By 2016, CIA hackers were using more lines of code than it takes to run Facebook, according to Wikileaks.
The Largest Theft in CIA History
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Joshua Schulte, the former CIA software engineer who allegedly leaked nearly 9,000 documents detailing some of the agency’s hacking tools, which allowed it to infiltrate smartphones, computers, and even internet-connected televisions.
Schulte began working for the CIA in 2010 and sent the cache of documents now known as Vault 7 to Wikileaks in 2016. The outlet published it the following year, and in 2018 Schulte was arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act.
It was the largest publication of confidential documents in CIA history.
In March 2020, Schulte’s trial resulted in a hung jury on eight counts, but he was found guilty on two others — contempt of court and making false statements to the FBI.
Wednesday’s trial convicted him on all nine counts, including illegally gathering national defense information and illegally transmitting that information.
Damian Williams, the United States attorney in Manhattan, where the trial was held, celebrated the verdict, saying the leak was “one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.”
Prosecutors depicted Schulte as a disgruntled employee who leaked the files in retaliation for what he saw as management’s failure to take his workplace complaints seriously.
Schulte represented himself during the most recent trial, pleading not guilty to the charges. He called the state’s portrayal of him “pure fantasy” and argued that hundreds of people with access to the documents could have stolen them.
WikiLeaks said in 2017 that its source hoped to raise “policy questions that need to be debated in public,” including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceeded its mandated powers, whether the agency needed more democratic oversight, and whether the global proliferation of cyber warfare technology is dangerous.
Schulte’s sentencing has not been given a date, but he faces a maximum combined sentence of 80 years in prison.
He could also be convicted in a separate federal trial for allegedly having child pornography on his computer that authorities say they found when they searched his Manhattan apartment in 2017.
What the Leak Revealed
The nearly 9,000 documents that Wikileaks published gave a glimpse into the scope of the CIA’s cyberwarfare capabilities, with the agency’s army of hackers using more lines of code than are required to run Facebook.
By 2016, the CIA and allied intelligence agencies had the power to crack both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram, according to Wikileaks.
The agency was also able to hack internet-connected televisions.
Some documents offered instructions for breaking into a range of tools including Skype, Wi-Fi networks, PDF documents, and even common commercial antivirus programs.
One program called Wrecking Crew explained how to crash a targeted computer, and another detailed how to steal passwords using the autofill function on Internet Explorer.
Some hacking programs had stranger names than others, including those called CrunchyLimeSkies, ElderPiggy, AngerQuake, and McNugget.
The official purpose of the leaked hacking tools was to target foreign governments and terrorists.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (Wikileaks)
Thousands of Teacher Jobs Remain Unfilled as Schools Brace for New Semester
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has controversially permitted military veterans with very few qualifications to become K-12 teachers.
A Shortage Turns Into a Crisis
As the 2022-2023 academic year imminently approaches, school districts are desperately trying to retain and hire teachers amid a nationwide shortage, and some are calling the situation a crisis.
In Florida, where schooling in most districts is set to begin on August 10, about 9,000 teaching positions are still open.
The faculty who remain are preparing to take on a heavier burden of work than usual.
“Teachers are working wall to wall every day because of the coverage that they get,” Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association President Rob Kriet told Fox News. “They don’t get to go to the bathroom even. The minute they get there to the minute they leave, they’re working with kids. That’s not really sustainable and that’s not in our students’ best interests.”
In Nevada, the State Education Association has estimated that nearly 3,000 jobs are unfilled across all 17 school districts.
Moreover, the five largest school districts in the Houston area have reported between 200 and 1,000 teaching vacancies.
Carlton Jenkins, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin, told The Washington Post the shortages have gotten so urgent that superintendents across the country have developed a whisper network to match teachers with schools.
“We’re at a point right now, where if I have people who want to move to California, I call up and give a reference very quick,” they said. “And if someone is coming from another place — say, Minnesota — I have superintendent colleagues in Minnesota, they call and say, ‘Hey, I have teachers coming your way.’”
