Josh Schulte, a former CIA employee accused of leaking “Vault 7” files to WikiLeaks, claims the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York has put him in solitary confinement. He says officials will not allow him to contact his attorney or work on his defense.
He was charged on June 18 with thirteen offenses that included allegedly violating the Espionage Act by stealing classified information from the CIA. It also included a prior charge involving child pornography.
A handwritten letter [PDF] from Schulte to Judge Paul Crotty was publicly filed on October 29 and then removed.
“I am writing to you because I have been unable to contact my attorney, review my discovery, or even assist on my case in any capacity for the entire month of October,” Schulte complains. “This is outrageous and clearly unconstitutional so I write to you for relief.”
According to Schulte, who is in pretrial detention, guards called him down on October 1 for a “legal visit.” He arrived and was informed he would be put in the “box” while officials investigated him for something. They refused to provide details. He was taken in shackles to MCC’s 9-South wing.
Requests were made to access legal work, discovery materials, or to speak with his attorney. Each were denied.
He describes how his days consist of “nothing but attempted meditation. My fellow slaves constantly scream, pound, and claw at the cages attempting to get attention for basic needs to be fulfilled. I count myself lucky to be able to eat.”
“I have witnessed men dragged from their cages and beaten and maced,” Schulte additionally claims. “An officer even uncuffed an inmate and told him to fight him away from the camera. Abuse runs rampant with few cameras and no monitoring, as there is no oversight of the Bureau of Prisons.”
He lists off other alleged examples of egregious conditions: “shit-filled showers, where you leave dirtier than when you entered; the flooding of the tiers and cages with ice-cold water; the constant blast of cold air as we are exposed to extreme cold without blankets or long-sleeve shirts; the uncontrollable lights that are always on as we are sleep deprived; the denial of books, radios, notebooks, and legal work as we are forced to do literally nothing as they torture us in our cages.”
MCC is notorious for the brutal conditions it imposes on prisoners, including those like Schulte, who have yet to be convicted of a crime.
Solitary cells lack natural light and fresh air. Prisoners are confined for 23-24 hours a day. They are only allowed limited contact with family or other visitors, or there may be prohibitions against any visits whatsoever.
When Schulte was moved to isolation, he was attempting to work with his attorney on securing bail.
“My suspicion is the government created some new fictitious ‘crime’ or ‘violation’ to obstruct justice and sabotage our response,” Schulte declares. He asks the judge to examine documents in his case to see how the government is allegedly committing “errors” to keep him in pretrial confinement.
“Vault 7,” which was released by WikiLeaks in 2017, included over 8,000 files that were from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.
The first batch, “Year Zero,” contained documents on the “CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of ‘zero day’ weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
However, at the end of June, Schulte insisted he could prove his innocence in a 137-page bail letter that he wrote to the judge.
Schulte argues “at least 20 people had access to the information leaked by WikiLeaks.” Yet, investigators insisted only three people could have access the data to help them meet an “arbitrary, artificial, and unrealistic deadline” for the case.
He claimed he could prove that the child pornography on his computer was the result of a “business he ran that provided storage space for his clients’ private data.”
Regardless of whether he is innocent or not, Schulte’s treatment bears similarity to how the United States government treats others prosecuted for leaks.
In an extraordinary example, Reality Winner, a former NSA contractor, was held in pretrial detention in a county jail in Georgia for more than a year until she accepted a plea agreement. She was charged with violating the Espionage Act after she disclosed an NSA report on alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election.
The goal of such treatment is to pressure and break the spirit of an individual so they abandon plans to go to trial. After all, Schulte spent several years at the CIA, and he is aware of sensitive information that the government would not want him or his attorney to talk about before a jury.