WikiLeaks site to disprove the initial claim.

Finally, the Brady letter explained that a key aspect of the affidavit’s narrative—that Mr. Schulte was the likely culprit because WikiLeaks suspiciously did not publicly disclose his identity—was false. Mr. Schulte’s identity (specifically, his computer username “SchulJo”) was mentioned numerous times by WikiLeaks, as a simple word-search of the WikiLeaks publication would have shown. See Shroff Decl. Exh. F at 7

If you do that search on his username — SchulJo — it only readily shows up in one file, the Marble Framework source code.

That file was not released until March 31, 2017. So the claim that Schulte’s name did not appear in the WikiLeaks releases was correct when Donaldson made it on March 13. That claim — like most of the ones in the Brady letter — reflect the incomplete knowledge of an ongoing investigation, not recklessness or incompetence (Schulte has written elsewhere that he believed the FBI acted rashly to prevent him from traveling to Mexico, which given other details of this case — including that he hadn’t returned his CIA diplomatic passport and snuck it out of his apartment when the FBI searched his place, they were right to do).

By sending her reader to discover that Schulte’s name appears as the author of the Marble Framework, she makes his “signature” that of obfuscation — hiding who actually did a hack.

Marble is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA.

Marble does this by hiding (“obfuscating”) text fragments used in CIA malware from visual inspection.

[snip]

The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, — but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.

Marble was one of the files WikiLeaks — and DNC hack denialists — would point to to suggest that CIA had done hacks (including the DNC one) and then blamed them on Russia. In other words, in her attempt (again, it is unpersuasive) to claim that FBI’s initial suspicions did not reach probable cause, she identifies Schulte publicly not just with obfuscation about a breach’s true culprits, but with the way in which the Vault 7 leak — ostensibly done out of a whistleblower’s concern for CIA’s proliferation of weapons — instead has served as one prong of the propaganda covering Russia’s role in the election year hack.

That’s just an ironic effect of Shroff’s argument, not one of the details in yesterday’s releases that — while they may legally serve to undermine parts of the case against her client — nevertheless add to the public evidence that he’s not only very likely indeed the Vault 7 culprit, but not a terribly sympathetic one at that.

Back when FBI first got a warrant on Schulte on March 13, 2017, they had — based on whatever advanced notice they got from Julian Assange’s efforts to use the files to extort a pardon from the US government and the week of time since WikiLeaks had released the first and to that date only set of files on March 7 — developed a theory that he was the culprit. The government still maintains these core details of that theory to be true (this Bill of Particulars Schulte’s team released yesterday gives a summary of the government’s theory of the case as of April 29):

  • The files shared with WikiLeaks likely came from the server backing up the CIA’s hacking tools, given that the files included multiple versions, by date, of the files WikiLeaks released
  • Not that many people had access to that server
  • Schulte did have access
  • Not only had Schulte left the CIA in a huff six months before the WikiLeaks release — the only  person known to have had access to the backup server at the time who had since left — but he had been caught during the period the files were likely stolen restoring his own administrator privileges to part of the server after they had been removed

But, after it conducted further investigation and WikiLeaks published more stolen files, the government came to understand that several other things that incriminated Schulte were not true.

[T]he government appears to have abandoned the central themes of the March 13 affidavit: namely, that the CIA information was likely stolen on March 7–8, 2016, that Mr. Schulte was essentially “one of only three people” across the entire CIA who could have taken it, and that WikiLeaks’s supposed effort to conceal his identity was telltale evidence of his culpability

There’s no indication, however, that Donaldson was wrong to believe what he did when he first obtained the affidavit; Shroff claims recklessness, but never deals with the fact that the FBI obtained new evidence. Moreover, for two of the allegations that the government later corrected — the date the files were stolen and the number of people who had access to the server, Donaldson admitted those were preliminary conclusions in his initial affidavit (which Shroff doesn’t acknowledge):

It is of course possible that the Classified Information was copied later than March 8, 2016, even though the creation/modification dates associated with it appear to end on March 7, 2016.

[snip]

Because the most recent timestamp on the Classified Information reflects a date of March 7, 2016, preliminary analysis indicates that the Classified Information was likely copied between the end of the day on March 7 and the end of the day on March 8.