Experts pin the blame for the shortage on several factors, including pandemic-induced stress, burnout and low pay.
Some also believe teachers felt attacked and disrespected by parents, politicians and even school boards as Republican officials have thrust education into the political fray in recent months.
Conservatives in many states have moved to limit discussion of certain subjects such as gender identity, sexuality, and race in the classroom.
Some Creative, or Bizarre, Solutions
Many schools have devised incentives to attract more teachers, with the primary one being higher pay.
Nevada has bumped its starting teacher salary up by $7,000 plus a $4,000 “relocation bonus” for teachers outside the state or more than 100 miles away.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved an education budget that included $800 million for teacher pay raises this year.
In another move many have criticized, DeSantis passed a law allowing military veterans who served for at least four years to teach K-12 education.
The veterans are not required to have bachelor’s degrees, but they must have at least 60 college credits and a GPA of at least 2.5.
Arizona similarly lowered the bar for new faculty, allowing college students to take teaching jobs in the state.
More commonly, schools are planning to increase class sizes and/or deploy administrators with little or no pedagogical experience as teachers, with both of these policies expected to reduce the quality of education for students.
Some schools, such as those in certain areas of Kansas, Missouri and Texas, have implemented a four-day workweek to ease teachers’ exhaustion.
Sometimes, students are still required to attend five days per week, with teachers rotating their schedules so that some faculty are present each day.
Other schools limit the week to just four days for both teachers and students, but lengthen the days to compensate for the missing fifth.
About 660 schools in 24 states had a four-day workweek before the pandemic, according to the Brookings Institution.
That number had increased sixfold from 1999
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (KCTV) (Fox News)
Young Children in Florida Struggle to Find Vaccines as BA.5 Drives COVID Spikes
The access problems are driven by Florida Gov. DeSantis’ decision to prohibit state programs and county health departments from distributing vaccines to children five and under.
Child Vaccine Distribution Restrictions
One month after the Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID vaccines for kids between six months and five years old, parents in Florida are still struggling to access shots for their young children because of restrictions imposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
When the shots were first approved, DeSantis warned parents against them and spread misinformation about their essential protections, claiming that they had not been sufficiently tested and trialed.
The governor did say that he would not stand in the way of parents who did want to vaccinate their children, but that promise appeared to be empty,
DeSantis soon earned the reputation of the only governor who refused to let pediatricians and healthcare providers pre-order the vaccines. He also took his efforts a step further, even going as far as to block state programs and county health departments from distributing or administering the COVID vaccinations.
According to a recent report by The Washington Post, the intentional failure to pre-order and lack of state involvement have created a ton of problems. Pediatrician’s offices have vaccine waitlists that are weeks long, doctors that have gotten doses are getting calls from parents who live hundreds of miles away, and some families are even considering going to other states to vaccinate their kids.
Although doctor’s offices and hospitals are working hard to get the job done, there are still serious barriers to access, especially for children in underserved communities, poor families, and rural areas.
Those groups traditionally depend on county health clinics for vaccination, but DeSantis has blocked those clinics from administering doses. Small and rural pediatrician offices that lack cold storage or minimum dose ordering requirements also rely on the county departments to provide them with vaccines.
BA.5 Variant Drives New Surges
The ongoing struggle for Florida parents trying to protect their young children also comes amid a concerning nationwide spike in coronavirus cases largely driven by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, which experts consider the most transmissible strain of the entire pandemic.
Most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that BA.5 now makes up two out of every three new infections.
According to The New York Times, cases are on the rise in the vast majority of states — at least 40. Both new infections and hospitalizations have risen 20% in the last two weeks. Florida is among the top 5 states with the highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days.
While experts say that the strain appears to more easily infect people who were recently vaccinated or recovered from COVID, the strain is not more severe than previous versions of Omicron, and vaccinations are still the best tool to protect against severe illness and death.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Investigative Report, Body Cam Footage Reveal Damning Details from Uvalde Police Response
A total of 367 law enforcement officials responded to the shooting from several different local, state, and federal agencies.
