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, became the sixth official to be convicted in a leak-related prosecution by the Obama administration, which has pursued eight such cases to date. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/08/us/politics/ex-state-department-contractor-pleads-guilty-in-leak-case.html?ref=us Only three leak cases were prosecuted under all previous administrations.
Mr. 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 United Nations resolution condemning its nuclear and missile tests with even more tests. C.I.A. officials were said to be furious that a top-secret analysis had been leaked almost as soon as it had been written.
While critics of the crackdown on leaks have accused the Obama administration of waging a war on whistle-blowers, Mr. Kim agreed to say that he did not believe that he was bringing waste, fraud, abuse or other misconduct to light.
Mr. 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, arguing that it was written to punish spies, not officials who talk to reporters.
“Faced with the draconian penalties of the Espionage Act, the tremendous resources that the federal government devoted to his case (a half-dozen prosecutors and a dozen F.B.I. agents), and the prospect of a lengthy trial in today’s highly charged climate of mass disclosures, Stephen decided to take responsibility for his actions and move forward with his life,” Mr. Lowell said.
Mr. Kim’s case attracted attention because of the wording of an application for a secret search warrant for the reporter’s emails. The application, which surfaced in May, asserted that the reporter, James Rosen, was himself a criminal — “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in Mr. Kim’s leak.
That language suggested that the Justice Department was considering an escalation of the leak crackdown by prosecuting journalists. The document came to light days after it was revealed that prosecutors had secretly subpoenaed phone call logs involving Associated Press reporters and bureaus in another leak investigation.
Justice Department officials said that they never intended to prosecute Mr. Rosen and that portraying him as a criminal conspirator was necessary to get around a law that otherwise bars search warrants for journalists’ work. They needed to get Mr. Rosen’s emails, they said, because investigators suspected that Mr. Kim had deleted some from his own accounts.
In May, lawmakers of both parties raised concerns that the Justice Department was going too far in its crackdown on leaks. That month, President Obama ordered a review of procedures for leak investigations, saying he was “troubled” that investigative reporting could be chilled.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. convened a series of meetings with news media leaders, at which he acknowledged criticism that the Justice Department had tipped too far toward aggressive law enforcement, and in July he announced new guidelines for leak investigations that forbid portraying reporters as a co-conspirator in a criminal leak as a way to get around the legal bar on secret search warrants for their reporting materials.
Based on that policy, Mr. Lowell had asked the Justice Department to drop the case. That did not happen, but the 13-month sentence it agreed to is the second shortest in the six Obama-era convictions in leak cases.