The lawyer for imprisoned leaker Stephen Kim has asked the Department of Justice to immediately release him from jail, accusing the government of a “profound double standard” in its treatment of leakers following a comparatively lenient plea deal for former Gen. David Petraeus.
Petraeus avoided prison time for disclosing a trove of classified information to his lover and lying to the FBI about it. Kim, meanwhile, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act by talking to a Fox News reporter about a single classified report on North Korea. Kim pleaded guilty after a five-year legal battle that depleted his finances and sent him to the brink of suicide. Petraeus, in the wake of his plea arrangement, is expected to continue his lucrative career working for an investment bank and giving speeches.
Kim’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, noted in a scathing letter to the DOJ that Petraeus, in his plea deal, admitted leaking a range of highly sensitive material “at least as serious and damaging to national security as anything involved in Mr. Kim’s case” to Paula Broadwell, his lover and authorized biographer. Petraeus also acknowledged that when he was director of the CIA he lied to the FBI about leaking to Broadwell, as well as about keeping classified information at his home.
Yet while Kim, a former State Department official, was prosecuted under a draconian law against leaking — even though he merely discussed a single document that a government official later described in court filings as a “nothing burger” — Petraeus was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense of mishandling classified information, and he was not charged at all for the felony of lying to the FBI. Under the deal, he is expected to be placed on probation for two years and pay a fine of $40,000.
“The decision to permit General Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor demonstrates more clearly than ever the profound double standard that applies when prosecuting so-called ‘leakers’ and those accused of disclosing classified information for their own purposes,” Lowell wrote in his two-page letter, which was dated March 6, just three days after the Petraeus plea deal was announced. “As we said at the time of Mr. Kim’s sentencing, lower-level employees like Mr. Kim are prosecuted under the Espionage Act because they are easy targets and lack the resources and political connections to fight back. High-level officials (such as General Petraeus and, earlier, Leon Panetta), leak classified information to forward their own agendas (or to impress their mistresses) with virtual impunity.”