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Sandy Burglar:

From today's Washington Post:

On the evening of Oct. 2, 2003, former White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger stashed highly classified documents he had taken from the National Archives beneath a construction trailer at the corner of Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW so he could surreptitiously retrieve them later and take them to his office, according to a newly disclosed government investigation.

The documents he took detailed how the Clinton administration had responded to the threat of terrorist attacks at the end of 1999. Berger removed a total of five copies of the same document without authorization and later used scissors to destroy three before placing them in his office trash, the National Archives inspector general concluded in a Nov. 4, 2005, report.

So, Berger stole and destroyed classified material on multuple occasions — some of which had hand-written notations that are permanently lost — and his only punishment was a fine, some community service, and the temporary loss of his security clearance. At the very least, Berger should never have access to classified documents again.

[Oops! I forgot the link. It's fixed now.]

Justin (mail):
The Politics of American Conservative. A documentary. Chapter 47. The irony of selective outrage.
12.21.2006 1:58pm
A.S.:
Well, that is the only official punishment. Presumably he's not going to be confirmable as a high level official in Hillary Clinton's cabinet...
12.21.2006 1:59pm
Redman:
We will never know what what in those docs.

What we DO know is that whatever it was, it had the potential to scandalize Bill Clinton to the extent that he was motivated to blackmail Berger into risking his professional livelihood in order to destroy it.

Now, Bill Clinton is a person who is not easily embarrassed. The mind reels at what could have been revealed had the information in the docs ever been made public.
12.21.2006 2:00pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Justin, could you elaborate?
12.21.2006 2:01pm
Tocqueville:
I'll never understand why the Justice Department offered the plea deal. They obviously had him red handed.
12.21.2006 2:08pm
memphian (mail):
Justin, that's hilarious. You don't think this is an outrage?
12.21.2006 2:24pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Justin,

that conservatives are more outraged by misdeeds of liberals and vice versa might very well be true, but (a) Berger's actions are indefensible, regardless of your politics; (b) Could you demonstrate Jonathan Adler actually being "selectively outraged?" Is there something he should have been outraged about but wasn't? (c) Why must most of your comments be filled with so much bitterness and venom? I certainly saw no reason in this case.
12.21.2006 2:29pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Tocqueville, he didn't carry the docs out in his grubby little fists, he stuffed them down his pants. Which means they had him red....
12.21.2006 2:30pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Here's the link to the story.
12.21.2006 2:44pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
Many liberals suffers from a common deficiency in critical thinking when it comes to the subject of hypocrisy. For some reason, they let their outrage at hypocritical activity overwhelm their ability to tell right from wrong.

Simply put, even a hypocrite is not wrong on any particular subject just because he's a hypocrite. Something is right or something is wrong, even if a hypocrite is the person who points that out.

Not that I think Prof. Adler is a hypocrite. Just that, even if we were to make that assumption, Justin's indignation would still tell us very little about the propriety of stealing and destroying classified documents.
12.21.2006 2:47pm
Just John:
BGates: ...-footed? -pocketed? -waisted? Don't keep us in suspense!

"Presumably he's not going to be confirmable as a high level official in Hillary Clinton's cabinet..."

Wouldn't that depend on the division of power in Congress? (And, of course, on Hillary becoming president.)
12.21.2006 2:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Given that SB is so willing to take horrid risks on behalf of his masters, I suspect he'd be a shoo-in for a Clinton cabinet post.
12.21.2006 2:50pm
Abdul (mail):
Justin,

I'm conservative, but even I'm thinking there must be less to this story than meets the eye. The way some conservative bloggers cover this reminds me of the way liberal bloggers handled the Valerie Plame thing--breathless and unfounded outrage about "How could Bush blow the cover of that most beloved of American institutions--the CIA?!?!?!?!"
If Berger's crime is that bad, why didn't the DOJ nail him? You can't tell me that it's because all Federal Prosecutors are secretly Clinton-lovers. Maybe there's a rational reason.
12.21.2006 2:57pm
TD019:
I find this entire story to be bizarre. Perhaps someone can explain the seemingly inconsistent actions.

