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Government battles ex-CIA software engineer accused of leaking hacking tools over prison restrictions

The U.S. government filed a memorandum Monday in the Southern District of New York in the case against Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA software engineer accused of stealing classified national defense information, which then appeared on WikiLeaks. Schulte filed a motion to end what's known as special administrative measures (SAMs) while being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan.

According to the advocacy organization The Center for Constitutional Rights, SAMs are incredibly restrictive and "prohibit prisoners who live under them from contact or communication with all but a handful of approved individuals, and impose a second gag on even those few individuals."

Joshua Adam Schulte
Joshua Adam Schulte / LinkedIn profile

The 30-year-old claims the government cannot regulate his interactions with his lawyer and that his record doesn't support the restrictions in place. The government's filing argues that his breaking "into CIA computer systems" and the theft of "classified information" which he "transmitted" to WikiLeaks — means he should have SAMs in place.

The filing claims that Schulte "violated his bail conditions by accessing the internet ... illegally provided classified information to his family ... enlisted his family and other inmates to help him brazenly violate a protective order ... and even after the court admonished him, he doubled down and did it again." They also claim that he smuggled a cellphone into his cell.

Last year, Schulte was indicted on 13 counts, including the illegal transmission of lawfully possessed national defense information as well as three charges related to child pornography.

According to the indictment, Schulte stole the classified information in 2016 in the Eastern District of Virginia and elsewhere and then transmitted it to an organization that purports to publicly distribute classified, sensitive and confidential information. WikiLeaks began releasing some of the CIA's hacking tools in March 2017.

Schulte has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 135 years in prison if convicted.

Cassandra Gauthier contributed to this report.

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