A federal judge has sentenced a former State Department intelligence analyst on North Korea to 13 months in prison for passing classified information to a journalist.
In a court proceeding Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said Stephen Kim's criminal act was "a very serious one" committed by a national security expert who lost his "moral compass."
"I take full responsibility," Kim said of his actions.
The case is the latest one brought to conclusion by the Obama administration over leaks of classified information.
The case against Kim stems from a June 2009 story by Fox News journalist James Rosen, who reported that U.S. intelligence officials warned the president and senior U.S. officials that North Korea would respond to a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning nuclear tests with another nuclear test.
Kim's actions were driven "by his own ego and desire for professional advancement," federal prosecutor G. Michael Harvey told the judge.
Kim, 46, pleaded guilty to making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. The judge approved an agreement worked out by prosecutors and Kim's lawyers for a term of 13 months in prison and one year of supervised release.
Harvey said Kim's actions were "a danger to our troops and our Korean allies" along one of the most dangerous borders in the world.
Kim's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said Harvey's comments were "a self-serving statement probably drafted by the intelligence community." Lowell said Kim had engaged in a one-time event that was "a mistake." Kim's actions did not reveal the identities of any intelligence sources nor disclose any methods of intelligence gathering, an allegation originally made by prosecutors, said Lowell.
Harvey said Kim's leak took place in "a highly charged atmosphere" in which North Korea conducted a nuclear test just two weeks before Kim passed the classified information along to Rosen in a conversation.
In engaging in the leak, Kim "disclosed what the U.S. knew," Harvey said.
The prosecutor said Kim was "a sophisticated consumer of intelligence about North Korea" and knew what he was doing when he leaked it.
Harvey said Kim exhibited no remorse immediately after the leak and that his contact with the Fox reporter involved dozens of phone calls and emails. Kim had signed a non-disclosure agreement "about the very issue in this case" shortly before the June 11, 2009 leak, the prosecutor said. Kim was a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employee on detail to the State Department's Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation at the time of the disclosure.
Lowell said that in Kim, the nation has lost a valued member of the national security community.
"He made a decision. ... He is paying a price," Lowell said of his client.
Kim has lost "his security clearance, his job, and his — and his family's — life savings. His marriage dissolved as a result of the pressures and stress of his arrest and prosecution, and he was forced to move out of his home," the court papers stated.
In the biggest leak case the administration has brought to conclusion, Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning, an intelligence analyst, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents to the website WikiLeaks.