A prominent, respected, and formerly high-ranking presidential aide takes a huge risks and steals classified documents from the National Archives. If the Post story is correct, the documents were damaging enough that Berger intentionally destroys and probably hides the others. But the DOJ, in a Republican administration, no less, offers him a nice plea bargain. I believe he pleaded to a misdemeanor.

There's no selective outrage here. I'm just genuinely curious. Did the DOJ just drop the ball here? Were the documents perhaps just personally embarrassing to Berger, but not particularly important documents in terms of national security?
12.21.2006 3:03pm
PersonFromPorlock:

If Berger's crime is that bad, why didn't the DOJ nail him? You can't tell me that it's because all Federal Prosecutors are secretly Clinton-lovers. Maybe there's a rational reason.

It's because Berger qualifies under the "Important Person" rule: important people don't make trouble for other important people. Simple.
12.21.2006 3:13pm
Pantapon Rose (mail):
For awhile, the Bush administration didn't want blame for 9/11 to be a partisan issue, because there was enough blame to go around. That might be why they didn't prosecute him to the fullest extent.

I suspect they regret that decision now.

Or, it could be nothing. But Occam's Razor would seem to indicate there was something damning, or else Berger wouldn't have gone to the trouble he did.
12.21.2006 3:21pm
Arbusto Spectrum:

the National Archives inspector general concluded in a Nov. 4, 2005, report

Give me a break. This is old, stale news. Hey, did you hear - Nixon died!


At the very least, Berger should never have access to classified documents again.

And at the very least, no one who had anything to do with planning or executing our military efforts in Iraq should never be allowed into positions of responsibility again, and the shills who promulgated the "we are winning" bullsh*t for the last three years should be stripped of their pens....
12.21.2006 3:51pm
Arbusto Spectrum:

At the very least, Berger should never have access to classified documents again

oops - i forgot one -- anyone who voted for Bush twice should never have access to a voting machine again....
12.21.2006 3:52pm
Syd (mail):
TD019:
There's no selective outrage here. I'm just genuinely curious. Did the DOJ just drop the ball here? Were the documents perhaps just personally embarrassing to Berger, but not particularly important documents in terms of national security?


I wonder, too. There seems to be an assumption (see Redman's comment) that the documents were embarrassing to Clinton, but Berger could also have been trying to protect himself.
12.21.2006 4:02pm
Lurker:
According to the article:


In the statement, Breuer emphasized that the Justice Department concluded that other copies of the documents at issue existed and that they were provided to the Sept. 11 commission. He also said the Justice Department affirmed that Berger had no intent to hide the contents.


In other words, no original documents were harmed in the making of this faux scandal.
12.21.2006 4:14pm
K Parker (mail):
At the very least, Berger should be sharing a cell with Jonathan Pollard.
12.21.2006 4:26pm
Houston Lawyer:
As I recall, no original documents were harmed in the Arthur Andersen prosecution either. Maybe he was keeping the documents with the Rose Law Firm billing records.

Meanwhile, the prosecution of Scooter Libby marches on.

Maybe Alcee Hastings could conduct an investigation.
12.21.2006 4:27pm
Random Commenter:
"In other words, no original documents were harmed in the making of this faux scandal."

If true, one wonders why SB stuffed duplicate copies of highly classified national security records into his pants in order to steal and destroy them. Nobody seems to be denying the theft anymore. Or are you arguing that these acts are of no importance if the documents were not original?
12.21.2006 4:28pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
I was told in no uncertain terms that a jail cell awaited me if I intentionally took classified stuff from my workplace.

That was only SECRET-level. Berger was messing with much higher-level stuff. There's no reason he should get a pass. He seems to have won the bet, though, that he's "too important" to be held to the rules that the little people must follow.
12.21.2006 4:37pm
Constantin:
Very persuasive, Arbusto. You've convinced me with your thorough, relevant, on-point argument. Well done indeed. Witty, too. Jon Stewart should be calling any day.
12.21.2006 4:41pm
frankcross (mail):
This is bizarre and very bad behavior.