[snip]

It is, of course, possible that an employee who was not a designated Systems Administrator could find a way to gain access to the Back-Up Server. For example, such an employee could steal and use–without legitimate authorization–the username and password of a designated Systems Administrator. Or an employee lacking Systems Administrator access could, at least theoretically, gain access to the Back-Up Server by finding a “back- door” into the Back-Up Server.

Between the two corrections, the revised information increases the number of possible suspects from two to five, out of 200 people who would have regular access to the files. A footnote to a later affidavit (PDF 138) describes that on April 5, 2017, FBI received information that suggested the number might be higher or lower. (I suspect Schulte argued in a classified filing submitted yesterday that even more people could have accessed it, not least because he has been arguing that in his various writings posted to dockets and other things,)

But, even though the Brady letter corrects the dates on which Schulte reinstated his administrator privileges for the Back-Up server slightly (he restored his own access on April 11, not April 14, which is when his managers discovered he had done so), Shroff only addresses his loss of privileges as innocent, without addressing that he got that access back on his own improperly.

More importantly, the motion doesn’t address, at all, that Schulte kicked everyone else off one of his programs, the Brutal Kangaroo tool used to hack air gapped networks using thumb drives. Nor does it address allegations against Schulte made in August 2016 as part of his clearance review, including that his demeanor changed for the worse around February 2016, he might be “subject to outside coercion,” and he tended not to abide by “guidelines concerning when and what kinds of media or data (such as external drives) could be connected or uploaded to CIA computer systems.” There are other details in the affidavit — such as Schulte’s attempt to learn what his former colleagues knew of the investigation — that support probable cause too (these may be among the things Shroff addresses in a classified filing).

That is, the probable cause that Schulte was the culprit was pretty strong even with the errors in the original affidavit, and none of the errors suggests malice or incompetence or even the recklessness Shroff alleges.

Shroff is right that the March 13 affidavit doesn’t offer as much probable cause to tie Schulte’s home to the crime; but that’s the magistrate’s fault and fairly standard for computer crimes, not the FBI’s. Shroff obscures the effect of FBI obtaining a second warrant to actually search the 150 storage media and computer devices they found in his home (a list of what they seized starts on PDF 116), as well as a second warrant to obtain child porn.

It is also true, as the defense argues, that the evidence to search for child porn was thin. But given that the government had a warrant to search the computer in question, and given precedents about child porn, that may not matter (though I think it is more likely to succeed than the rest of this). In any case, by the time of the main searches on child porn, three different magistrates had signed off on these searches.

This is a totally understandable attempt to get some of this evidence suppressed. But along the way the affidavits released yesterday provide a slew of damaging new details such as:

  • Schulte conducted a ton of searches on Google in April 2016 about detecting USB insertion, copying big files, deleting files, preventing other admins from seeing what someone was doing on a LAN
  • Schulte made a snapshot of (part of?) the LAN on April 20, 2016
  • In early May, Schulte researched how to use Tor and Tails, which the government alleges he used to send the files
  • On August 4, 2016 — the day after Snowden sent this tweet — Schulte did a Google search for WikiLeaks for the first time ever (note, I believe the Snowden tweet may have been preparation for the misleading IG report on him released the following month)

  • Between then and March 7, Schulte searched on WikiLeaks over 20 more times, reading hundreds of articles on it; but he didn’t visit WikiLeaks for the first time until March 7, 2017, the first day the files posted; he also searched for that Snowden tweet

In short, just Schulte’s Google searches alone provide very strong evidence that he’s the Vault 7 leaker. Which explains why his attorneys are making what will probably be an unsuccessful attempt to claim the Google searches were overly broad and lacked probable cause (something Schulte wrote elsewhere seems to reflect that he has been told this will be treated under a Good Faith exception).

Schulte has been trying to disclose all these materials for over a year. But they really don’t help his case.

Accused Vault 7 Leaker Joshua Schulte Planned to Have WikiLeaks Publish Disinformation to Help His Defense

When WikiLeaks announced its publication of the CIA’s hacking tools in March 2017, the first tool it highlighted was an effort called Umbrage, which it claimed the CIA used to “misdirect attribution.”

