A former contractor for the State Department has been indicted on charges he leaked national defense information to a national news organization, according to an indictment unsealed late Friday.
Stephen Jin-Woo Kim — a former senior adviser for intelligence who was on a detail to the arms control compliance bureau in the State Department — allegedly gave national defense information to a reporter. The news organization is believed to be Fox News, and the information was about North Korea, according to news reports.
A review of Fox News articles about North Korea in that period — when concerns about North Korea’s missile launches were reaching a fever pitch — reveals a June 23, 2009 story that says North Korea issued a warning to mariners about an upcoming live-fire missile exercise in which the country was “likely to fire short- and medium-range missiles, based on the splashdown zone referred to in the notice and other activities that are consistent with such launches.” The story refers to “counterproliferation officials” in addition to the defense officials cited in much of the rest of Fox’s coverage at the time, and went on to discuss the specifics of North Korea’s missile and nuclear arsenals.
Kim’s lawyers said the prosecution was inappropriate.
“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.
Kim was also charged with lying to FBI agents. The most recent indictment is part of a trend in which the Obama administration has focused on prosecuting leakers, and the administration is on track to set a record for such prosecutions.
Some of the most recent cases, as reported in The Washington Post:
Since December, prosecutors have indicted Thomas A. Drake, a National Security Agency official, with improperly handling classified information with a Baltimore Sun reporter; secured a guilty plea from Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, a former FBI contract linguist, for leaking documents to a blogger; and arrested Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, 22, suspected of giving a classified video of a U.S. military helicopter firing at civilians in Baghdad to the WikiLeaks.org site. Manning is also suspected of leaking 76,000 classified documents about the Afghanistan war that WikiLeaks posted this month.
Here’s the Justice Department news release:
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia has returned an indictment charging Stephen Jin-Woo Kim with unlawfully disclosing national defense information to a reporter for a national news organization and making false statements to the FBI.
The indictment, which was unsealed today, was announced by David S. Kris, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and Shawn Henry, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.
Kim, age 43, was an employee of a federal contractor who was on detail to the State Department at the time of the alleged disclosure. Kim made his initial appearance today in court in the District of Columbia. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for the unlawful disclosure of national defense information and up to five years in prison for the making of false statements.
According to the indictment, in June 2009, Kim knowingly and willfully disclosed information contained in an intelligence report classified Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) to a reporter for a national news organization who was not entitled to receive it. The classified information related to the national defense, specifically, intelligence sources and methods and intelligence concerning the military capabilities and preparedness of a particular foreign nation.
The indictment further alleges that, in September 2009, Kim made false statements to the FBI when he denied having had any contact with the reporter for a national news organization since meeting the reporter in March 2009, when in fact, Kim had had repeated contact with the reporter in the months following that meeting.
“The willful disclosure of classified information to those not entitled to it is a serious crime. Today’s indictment should serve as a warning to anyone who is entrusted with sensitive national security information and would consider compromising it,” said Assistant Attorney General Kris. “I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who helped bring about today’s charges.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting our nation’s secrets and bringing to justice those who betray the confidence placed in them by the American people. I want to thank the dedicated career prosecutors, investigators, and members of the intelligence community who worked tirelessly to uncover Mr. Kim’s wrongdoing and bring it before the court,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.
“National defense information disclosed illegally to any person or organization is a crime and serves only those who wish to harm the United States and its citizens,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Henry.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys G. Michael Harvey and Jonathan M. Malis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney Patrick T. Murphy of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted in a court of law.