But I recall the Archives said they gave him only copies, not originals, so this notion of we don't know what he destroyed seems odd.
12.21.2006 4:43pm
keypusher (mail):
oops - i forgot one -- anyone who voted for Bush twice should never have access to a voting machine again....

I don't know about "ever again," but someone needs to put down his keyboard and take a time-out.
12.21.2006 4:43pm
Constantin:
By the way, the "He had the goods on Bill Clinton theory" is surely close to right, but not entirely. This had nothing to do with 1993-2001, and everything to do with 2008.

That's happening, people. And nobody's going to stop it. (Cue the Imperial Theme.)
12.21.2006 4:47pm
Miggs:
Justin is a troll. Please refrain from feeding him.
12.21.2006 5:07pm
PersonFromPorlock:

But I recall the Archives said they gave him only copies, not originals, so this notion of we don't know what he destroyed seems odd.

Apparently they started as copies of the original documents but then had different notes made on them by different members of the administration, making each 'copy' an original in itself.
12.21.2006 5:09pm
Jay Myers:
Lurker:

In other words, no original documents were harmed in the making of this faux scandal.

For your "no original documents were harmed in the making of this faux scandal" comment to have any relevance, you would have to believe that Berger is insane. Do you really think a former National Security Advisor would commit a federal felony just to destroy documents of which other copies existed? Bill Clinton communicated with his staff by making notations in the margins of documents. There were other copies of the original documents but not of the president's hand-written comments.

That still leaves the question of what could have been written on those documents that, post-911, would be so damaging as to require a crime even more serious than Watergate. And because I know this will be argued, stealing top-secret national security documents from the National Archives in order to hide information from the 911 commission is definitely more serious than breaking into a political party's headquarters and then trying to cover it up.
12.21.2006 5:23pm
Dan Hamilton:

Apparently they started as copies of the original documents but then had different notes made on them by different members of the administration, making each 'copy' an original in itself.


Yes, it was the notes on the documents that were important and that SB had to destroy. He didn't care about the Original documents. And the meme "The Original Documents were safe" was used to distract.

It's not the Documents it is the Notes on the Documents!
12.21.2006 5:29pm
tsotha:
I've always been curious about this. Did Berger get a slap on the wrist because of the "important persons" rule, or was this part of some kind of backroom deal between the DNC and RNC? Or did DOJ just bend over backwards to make sure they look impartial?

Probably doesn't matter anyway. Berger probably has enough money to buy a pardon from the Clintons if HRC gets elected.
12.21.2006 5:50pm
Debauched Sloth (mail):
PersonFromPorlock nailed it on the "Important Person" rule.

I have a close friend who is a very high-level lawyer in the intelligence community. He's intimately familiar with prosecutions (or nonprosecutions, as the case might be) of leakers/stealers/negligent handlers of classified information at all levels and among various agencies. He told me that without doubt the most noxious part of his job is seeing how differently "Important Persons" are treated as compared to ordinary schleps.

For example, he told me about a young guy who was new to an agency that classifies pretty much all of its work product TS or above, even when it's not. The kid took home some documents to impress his girlfriend; they broke up, she ratted him out to the feds as payback. DOJ went after the kid with the wrath of God. He hired a subpar lawyer, and now he's going away for just under 20 years.

Contrast that with the case of former CIA director John Deutch, who took home disks with ultra-sensitive, people-will-die-if-this-gets-out agency data and ran them on his unprotected, Internet-linked home computer. Like Berger, Mr. Deutch received a gentle tap on the wrist and was sent to bed with no security clearance for being a very naughty former Director.

My friend says this massively differential treatment happens all the time, and it has nothing to do with partisan politics. Persons of stature and substance simply do not go to jail for flaunting national security. It would be unseemly. Sniff.
12.21.2006 6:32pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):

In other words, no original documents were harmed



There seems to be an almost infinite number of morons who have fallen for the above.