UMBRAGE

The CIA’s hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.

This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch‘s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Experts noted at the time that Umbrage served mostly to save time by reusing existing code. Nevertheless, the representation that the CIA would sometimes use other nation’s tools was immediately integrated into conspiracy theories denying that Russia carried out the 2016 hacks on Democrats. Because the CIA sometimes obscured its own hacks, denialists have said since, the CIA must have been behind the 2016 hacks, part of a Deep State operation to frame Russia and in so doing, undermine Trump.

Documents released this week reveal that Joshua Schulte, who is accused of leaking those documents to WikiLeaks, believed he could get WikiLeaks to publish disinformation to help his case.

Several documents submitted this week provide much more clarity on Schulte’s case. On Monday, the government responded to a Schulte effort to have his communications restrictions (SAMs) removed; their brief not only admitted — for what I believe to be the first time in writing — that the CIA is the victim agency, but described an Information War Schulte attempted to conduct from jail using contraband phones and a slew of social media accounts.

Yesterday, in addition to requesting that Schulte’s child porn charges be severed from his Espionage ones, his defense team moved to suppress the warrants used to investigate his communication activities in jail based on a claim the FBI violated Schulte’s attorney-client privilege. During the initial search, agents reviewed notebooks marked attorney-client with sufficient attention to find non-privileged materials covered by the search warrant, and only then got a privilege team to go through the notebooks in more detail. The privilege team confirmed that 65% of the contents of the notebooks was privileged. In support of the suppression motion, Schulte’s lawyers released most of the warrants used to conduct those searches, including the downstream one used to access three ProtonMail accounts discovered by the government and another downstream one used to access his ten social media accounts (see below for a list of all of Schulte’s accounts). Effectively, they’re arguing that the FBI would have never found this unbelievably incriminating communications activity, which will make it fairly easy for the government to prove that Schulte is the Vault 7 leaker without relying on classified information, without accessing those notebooks marked privileged.

But along the way, the documents released this week show that the guy accused of leaking that Umbrage file that denialists have relied on to claim the 2016 hack was a false flag operation framing Russia himself planned false flag activities to proclaim his innocence.

The government’s SAMs response describes in cursory fashion and the affidavits for the warrants as a whole describe in more detail how Schulte planned to adopt two fake identities — a CIA officer and an FBI Agent — to proclaim his innocence. The idea behind the latter was to corroborate two claims Schulte posted on his JoshSchulte WordPress sites on October 1, 2018 — that the FBI had planted the child porn discovered on his computer.

i. “I now believe the government planted the CP after their search warrants turned up empty-not only to save their jobs and investigation, but also to target and decimate my reputation considering my involvement in significant information operations and covert action.”

As noted above, in the Fake FBI Document in the Schulte Cell Documents, a purported FBI “whistleblower” claimed that the FBI had placed child pornography on Schulte’s computer after its initial searches of the device were unsuccessful in recovering evidence. See supra~ 14(a)(iii).

ii. “So who’s responsible for Vault 7? The CIA’s own version of the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page,”

As noted above, in the September Tweet in the Schulte Cell Documents, a purported former CIA colleague of Schulte (but who was in fact simply Schulte himself) claimed that two other CIA former colleagues, one of whom Schulte described as the “Peter Strzok of the CIA,” had conspired to blame Schulte for Vault 7, WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the CIA material.

As noted above, two of the documents found in Schulte’s cell mixed in with the attorney-client material show how Schulte planned to create false identities to spread the same stories. One was an article he planned to send to WikiLeaks, claiming to be from an FBI whistleblower describing how Schulte was framed.

iii. A document that appears to be an article for release by WikiLeaks.org (“WikiLeaks”), in which a purported FBI “whistleblower” claimed to have provided the discovery in this case to WikiLeaks and that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer to frame him (the “Fake FBI Document”).

