In August 2010, Stephen Kim, a highly-regarded intelligence analyst in the State Department, was indicted under the Espionage Act for divulging classified information to Fox News reporter James Rosen. If convicted at trial, he faced 10 to 15 years in prison.
Kim allowed me to film his life in intimate detail from the period after his guilty plea early last year — he accepted a sentence of 13 months — until his surrender at a federal prison this past July. I watched him simultaneously disassemble the physical components of his life while he retraced the journey that brought him from speaking zero English as a young Korean immigrant, to the nation’s top universities, to the State Department and ultimately to the courtroom where he faced federal prosecution.
His pain and frustration at the powerlessness of his position as a target of the U.S. government was matched only by his profound sense of loss as he faced his shattered life, family and career. His story raises many questions about the sensitive and important relationship between journalists and their sources. But most fundamentally, it demonstrates the threats to a free press from the government’s continuing crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers.
“The Surrender” has been updated to include new footage of Stephen Kim after his release from prison in 2015.
(Stephen Maing, a documentary filmmaker, is the director of “High Tech, Low Life.”)