Says the "Dog"
12.21.2006 6:33pm
Angus:

Yes, it was the notes on the documents that were important and that SB had to destroy. He didn't care about the Original documents. And the meme "The Original Documents were safe" was used to distract.


There are no missing notes on the documents, either. The documents Berger got to handle were photocopies of the originals. The Archives kept the originals, right along with all those lovely handwritten notes on them. The only handwritten notes missing are the ones Berger made in 2003 during his stealing/research trips. It is also illegal to remove notes taken about classified documents.

It's still criminal and outrageous behavior, but the archives insist that not one shred of information was lost. Mayber Berger is just an incompetent saboteur.
12.21.2006 6:41pm
Henri LeCompte (mail):
What is most strange about this entire affair is the press's astounding lack of interest in the matter. A former high ranking government official stuffs multiple copies of tip-top secret documents in his shorts, calmly cuts them up with sissors in his private office, lies to the FBI about it, eventually gets caught, and never ever offers even the slightest explanation for this allegedly bizarre behavior, and the press shows not the slightest interest in the whole matter??? Huh?

Is this our usual scandal crazed press? The Mark Foley press? The "digging-up 30 year old National Guard documents" press? Mr. Berger has consistently stated only that he destroyed the documents because he was getting ready for his up-comming testimony. Huh? How does that even begin to make sense? Bill Clinton chuckled the whole thing off as " ol scattered brained Sandy," which was B.S., of course. So where is the press's finely tuned scandal radar?

When will the press park on Berger's front lawn and demand a coherent answer to the question "Why?" We got three years of Plame-Wilson headlines and magazine covers on their Seinfeldian "scandal about nothing!" But not one syllable from Berger that makes friggin sense. And not one reporter who has the slightest curiosity about it.

This is really one of those things that make you go "hmmmm!"
12.21.2006 6:43pm
daveinboca (mail) (www):
Jimmy Carter stole Dennis Ross's map because he could get away with it. He then lied about it.

Berger removed these documents for a better reason, because they had personal notations that he and other senior Clinton types had scribbled in the margins or by underlining that look stupid or incompetent in hindsight.

Or maybe they were about his toe-sucking or wearing ladies' undergarments. But probably they revealed that the 9/11 movie on ABC had only scratched the surface of Billy Jeff's forty thieves and their incompetence!

Can you imagine the brouhaha that would have ensued had it been a Repub stealing docs? After the Plame flame-out over precisely nothing? The MSM is colluding in the crimes of the left and inventing crimes by the right. Billy Jeff and his crew are a left-wing cabal supported by the LAT and NYT and the pilot fish.

Like his boss Billy Jeff, Berger is a liar through and through, and guilty of a felony that should bar him from classified documents for life. He is actually not a knave, but as Billy Jeff first suggested, a fool.

Not as big a fool as Carter, who has retired that cup!

Of course, the NYT won't cover this. It isn't news unless it hurts Bush and Repubs.
12.21.2006 6:46pm
Angus:
I think this bears emphasizing to the conspiracy theorists:


The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that's simply an "urban myth," prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was "so inaccurate as to be laughable." In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.

Link
12.21.2006 6:55pm
Colin (mail):
Sorry, Angus, but this crowd seems pretty attached to their conspiracy theories. You'll need more than some solid information to clear the air in here. After all, that prosecutor could have been bought off by the Hillary '08 campaign to cover up this devil's mendacity.

I don't want to minimize Berger's misbehavior, but is there any actual, factual reason to suspect that the prosecution was coopted? The simplest explanation seems to be that Berger took the copies with him because he felt entitled (wrongly), not because he wanted to destroy secret information. His destruction of the copies seems attributable more to a half-assed attempt to cover up his misbehavior than a shadowy cabal of eeeeeeeeeeeevil Clintonites.

I think we might be seeing the evolution of Berger Derangement Syndrome...
12.21.2006 7:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:
I am now completely confused; were the documents copies with original notes, or copies of the copies with original notes, or copies with no notes at all, original or otherwise? Everything I've read inclines me to believe the first is the case but Angus's WSJ link is sobering, if true.

