Attorney Blasts Double Standard for Punishing Leaks

03.16.15 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Department of Justice has adopted an unacceptable double standard in its treatment of persons accused of leaking or mishandling classified information, the attorney for imprisoned leaker Stephen Kim wrote in a letter to DoJ released yesterday.

“The decision to permit General [David] Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor demonstrates more clearly than ever the profound double standard that applies when prosecuting so-called ‘leakers’ and those accused of disclosing classified information for their own purposes,” attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in a March 5 letter.

“As we said at the time of Mr. Kim’s sentencing, lower-level employees like Mr. Kim are prosecuted under the Espionage Act because they are easy targets and lack the resources and political connections to fight back. High-level officials (such as General Petraeus and, earlier, Leon Panetta) leak classified information to forward their own agendas (or to impress their mistresses) with virtual impunity.”

In light of the Petraeus plea agreement, Mr. Lowell asked Department attorneys to support Mr. Kim’s immediate release from prison.

In a statement to supporters, Mr. Kim’s sister Yuri Lusternberger-Kim expressed dismay at the Petraeus settlement.

“You can imagine how are hearts sunk and the outrage we felt when we heard this. For pleading to much less, Stephen was given a much harsher sentence — a felony conviction and 13 months in prison. This double standard is inexplicable on its face. For a lot of reasons, the resolution for General Petraeus is fair (the Espionage Act should not be used for these kinds of ‘leaks’), but Stephen should have been given the same benefits.”

“We are let down by our justice system when it applies harsh, unfair judgments on those without power, and who don’t play politics and don’t have powerful political allies.”

“Our family and our friends think it is just terribly unfair and not right that Stephen was given less consideration and different treatment for doing no more, and even less than General Petraeus. The General got the right result, but so should have Stephen. Stephen’s lawyers tried to get the Justice Department to address this disparity but they would not do so. We want others to know this,” Ms. Lustenberger-Kim said.

(More: The Intercept, NYT, Yahoo, Bloomberg)