On August 27, 2010 the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s office charged Stephen Kim with illegally disclosing national defense information (classified information) to someone in the media. The government has not alleged that Stephen gave away any document, that he was paid to do anything, that he stole the information, or that he acted in secret. It does not allege that Stephen was a spy or that he acted to assist an enemy of the United States. And, it does not allege that Stephen engaged in a pattern of misconduct. Rather, the case against Stephen Kim seems to be based on a prosecutor’s theory that Stephen talked to someone in the media about a topic of current events and – in that one and only conversation – disclosed classified information. It is a “leak” case. Along with many who have commented, we think an unfounded one.
To prove their case, the prosecutors need to show not just that Stephen disclosed the information they say, but that the information was properly classified and properly held secret, that Stephen did what they accuse him of with a criminal intent, acting in “bad faith,” and that he acted with the belief he would be hurting the United States.
For many reasons, these charges are unfounded.
To begin, it is not now – nor has it ever been – a crime to talk to the media. Stephen’s unique gifts and brilliant analytical capabilities were put to good use in his job, which in part, required that he learn information about various foreign policy issues. Obviously, one way to do that is to talk with people inside and outside of government, including the media. In addition, when someone talks with the media, they often learn the very same information they read about in doing their work – in other words, the media often has multiple sources. If those in our government who are entrusted with monitoring public policy in foreign countries shut their eyes and their ears to those in the media, our foreign policy would suffer. The give and take is what makes out country stronger.
Second, the subject matter of the news article in question in this case was hardly remarkable — reporting on what a foreign country would do or not do when that was already in the public and something that country had done before and something that everyone knew the foreign country would do. The government leaks far more sensitive information to the media every day as part of its normal business.
Finally, there is no evidence, no document, and no witness that even suggests that Stephen acted with criminal intent. Stephen Kim would never do anything to hurt the United States. He is a dedicated, loyal, hard-working, law-abiding, and extremely talented analyst who has given 10 years of valuable service to the United States government and has helped it better understand foreign policy and nuclear proliferation issues. He has briefed – and been a vital resource for – high-level officials in the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy, the National Security Council, the Defense Policy Board, the combatant commands, and the Office of the Vice-President. He has been consulted by former Secretaries of State and other senior national leaders. Throughout his career, Stephen has always endeavored to further the interests of the United States and he would never take any action to harm this country.
The latest news concerning the aggression of North Korea only underscores how important it is to have people with Stephen’s background and experience involved in foreign policy analysis and advice. And, the latest news about the massive leaks concerning Wikileaks demonstrates what a bad use of our government’s time and money it is for Stephen to be prosecuted for what the prosecutors may allege to be a single conversation with a single reporter on a single occasion.
Stephen has pleaded not guilty to the government’s charges and is mounting a vigorous defense. He will have to file pre-trial motions, go through thousands of pages of documents and records, and ultimately may have to stand trial to defend himself and show the government is wrong. As you can imagine, the prosecutors have investigated this case for 19 months and have spent a great deal of time and money assembling their case. It will take a formidable effort to match the prosecutors resources and for Stephen to put up a strong defense. Unfortunately, in our system, it is not enough to be innocent, a person needs resources to fight back.
That is why Stephen is asking for your help. Stephen needs help to show the prosecutors that they are wrong. He needs help to show that the government should not be allowed to bring charges against someone for which a proper, thorough, and complete investigation was not conducted. Stephen needs your help to show that the exchange of views between the government and the people and the media makes us a better and stronger country, which is part of the reason that the First Amendment affords us the protections that it does. The costs of fighting the prosecution will be astronomical, as the government has infinite resources at its disposal. Stephen needs your help to go up against this Goliath.
I can assure you that Stephen’s entire legal team will defend Stephen as tenaciously as anyone can. We hope you will help Stephen and us do that.