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article imageU.S. Justice Department continues prosecution of government leaks

By Andrew Ardizzi     Jun 18, 2011 in Politics
Washington - An American arms expert charged with violating the U.S. Espionage Act is next in line as the Obama administration's crackdown on government leaks continues.
Stephen J.Kim, an immigrant of South Korea, spent a decade briefing government officials about the dangers posed by North Korea and was senior advisor for intelligence with the State Department's arms control compliance bureau at the time of his indictment last year, the New York Times reported.
Kim's case is the next to be examined after the case against National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas A. Drake crumbled after he pleaded guilty to a minor charge, resulting in no prison time or fines.
Drake had been accused of giving secrets to the Baltimore Sun, the Times reports.
The Washington Post report states Kim allegedly disclosed classified information concerning the military capabilities of a foreign nation, in addition to U.S. intelligence gathering methods or sources which could be used against the United States.
On June 11, 2009, Fox News reported the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) learned Pyongyang would likely respond to a United Nations resolution condemning North Korea's nuclear and missile tests with further testing, a report which immediately infuriated C.I.A. officials.
When Kim was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) he claimed he had only spoken to Fox News reporter James Rosen once before admitting further contact with the reporter when evidence indicated multiple communications had occurred.
In August 2010, Kim was arraigned by a federal grand jury upon charges of disclosing national defense information to the media and lying to the F.B.I., entering a plea of not-guilty before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the Post reported.
Upon his arraignment, Abbe D. Lowell and Ruth Wedgwood, Kim's lawyers, were critical of the Obama administration's policies on revealing information.
"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," Lowell and Wedgwood said in a prepared statement.
With Kim's trial months away, the Justice Department is showing no sign of rethinking its campaign to prosecute individuals who disclose sensitive information to the media without authorization.
The Times reported the Obama administration has moved forward with five criminal cases against government informants compared to three cases under all previous presidents combined.
"It would be my priority to continue the aggressive pursuit of these investigations," Lisa O. Monaco, a Justice Department official, told the Times, adding these types of leaks pose security risks.
Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, argues the fizzling of the Drake prosecution should be a signal to the government that it needs to rethink its options when dealing with government informants, the Times reported.
The U.S. government has been leaping to the most extreme responses in pursuing felony charges when the administration has a number of options at their disposal, including stripping an official's security clearance, firing them outright, or pursuing a misdemeanor charge, Aftergood told the Times.
If Kim is convicted, he faces 15 years in prison.
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