A series of unsealed opinions released today in a high-profile leak case in Washington reveal new information about possible defense strategies and also the scope of documents and information prosecutors will be able to keep secret.
Former U.S. Department of State contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim is charged with leaking confidential information about North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen. Earlier this year, Kim’s attorneys pressed the government to disclose, in discovery, a trove of information. Until today, Kim's motions, along with the government's responses and subsequent court opinions, were sealed.
Kim's requests ranged from intelligence reports and emails from top national security officials about North Korea to documents about other internal leak investigations. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied the bulk of Kim's motions, often finding that they were too broad or, having reviewed unredacted versions of the documents at issue, that they were irrelevant to Kim's defense.
The documents released today were at times heavily redacted and many details of the case, such as the name of the report Kim allegedly leaked, remained confidential.
The documents did offer a preview of several possible defense strategies for Kim’s lawyers, led by Chadbourne & Parke litigation partner Abbe Lowell. According to Kollar-Kotelly's rulings, Kim was seeking information on other sources of information Rosen could have relied on, other possible leakers, and, even if Kim was the leaker, evidence that he wouldn't have had reason to believe the disclosures could injure the United States or aid an enemy.
In one of the motions, for instance, Kim sought other intelligence reports Rosen could have based his article on, arguing the documents were relevant because there were no allegations Kim leaked information from more than one report.
Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a May 30 opinion that Kim's request was too broad, saying it went "far beyond just documents that could have served as the basis for the Rosen article" and that certain elements of the request were "nothing more than a fishing expedition."
In another motion, Kim asked for documents on other intelligence leaks related to North Korea. Kollar-Kotelly again said the request was too broad, since it wasn’t limited to the time period in question or to leaks about North Korea to Fox News. She noted prosecutors said they didn't find any information on formal criminal investigations involving the 168 individuals who may have accessed the intelligence at issue in Kim's case.
"In light of this representation, the Defendant's broad request for information regarding other leaks will not produce the very evidence the Defendant asserts would be helpful—that is, evidence that someone else was leaking information to Fox News regarding North Korea during the general time frame of the Rosen article," she wrote (emphasis in original.)
Kim's case is slowly moving towards a trial, which is tentatively scheduled to begin April 28. Both sides are preparing for pretrial proceedings under the Classified Information Procedures Act to determine what information would be disclosed at trial.