WASHINGTON, April 2 A U.S. judge sentenced a former State Department analyst on Wednesday to 13 months in prison for sharing classified information about North Korea with a reporter in 2009 without authorization.
Stephen Kim, 46, told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly at a hearing that he took full responsibility for violating a law designed to protect national defense information and that he planned to restart his life after prison.
A prosecutor said Kim's imprisonment should be a deterrent to faithless government employees and contractors. "He is rightly being held accountable for his criminal conduct," Michael Harvey said in court.
Kim faced a maximum potential sentence of 10 years.
Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, prosecutors have brought charges in eight cases for disclosing information to a newspaper, blog or other media outlet. All previous administrations combined, in the four decades prior to Obama taking office, brought three such cases.
Chief among the cases under Obama is that of Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who provided thousands of classified documents to journalists showing the extent of U.S. spying efforts. U.S. officials said last year they had filed sealed criminal charges against Snowden. Russia granted him asylum.
Kim was investigated for telling Fox News reporter James Rosen that U.S. intelligence officials expected North Korea to respond to new sanctions with another nuclear test. The FBI described Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in a court document and obtained Rosen's emails as part of its investigation.
A backlash against the seizure by advocates for press freedom prompted the Justice Department to change its policies. Rosen was not charged.
Kim, who has a doctorate in history from Yale University, pleaded guilty in February before a planned trial. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed on a sentence of 13 months.
Kim cultivated a relationship with Rosen to feed his own ego and to advance his career, at the cost of a weaker U.S. intelligence operation, Harvey said.
Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell said that Kim, a U.S. citizen who was born in Seoul, was motivated by a desire to draw attention to the dangers of a North Korean regime his family had personally experienced.
During Kim's conversations with Rosen, Kim inadvertently slipped across a line dividing public information from classified information, Lowell said.
"It is just not as simple as Mr. Harvey and the intelligence community would have it be," Lowell said.
Although he was charged under a law named the Espionage Act, Kim was not accused of being a spy. He had no criminal history.
"I built my career around the idea of helping the foreign policy of the United States, a nation that adopted me as a boy," Kim told the judge.
From the bench Kollar-Kotelly gave him job advice: "You're going to have to go down a different career path, but there's certainly no reason you can't do it." (Editing by Howard Goller and Tom Brown)