MANHATTAN (CN) – One day after criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were mistakenly confirmed in a court filing, a newly public transcript reveals that the man suspected of providing the website with classified CIA files may have leaked additional information from federal prison.
Joshua Adam Schulte, believed to be behind the WikiLeaks “Vault 7” and “Vault 8” tranches, had multiple contraband cellphones – including at least one heavily encrypted device – recovered his cell inside New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center searched in October. The FBI said it also found approximately 13 email and social media accounts and other electronic devices that he used to "communicate clandestinely with third parties outside of the MCC."
In the wake of the discovery, prosecutors added an additional contempt-of-court count on top of more than a dozen other Espionage Act, computer-hacking and child-pornography counts leveled against Schulte.
At his Nov. 2 arraignment, the transcript of which hit the docket on Friday, Schulte pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors alleged that the information he disclosed behind bars goes beyond what WikiLeaks has published.
“It is not that the information is the same information disclosed twice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sidhardha Karamaju said.
Schulte’s attorney Sabrina Shroff urged against extending the discovery deadline for the government to sort through the classified data that prosecutors have long known to be compromised.
But Karamaju said that this hunt has now expanded.
“Certainly Ms. Shroff is right that the CIA did not provide Mr. Schulte with additional information once he became detained,” Karamaju said. “But the information that has been disclosed since Mr. Schulte's detention at the MCC is additional information of what was produced by WikiLeaks between March 2017 and November 2017. It is not simply an overlap of that same information.”
“There are instances in which the two touch on the same thing, which is fundamentally Mr. Schulte's work at the CIA, but it is not identical pieces of information,” the prosecutor added.
Reports of the charges against Assange sparked concerns about the precedent such a prosecution would set for press freedom.
Marcy Wheeler, an investigative journalist who provided the FBI with evidence relevant to the Russia probe, has argued that Schulte’s case could provide prosecutors with an opening to charge Assange with conduct unrelated to acts of publishing.
On Nov. 14, 2017, Assange tweeted what appeared to be a threat to Donald Trump Jr. based on the “Vault 8” files.
“Dear @DonaldJTrumpJr our offer of being ambassador to the US still stands,” Assange tweeted. “I could open a hotel style embassy in DC with luxury immunity suites for whistleblowers. The public will get a turbo-charged flow of intel about the latest CIA plots to undermine democracy.”
Wheeler detected an implicit threat to release more CIA hacking tools in the message.
“I think it possible and journalistically safe to go after Assange for releasing stolen weapons to extort a criminal pardon,” she wrote at the time. “But most of the other theories of prosecuting Assange would also pose real risks for other journalists that those rooting for an Assange prosecution appreciate and rely on.”
Shroff, Schulte’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.
The next hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 10.
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