Another Leak Prosecution

08.30.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Obama Administration continued its pursuit of individuals who leak classified information to the press with another indictment of a suspected leaker. The Department of Justice announced last week that Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor, had been indicted (pdf) under the Espionage Act for the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and for lying to the FBI.  Mr. Kim pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The classified information, which was not specified in the indictment, reportedly consisted of a 2009 intelligence assessment conveyed to Fox News stating that North Korea was likely to respond to United Nations sanctions by conducting another nuclear explosive test.

“The willful disclosure of classified information to those not entitled to it is a serious crime,” said Assistant Attorney General David S. Kris in an August 27 news release. “Today’s indictment should serve as a warning to anyone who is entrusted with sensitive national security information and would consider compromising it.”

Mr. Kim’s attorneys blasted the decision to indict him.

“In its obsession to clamp down on perfectly appropriate conversations between government employees and the press, the Obama Administration has forgotten that wise foreign policy must be founded on a two-way conversation between government and the public,” said Abbe D. Lowell and Ruth Wedgwood in an August 27 statement (pdf) on the case.

“It is so disappointing that the Justice Department has chosen to stretch the espionage laws to cover ordinary and normal conversations between government officials and the press and, in doing so, destroy the career of a loyal civil servant and brilliant foreign policy analyst,” they said.  “There is no allegation that a document was given, that any money changed hands, that any foreign government was involved, or that there was any improper motive in the type of government/media exchanges that happen hundreds of times a day in Washington.”

Mr. Kim was released pending trial on a $100,000 property bond.  A status conference in the case has been set for October 13, 2010.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, former Defense Secretary William J. Perry said that more criminal prosecutions were needed to deter leaks of classified information.

“When I was secretary, we had an example of an egregious leak which I thought compromised national security,” Secretary Perry told Senator McCain on August 3. “We prosecuted a case and sent the leaker to prison. And I think more examples of that would be useful in injecting better discipline in the system.”

However, he may have misspoken.  There does not seem to have been a leak prosecution during the years that he served as Secretary (1993-1997), and Dr. Perry’s office was not able to provide clarification of his remarks.