The documents also include his plans to release a fake CIA tweet claiming he was framed for the Vault 7 leak.

iv. Drafts of a tweet (the “Fake CIA Tweet”) that appear to have been drafted around August 30, 2018,3 in which Schulte pretending to be a former CIA colleague claimed that two other former CIA colleagues, both of whom Schulte referred to by full name and one of whom he described as the “Peter Strzok of the CIA,” had “set up” Schulte and used him as a “scapegoat” for “Vault 7,” which is the name of WikiLeaks serial disclosures of CIA material that began on or about March 7, 2017 and which forms the basis of some of the current charges against Schulte. On the following page of the Schulte Cell Documents appears the text “Just to authenticate me fast” followed by other apparent draft tweets that discussed the CIA’s alleged activities and methods, some of which appear to be classified (the “Fake Authentication Tweets”).4 . . I believe that Schulte planned to potentially publish the Fake Authentication Tweet before the Fake CIA Tweet in an effort to purportedly verify the author’s employment with the CIA and knowledge of the information in the Fake CIA Tweet.

Finally, the FBI also found Schulte’s to do list of how he planned to share both the fake FBI document and his discovery with WikiLeaks.

What appears to be a “to-do” list dated September 12, 2018, in which Schulte wrote that on September 17 and 18, he would “DL Disc. UL WL,” and.that on September 19, 20, and 21, he would “schedule tweets[.]” I believe that here, “DL Disc. UL WL” means that Schulte planned to download his discovery (”DL Disc.”) from the Schulte Laptop and upload that discovery to WikiLeaks (“UL WL”). As noted above, in another place in the Schulte Cell Documents, Schulte drafted the Fake FBI Document, a purported statement by a supposed FBI “whistleblower” who provided Schulte’s discovery to WikiLeaks and claimed that the FBI had planted evidence of child pornography on Schulte’s computer.

From a legal standpoint, Schulte’s lawyers have disclosed all these warrant materials in an urgent effort to suppress everything the government found after first accessing his notebooks from jail. The FBI investigation proceeded from those notebooks to the WordPress site showing him claiming something identical to disinformation he was packaging up to share with WikiLeaks. They also got from those notebooks to ProtonMail accounts where Schulte offered to share what may or may not be classified information with a journalist. The reason why the defense is pushing to suppress this — one of the only challenges they’re making in his prosecution thus far — is because the stuff Schulte did in prison is utterly damning and seems to confirm both his familiarity with WikiLeaks and his belief that he needed to create disinformation to claim to be innocent.

We’ll see whether this Fourth and Sixth Amendment challenge works.

But along the way, the defense has released information — the provenance of which they’re not disputing in the least — that shows that Schulte planned to use WikiLeaks to conduct a disinformation campaign. But it wouldn’t be the first time Schulte had gotten WikiLeaks to carry out his messaging. A year ago today — in the wake of Schulte being charged with the Vault 7 leak — WikiLeaks linked to the diaries that Schulte was writing and posting from his jail cell, possibly showing that Schulte continued to communicate with WikiLeaks — either via a family member or directly — even after he had been put in jail. Those diaries are among the things seized in the search.

In a follow-up, I think I can show that Schulte did succeed in using WikiLeaks as part a disinformation campaign.

Social media accounts Joshua Schulte accessed from jail

ProtonMail: annon1204, presumedguilty, freejasonbourne

Twitter: @freejasonbourne (created September 1, 2018 and used through October 2, 2018)

Buffer (used to schedule social media posts): (created September 3, 2018, used through September 7, 2018)

WordPress: joshschulte.wordpress.com, presumptionofslavery.wordpress.com, presumptionofinnocence.net (all created August 14, 2018)

Gmail: [email protected], [email protected] (created April 15, 2018), [email protected],

Outlook: [email protected]

Facebook: ‘who is JOHN GALT? (created April 17, 2018)

Update: The government also believed at the time that an account in the name Conj Khyas was used by Schulte to receive classified information at his annon1204 account. It was not listed in these warrants, but would amount to a 14th account.

On Joshua Schulte and Julian Assange’s 10 Year Old Charges

The WaPo has confirmed what Natasha Bertrand earlier reported: the extradition package for Julian Assange will only include the 10 year old charges related to the publication of Chelsea Manning’s leaks, not any of WikiLeaks more controversially handled charges. I’ve been meaning to write a post on how this is the stupidest available approach, which will satisfy neither those who regard him as a villain, will expose other journalists to similarly dangerous charges, and possibly even fuck up the security establishment’s entire effort to exact some revenge against Assange. I hope to return to that when I get some deadlines and travel done, but suffice it to say this is a big hot mess.

