MANHATTAN (CN) – Overruling prosecutors’ objections that the accused WikiLeaker’s former workplace is classified, a federal judge ruled Thursday that defense attorneys for ex-CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte should be allowed to visit the alleged scene of his crime.
“The government is directed to provide defense counsel, who have obtained the requisite security clearance, with access to the work station and area formerly occupied by Mr. Schulte,” U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty wrote in a two-page ruling. “The visit will be conducted in compliance with security restrictions required by the CIA as soon as security and defense schedules permit and will occur at a time least intrusive to daily operations.”
The ruling fell one day after a contentious federal court hearing where Schulte’s attorneys complained that their client is experiencing levels of secrecy unprecedented in their careers.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tried a case without visiting the quote-unquote ‘scene of the crime,’” Sabrina Shroff, a seasoned attorney with the Federal Defenders of New York, told the judge yesterday.
Shroff added that prosecutors visited the secret CIA location years ago, and the photos that they shared of the site are not enough to prepare for her client’s upcoming trial on Jan. 13, 2020.
That argument apparently resonated with Judge Crotty, who noted that “while the government argues that a visit to the site is irrelevant, it does not deny that it has visited Schulte’s work site.”
Other attempts by Schulte’s defense team to penetrate the intense secrecy surrounding the case were less successful.
Prosecutors produced 65 of 74 recordings between Schulte and his former CIA colleagues in unclassified discovery, and Crotty ruled Thursday that the remainder can remain classified, subject to the government’s continuing review.
Though Crotty told the government to perform a declassification review on FBI interviews with witnesses, the judge did not order them to be made public.
Authorities believe that Schulte disclosed the CIA files that WikiLeaks released under the names “Vault 7” and “Vault 8,” revealing the agency’s abilities to hack Apple and Android cellphones.
Arrested in connection with what has been called the biggest leak in CIA history, Schulte has been facing charges broadly breaking down into three sets of accusations: the WikiLeaks disclosures, child pornography claims, and an alleged incident inside pretrial lockup at Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Authorities found multiple contraband devices – including at least one heavily encrypted cellphone – inside his cell in October 2018 and accused him of transmitting classified information from behind bars months before that.
Schulte’s attorneys want three separate trials for their client, but Crotty has not yet ruled on their request.