A group of Korean scholars recently launched a campaign to support and vindicate a Korean-American who was indicted by the U.S. government on an espionage charge while he served as a North Korea expert for the U.S. State Department.
That Korean-American is Stephen Kim, a former State Department arms expert, and next on deck in the Obama administration's unprecedented persecution (err, prosecution) of so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers.
Undeterred by its extravagantly ungraceful belly-flop in the case of former NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, the Justice Department is pursuing the Kim case with equally misguided over-zealousness. Kim, like Drake, is being charged under the heavy-handed Espionage Act, which is meant to go after spies, not public servants. His "crime" caused no harm to the United States and did not benefit a foreign nation (elements of the Espionage Act.)
Citizens of South Korea appear more transparency friendly than their government, and attuned to the free speech implications of silencing dissent. No surprise in light of South Korea government's indicting an activist just last week:
South Korean prosecutors indicted a social media and freedom of speech activist this week for reposting messages from the North Korean government's Twitter account.
The South Korean group criticized the Justice Department's lack of evidence – or hiding of the evidence – against Kim:
"The case has been protracted as the prosecutors are yet to submit evidence that Stephen Kim disclosed the secret information. 'That they are not showing any evidence to prove his wrongdoing over the past one and a half years indicates his innocence," professor Kim [no relation to Stephen Kim] said."
Flashbacks to the Drake case, when the supposedly classified information turned out to be unclassified, open source, and deliberately misclassified in order to go after Drake. Satayana said those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Hint: the Justice Department should have learned its lesson from the Drake case.
I wrote on the Kim case back in June:
On August 28, 2010, the Justice Department indicted Stephen Kim, a modern-day Horatio Alger and former senior adviser for intelligence on detail to the State Department arms control compliance bureau. The government is charging him with disclosing national defense information in June 2009 during an interview Fox News and lying about it to the FBI. Kim does not claim to be a whistleblower. However, it is undisputable that the information he allegedly leaked was of high public interest: U.S. intelligence officials had warned that North Korea planned to respond to a new round of U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test. South Korea, China and other neighbors have an indisputable public interest in knowing if North Korea plans to conduct another nuclear explosive test.
Like the Drake case, when you remove the scary label of "ESPIONAGE" (which automatically paints the defendant as being a traitor and turncoat), the Kim case is remarkable for being unremarkable.
John Bolton, the former undersecretary of state for disarmament (and a noted hard-liner on all matters North Korea) said the disclosures in the Fox News story about North Korean intentions were "neither particularly sensitive nor all that surprising." It involved the kind of information that could have been gleaned from reading stories in the South Korean press at the time.
Here's where U.S. citizens can support Kim: the Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.
I couldn't get the South Korean Kim support site to work. I hope that it's an internet glitch and not government interference and censorship.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.