To be clear, I actually think it’s not eleven-dimensional chess on the part of Bill Barr to save Trump some embarrassment once Roger Stone’s trial reveals the extent to which Trump’s campaign tried to “collude” with WikiLeaks (though it will not only have that effect, but make it harder for DNC to sustain its lawsuit against the GOP and WikiLeaks for their actions in the 2016 election). Rather, I think this is an attempt to prosecute Assange with the least cost on the security establishment, being run by people who are utterly tone deaf to the costs it will incur elsewhere.

But I do want to say several things about why and how DOJ is not charging Assange in the Vault 7 leak.

Bertrand noted that I thought that the EDVA charges would be related to Vault 7.

Still, just several months ago, numerous experts felt confident that prosecutors would also hit Assange with charges over Vault 7. Prominent national security journalist Marcy Wheeler predicted in Februarythat DOJ would “very clearly go after Assange” for the Vault 7 disclosure, and that a sealed indictment against him in the Eastern District of Virginia was likely related to that leak — the CIA is, after all, headquartered in Virginia, as ABC noted. Assange himselfreportedly expressed concern that prosecutors would charge him with crimes related to Vault 7.

She didn’t provide even the full context of my tweet, much less my post, arguing that Assange’s efforts to extort a pardon using the Vault 7 files would be something obviously unconnected to journalism. The superseding indictment does mention Assange’s use of “insurance files” to ensure his ability to publish documents in his possession, but no charges were attached to that, which later uses of the tactic and the Vault 7 pardon effort would have supported.

Which is to say the government could have charged Assange for something specifically excluded from Bartnicki’s protection of the publication of stolen materials, but did not. Again, the government has chosen to go about this in the stupidest way possible.

That said, I’m not surprised they’re not going after Assange for the Vault 7 leak itself.

As it is, the CIA has been inexcusably uncooperative with Joshua Schulte’s discovery efforts. At times. some pretty aggressive prosecutors have seemed almost apologetic about it. Schulte has staked a lot on trying to expose details of his initial warrants, and while his later behavior seems to suggest there was something to their targeting of him (or, at the very least, his post-indictment behavior has been self-destructive), at the very least the CIA may have participated in some epically bad parallel construction. They may be trying to hide that as much as the actual details of CIA’s hacking program.

Meanwhile, the government and Schulte have been discussing severing his charges from last year — which include one charge of contempt and a charge of attempted leak of classified information — from everything else.

As the Court is aware, trial in this matter is currently set for April 8, 2019. (See Minute Entry for August 8, 2018 Conference). To afford the parties sufficient time to prepare the necessary pretrial motions, including suppression motions and motions pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”), the parties respectfully request that the Court adjourn the trial until November 4, 2019. The parties are also discussing a potential agreement concerning severance, as well as the order of the potentially severed trials. The parties will update the Court on severance and a pretrial motion schedule at or before the conference scheduled for April 10, 2019.

That might be something they tried to base a plea off of: they’d have video evidence to back their case, so it might avoid the CIPA process CIA is unwilling to engage in.

Back in May, Schulte’s team submitted a motion to vacate his SAMs (Special Administrative Measures limit a prisoner’s communication with others). It was based off the case the government made prior to his superseding indictment and left out all the allegations the government made about the 13 email and social media accounts Schulte was allegedly running from his jail cell, and as such deliberately understated why the government wanted the SAMs. The government asked for and got an extension to respond until Monday — notably, after all decisions about Assange would have had to have been made. Any response (unless it’s sealed) will have to provide more details about what happened last fall, so if they’re trying to get a plea deal, it might come this week in lieu of that SAMs response.

But the question would be what that plea agreement would look like.

Finally, the government is going to have to provide some explanation for why Chelsea Manning remains in jail for contempt. Unless they can claim they’re going after other people related to WikiLeaks, they should not be able to keep her jailed.

