WASHINGTON — Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department contractor charged with leaking information from a highly classified report about North Korea to a Fox News reporter in 2009, pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to serve a 13-month prison sentence.
Kim became the sixth official to be convicted in a leak-related prosecution by the Obama administration, which has pursued more such cases — eight so far — than any administration. Only three leak cases had been prosecuted under all previous administrations.
Kim’s leak led Fox News to report in June 2009 that “the Central Intelligence Agency has learned, through sources inside North Korea,” that North Korea was likely to respond to a UN resolution condemning its nuclear and missile tests with even more tests. CIA officials were said to be furious that a top-secret analysis had been leaked almost as soon as it was written.
Kim was indicted in 2010 and had faced up to 131 months in prison if convicted at trial. As part of the plea agreement, Kim said he was not a whistle-blower.
Kim’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, portrayed his client’s actions as identical to “what so many government officials do every day in Washington.”
He called on Congress to change the law that his client was charged under, the Espionage Act, whose “Draconian penalties,” he said, were written to punish spies, not officials who talk to reporters.