Report Indicts Law Enforcement Response
An “overall lackadaisical approach” plagued by leadership confusion, communication breakdown, and system errors delayed the law enforcement response to the Uvalde massacre by over an hour, according to a 77-page preliminary report released by a Texas House investigative committee released on Sunday.
Ever since an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary and killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers on May 24, victims’ families have demanded answers and been met with authorities’ reluctant release of information.
“Law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety,” the report said.
The shooter fired approximately 142 rounds inside the school, with at least 100 of those almost certainly occurring before police arrived, it added.
First responders lost “critical momentum” because they treated the gunman as a “barricaded subject” rather than an active shooter, leading them to take a slower, more methodical approach.
“Correcting this error should have sparked greater urgency to immediately breach the classroom by any possible means, to subdue the attacker, and to deliver immediate aid,” the report states.
Although much of the blame since the shooting has been directed toward Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, the report aims its critique at every local, state, and federal agency present that day, saying no one assumed command of the situation despite the fact that 367 law enforcement officials arrived on the scene.
That resulted in some officers expressing a desire to enter the classroom but seeming unsure about who was in charge.
The report notes that Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training “teaches that any law enforcement officer can assume command, that somebody must assume command, and that an incident commander can transfer responsibility as an incident develops.”
The commander of a Border Patrol tactical team reportedly chose to wait for a bulletproof shield and a master key before entering the classroom, despite the door being unlocked, according to investigators.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has launched an investigation to determine whether Lieutenant Mariano Pargas, who was the city’s acting police chief during the shooting, should have taken command of the scene. Pargas has been placed on administrative leave for the time being.
The report also faults issues with Robb Elementary itself, saying that poor WiFi likely delayed the lockdown alert after the shooting began.
Not all teachers immediately received the alert, it adds, and the school’s intercom was not used to communicate.
Additionally, the building’s doors and locks reportedly suffered from “recurring problems,” with the locking mechanism in Room 111, one of two where the shooting took place, having been widely known to be faulty yet never repaired.
The school also reportedly had a culture of noncompliance with safety policies requiring doors to be locked.
“There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making,” the report continued.
But the investigators added that it is not their job to recommend anyone be held accountable, leaving it to each law enforcement agency to determine that.
Body Cameras Show Police Inaction
Uvalde released around three hours of body camera footage to the press on Sunday, showing that many officers knew children were still alive in the classroom with the shooter, yet they failed to enter.
“Dude, we gotta get in there,” staff sergeant Eduardo Canales can be heard saying. “He’s still shooting. We gotta get in there.”
As minutes pass by with no direct confrontation between shooter and police, the officers’ sense of urgency appears to fade, and footage shows them hunkered down waiting for more backup.
As more gunshots are heard from inside the classroom and more heavily armed officers arrive on scene, Arredondo waited for keys to the room which investigators say was unlocked. He can also be seen on video struggling to unlock a nearby classroom that the shooter was not inside of.
“What are we doing here?” one officer asked 20 minutes after law enforcement arrived at the school.
“People are gonna ask why we’re taking so long,” another said nearly an hour later.
About 30 minutes after the shooting began, Uvalde police sergeant Daniel Coronado’s body cam shows him breaking a classroom window from outside the school and pulling kids out alongside other officers.
More than 12 minutes later, the footage shows Arredondo trying to negotiate with the shooter.
“Can you let me know if there’s any kids in there or anything?” The police chief shouts. “This could be peaceful. Could you tell me your name, anything I can know please?”
Moments later, a dispatcher can be heard telling officers via radio that a child had called 911 from the “room full of victims.”
Some officers react to the information with concern, but none enter the classroom.
At least six more minutes pass without officers engaging the shooter, then more gunshots are heard from inside the classroom.
Still, Arredondo attempts to negotiate with the gunman again, saying, “Sir, if you can hear me, please put your firearm down sir. We don’t want anybody else hurt.”
About 30 minutes later, officers finally enter the classroom and kill the gunman.