The Assange Complaint Was Filed the Day the UK Rejected Assange’s Diplomatic Status

EDVA has released the affidavit and original complaint charging Julian Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to crack a password. Two things support the likelihood that this extradition request arose in response to Ecuador’s attempt to get Assange diplomatic status that would allow it or Russia to exfiltrate him from London.

As I noted earlier, the extradition warrant itself dates to December 22. But the complaint and supporting affidavit date to December 21, 2017. That’s the day, according to multiple reports, that the British government denied Ecuador’s request to grant Assange “special designation” as a diplomat.

Ecuador last Dec. 19 approved a “special designation in favor of Mr. Julian Assange so that he can carry out functions at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Russia,” according to the letter written to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla.

“Special designation” refers to the Ecuadorean president’s right to name political allies to a fixed number of diplomatic posts even if they are not career diplomats.

But Britain’s Foreign Office in a Dec. 21 note said it did not accept Assange as a diplomat and that it did not “consider that Mr. Assange enjoys any type of privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention,” reads the letter, citing a British diplomatic note.

The Guardian (which is less reliable when it pertains to stories about Assange) claims that this effort was meant to support an exfiltration attempt, possibly to Russia.

Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK, the Guardian has learned.

A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country.

One ultimate destination, multiple sources have said, was Russia, where Assange would not be at risk of extradition to the US. The plan was abandoned after it was deemed too risky.

The operation to extract Assange was provisionally scheduled for Christmas Eve in 2017, one source claimed, and was linked to an unsuccessful attempt by Ecuador to give Assange formal diplomatic status.

The supporting affidavit is notable because it is even more troubling than the indictment itself is for its description of Assange’s work with Manning to publish classified documents.

But it’s also notable for the case it makes that Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy not to hide from the Swedish prosecution but from US prosecution.

Assange has made numerous comments reflecting that he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition and charges in the United States.

For example, in 2013, the WikiLeaks website posted an affidavit by Assange concerning alleged monitoring of his activities and the search and seizure of his property. In the affidavit, Assange acknowledged that he was “granted asylum after a formal assessment by the government of Ecuador in relation to the current and future risks of persecution and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the United States in response to my publishing activities and my political opinion. I remain under the protection of Ecuador in London for this reason.” See https://wikileaks.org/IMG/html/Affidavit_of_Julian_Assange.html.

On May 19, 2017, in response to Sweden’s decision to discontinue its investigation regarding suspected rape by Julian Assange, Assange publicly stated, “While today was an important victory and an important vindication … the road is far from over The war, the proper war, is just commencing. The UK has said it will arrest me regardless. Now the United States, CIA Director Pompeo, and the U.S. Attorney General have said that I and other WikiLeaks staff have no rights … we have no first amendment rights.. .and my arrest and the arrest of our other staffis a priority…. The U.K. refuses to confirm or deny at this stage whether a U.S. extradition warrant is already in the U.K. territory. So, this is a dialogue that we want to happen. Similarly, with the United States, while there have been extremely threatening remarks made, I am always happy to engage in a dialogue with the Department of Justice about what has occurred.” https://www.bloomberg.eom/news/articles/2017-05-19/swedishprosecutors-to-drop-rape-investigation-against-assange.

It seems likely that the UK rejected Ecuador’s request, in part, because the US lodged an extradition request, possibly because they learned of the exfiltration plan.

If so, that may change the extradition calculus significantly, even if Sweden refiles its request. The UK may have already agreed that Assange was only ever fleeing US prosecution. Indeed, their decision back in December 2017 may have served precisely to enable the arrest that occurred last Thursday.

If that’s right, there’s little chance the UK will give precedence to Sweden — though Labour within the UK and a number of entities in the EU are fighting this extradition request.

As I’ve noted, this all took place against the background of the Vault 7 prosecution which implicated Assange in far more activities unrelated to journalism, ones that the United States’ Five Eyes partner would likely be very sympathetic to. And that may well be what this indictment was always a placeholder for. Yes, the government may fill in a larger conspiracy in-between 2010 and 2017. But this action seems to have as much to do with what Assange did in 2017 as he was doing in 2010.

Update: Corrected indictment dating to December 22; I meant the extradition warrant.