The problem is that federal prosecutors aren't necessarily truth-tellers, either, and at any rate Hillman is being quoted (and possibly mis-quoted), not writing the op-ed himself.
12.21.2006 8:11pm
jaed (mail):
In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.

I would love to believe that - seriously, because there are some ugly possibilities that it would completely foreclose if true - but why on earth would Berger have stolen five identical printouts from the same electronic document and destroyed three of them?

That part appears to be uncontested, and it makes no sense whatsoever if the documents had the origin discussed above.
12.21.2006 9:53pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
I have to agree with the observation that Berger's so-called "stashing" of stolen secret documents at a construction site looks EXACTLY like making a "dead drop".

At this point there is grounds to suspect Berger of espionage in wartime, which is a death penalty offense.
12.21.2006 10:01pm
Moose:
All of the above reminds me of the tower of Babel. We conservatives and liberals and the Washington crowd have reached such a state that rational discourse no longer exists and where truth and facts are no longer the objective.
12.21.2006 10:07pm
htom (mail):
If Joe Blow surreptitiously took home five pieces of BLANK paper from a Top Secret lab, he'd be spending twenty years in a federal pen. His claim that he'd only taken blank paper would be laughed at, even if he produced the five sheets of paper.

Code Word, Top Secret, Security Theatre.
12.21.2006 10:21pm
dick thompson (mail):
I can't believe you people. If Berger took any originals, copies or copies of copies of documents that were classified Top Secret code word, then he broke the law. It does not matter whether they are copies or not, the classification is still the same and the crime is still the same. I worked with this stuff during the Kennedy/Johnson era and Berger should be in jail for what he did. In particular his having been NSC should have told him that he could not legally remove those documents from the Archives without express written permission from whoever was in charge of the Archives and only if he could provide a valid reason for having them and a secure place to store them. Without that the man broke one of the cardinal rules of security here and his just getting a minor slap on the wrist is ridiculous. He should never get a security clearance again for what he did. Any regular citizen doing what he did would be in jail for years for doing half of this stuff.
12.21.2006 11:21pm
cathyf:
Mr. Hillman tells us.., "there is no evidence after comprehensive investigation to suggest he took anything other than the five documents at issue..."
Well, that's a wee bit stronger than the evidence actually supports:
The report states that in 2003, an official whose name was deleted informed the White House that the documents Berger reviewed during his first two visits -- in May and June of that year -- were so poorly organized and tracked that the archives "would never know what if any original documents were missing." Berger has said he removed nothing during those visits, and a source close to him said last night that no one had accused him of doing so.
Berger's behavior with the five documents that we know about is so bizzarre and inexplicable that it is not reasonable to give him the same benefit of the doubt that you would give to someone whose behavior you understood.
At this point there is grounds to suspect Berger of espionage in wartime, which is a death penalty offense.
Well, it is certainly accurate to point out that whether the "espionage" was for the benefit of a foreign power, or simply for the benefit of Berger's convenience in allowing him to do his prep work at home rather than in the archive under the watchful eye of people who cared about safeguarding classified information, Berger's actions in stealing them were exactly the same. The reason why the laws dealing with classified information make it a crime to steal it whether or not you turn the docs over to a foreign power is that we want very much to eliminate opportunities for espionage, not just prosecute provable espionage after it happens.
12.21.2006 11:49pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
cathyf,

Berger didn't hide stolen classified documents at a construction site for his own convenience. He did it for someone else's convenience and, in wartime, it would be wise to find out just who or what that "someone else" is.

This one is NOT over.
12.22.2006 12:03am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Angus wrote:
There are no missing notes on the documents, either. The documents Berger got to handle were photocopies of the originals. The Archives kept the originals, right along with all those lovely handwritten notes on them. The only handwritten notes missing are the ones Berger made in 2003 during his stealing/research trips.


