Former State Department contractor Stephen Kim has been sentenced to 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to disclosing classified information to Fox News.
The guilty plea is the latest victory for the Justice Department in a series of prosecutions involving federal officials accused of leaking classified information to the news media.
“Stephen Kim admits that he wasn’t a whistleblower,” Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said in a statement after the plea in federal court. “Within hours of the dissemination of a top secret intelligence report about North Korea, he exposed its secrets, which were then broadcast to the world. As this prosecution demonstrates, we will not waver in our commitment to pursuing and holding accountable government officials who blatantly disregard their obligations to protect our nation’s most highly guarded secrets.”
But Kim's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement to NBC News that his client "did not reveal any intelligence 'sources' or 'methods," seeking to distinguish the case from that of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden: "He did not provide any documents or electronic data to anyone," Lowell said.
The Justice Department investigation into Kim erupted into a public controversy last spring when it was disclosed that an FBI search warrant -- approved by Attorney General Eric Holder -- identified a Fox News reporter as a possible "co-conspirator" in violations of the Espionage Act.
Holder later approved new Justice Department guidelines that put restrictions on leak investigations involving members of the news media.
Kim, who had been a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employee, was indicted in 2009 on charges that he leaked Rosen details from a top secret intelligence report about how North Korea would respond to an expected United Nations resolution about the country’s nuclear program. After his indictment, former Bush administration official John Bolton, a noted hard-liner on North Korea, said Kim’s disclosures were not especially “sensitive” and could have been gleaned from reading the South Korean press at the time.
First published February 7 2014, 2:15 PM
Michael Isikoff joined NBC News in July 2010 as national investigative correspondent. Previously he had been at Newsweek since 1994 as an investigative correspondent. He has written extensively on the U.S. government's war on terrorism, the Abu Ghraib scandal, campaign-finance and congressional ethics abuses, presidential politics and other national issues. At Newsweek.com his blog â€œDeClassified - Investigative Reporting in Real Time,â€ written with Mark Hosenball, become a must-read for senior U.S. officials. Their previous web column, â€œTerror Watch,â€ also written for Newsweek.com, won the 2005 Society of Professional Journalists award for best investigative reporting online.
Isikoff is the author of two New York Times best-selling books: â€œHubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War,â€ co-written with David Corn, and "Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter's Story," which chronicled his reporting of the Monica Lewinsky story.
Since the terror attacks of 9/11, Isikoff has broken repeated stories about the U.S. government's war on terror and won numerous journalism awards. Isikoff's June 2002 Newsweek cover story on U.S. intelligence failures that preceded the 9/11 terror attacks, along with a series of related articles, was honored with the Investigative Reporters and Editors top prize for investigative reporting in magazine journalism. He was honored, along with a team of Newsweek reporters, by the Society of Professional Journalists for coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Isikoff was also part of a reporting team that earned Newsweek the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2002, for its coverage of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Isikoff's exclusive reporting on the Monica Lewinsky scandal gained him national attention in 1998 and his coverage of the events that lead to President Bill Clinton's impeachment earned Newsweek the prestigious National Magazine Award in the Reporting category in 1999. Isikoff's Lewinsky reporting also won the National Headliner Award, the Edgar A. Poe Award presented by the White House Correspondents Association and the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Reporting on the Presidency.
Isikoff came to Newsweek from The Washington Post, where he had been a reporter since September 1981. Isikoff graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in 1974 and received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 1976.