As evidence for this, he cites Justice Department prosecutor Noel Hillman, quoted in the Wall Street Jurnal:
"Those documents, emphatically, without doubt--I reviewed them myself--don't have notations on them," Mr. Hillman tells us. Further, "there is no evidence after comprehensive investigation to suggest he took anything other than the five documents at issue and they didn't have notes."


But why should we believe Mr. Hillman? The same WSJ op-ed stated:
Mr. Berger's sentencing is scheduled for July, and Mr. Hillman assures us Justice's sentencing memo will lay out the facts and "make sure Mr. Berger explains what he did and why he did it."


Well, we've all seen just how true that last statement was. What a wonderful, full allocution Sandy Burger gave ... NOT! And please note, Mr. Hillman was in a position to enforce a fully explanatory allocution ... and he did not do so. (Not by my standards, anyway, and probably not by those of most people commenting here, otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion..)

So again ... why should we believe Mr. Hillman's other claim about a lack of annotations on the documents?
12.22.2006 1:09am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
(I don't usually spell "journal" without the "o" ... but in my previous comment I seem to have made an exception.)
12.22.2006 1:11am
Lev:

The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that's simply an "urban myth," prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was "so inaccurate as to be laughable." In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.


Link


Hillman's story would be a good way of covering the VIP-ization treatment of Berger as described in other posts.

This doesn't exactly sound like Hillman's story, and regardless of the age of the report,


WashPost More Details About Archives Case


A newly released report by the National Archives' Office of the Inspector General


Anyone have a link to the report itself?
12.22.2006 2:34am
Jim Treacher (mail) (www):
Justin Ane.
12.22.2006 3:39am
big dirigible (mail) (www):
" 'Those documents, emphatically, without doubt--I reviewed them myself--don't have notations on them,' Mr. Hillman tells us."

How could anyone review documents which have been destroyed?
12.22.2006 5:29am
A. Zarkov (mail):

A few random tidbits.

If SB initially lied to investigators isn't he guilty of obstruction of justice as well as the mishandling of classified material? That was enough to send Martha Steward to jail, and Scooter Libby to trial. BTW Libby was Marc Rich's lawyer, the one who negotiated his pardon with Clinton. The day SB stole the documents he was ticketed for speeding at 88 mph in Fairfax, which is where I think he lives. Anyone who knows the local roads there will tell you that's pretty reckless. Likely he was going even faster, because more than 90 mph in Virginia gets you jail time.

As to very important people being above the law, I once heard that back in the Nixon days HK took a codeword document into an open UN meeting and sat there reading it. Of course nothing happened to him, and the story circulated in the intelligence community for years.
12.22.2006 6:09am
Angus:

" 'Those documents, emphatically, without doubt--I reviewed them myself--don't have notations on them,' Mr. Hillman tells us."

How could anyone review documents which have been destroyed?


Because, according to Hillman, what Berger was given to review were printouts from files stored on hard drives. If the files have no written notations on them, neither did the printouts of those files.
12.22.2006 7:16am
Moneyrunner43 (www):
Angus, your explanation is not logical. First, it is a categorical impossibility to review documents that have not been retrieved because they were destroyed. It is possible to believe that you have reviewed copies of documents that were destroyed, but not possible to review the destroyed documents themselves. Your claim that Berger only reviewed copies of documents rather than original documents is also refuted by earlier accounts of the story. See cathyf's comments.

One final quibble, do the National Archives have the ability to place documents with hand written notes in the margin on hard drives and do they do that as a matter of course?

Finally, there is no logical explanation for Berger hiding documents in his pants, or socks to spirit them out of the archives, to hide them under a construction site, and later to cut them up if all he was working with were copies. What was the point?

Or do you risk prison for stealing monopoly money from a bank?
12.22.2006 8:16am
jeanneb (mail):
I'm with Lev: Where's the Inspector General's report? I can't find a link to the original report.

One doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder at such suspicious behavior. Berger stuffed the documents in his socks, fer cryin' out loud! Then hid them at an inactive construction site while surreptitiously checking surrounding windows to avoid detection. After retrieving the documents, he destroyed them. And then he lied about it. When caught, he and his attorney lied to the public about it's being "inadvertent" and they let Friends of Sandy go on with the ole "Sandy's such a slob--ha ha" trope.

The prosecution's behavior is, indeed, inexplicable----because he never explained it as he'd promised to do:
[WSJ editorial] "...Mr. Hillman assures us Justice's sentencing memo will lay out the facts and "make sure Mr. Berger explains what he did and why he did it."
Now, over a year later, we find out Mr. Hillman did NONE of that. And we're left to wonder how Mr. Hillman supposedly reviewed destroyed documents. I have nothing against Hillman or DOJ. But it's beyond a stretch to imply that they adequately explained this episode.

Some are determined that no singular documents were stolen/destroyed, i.e. that originals or copies of all the documents remain at the Archives. If so, why didn't the Archives just declare that from the beginning? That's the part that's never made sense. Instead we've gotten all this gobbledegook about "copies" and "notations" and "print outs" etc. NO report has adequately and fully explained the exact nature of the stolen documents and/or whether Archives employees retained copies of them. If all is well, why not say so?

As to the media's treatment of this, I thought it was the cardinal sin of PR for one to lie to the media. Do that and you turn them into junkyard dogs! But there's no question now that Berger and his attorney lied to the press when the story first broke. Like John Kerry's military records, the MSM just can't seem to find the words to demand full disclosure. In this case, the least they should demand is a full review of the IG's concurrent and investigative notes and a full explanation of the destroyed documents (copies, originals, possibly notated copies?).

I'm not generally susceptible to conspiracies. But the way this has been laid out does make me wonder. If it's all so innocent, why didn't we get all the facts from the very beginning? Something doesn't add up.
12.22.2006 8:39am
Angus:
All I can go by are the statements made by prosecutors and investigators. Most of the crap out there (stuffing things in his underwear or socks, notes in the margins of documents) has been right-wing blog conjecture and speculation so far completely unsupported by fact.

One explanation is that Berger wanted to compare the reports line by line to materials he had at his home. He can't remove them legally, and usually the Archives will not let anyone bring anything in except inspected blank paper. He then destroyed 3 copies which he found to be near identical to one or both of the other copies.

It's not a good explanation, and it doesn't absolve him of what is clearly criminal action. However, the breathless panic about dark conspiracies and sinister coverups is absurd based on what we know for certain. Blogosphere posts are entering into Vince Foster conspiracy nut territory with this. The most logical explanation is just plain stupidity on Berger's part.
12.22.2006 8:40am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Okay, Angus. SB is a stupid slob. He decided, when taking meaningless docs from a classified archive, to play a secret agent Clouseau just to annoy the guards.

That still doesn't explain the lack of interest by the press (which, as has been said earlier, is even interested in fake docs under, ummm, different circumstances)or the prosecution as if the crime were littering.

As has been said earlier, other people doing less but being stupid--impressing a girlfriend--got considerably more than a timeout from classified work.

So either there is something nefarious, or the DOJ is being stupid and careless, as well.

Your pick?
12.22.2006 10:19am
jeanneb (mail):
...absurd based on what we know for certain. Blogosphere posts are entering into Vince Foster conspiracy nut territory with this. The most logical explanation is just plain stupidity on Berger's part.

And there's the rub. It's not what we "know for certain". It's what we don't know and the sloggy way the information has dribbled out. As for his stupidity, that might sell if he weren't esteemed and sought-out in every other quarter for his expertise.

BTW, the most recent revelations support the "sock" reports. There are vague references to Archive employees seeing Berger fooling with "something white" around his ankles. That vagueness is one of the reasons I would like to see the IG's actual report.
12.22.2006 10:26am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
It doesn't matter how Berger got the documents out of the archives. He ADMITTED to behavior with them outside later - hiding them on a construction site - which screams SPY. At this point it is not merely appropriate to suspect him of doing this at the behest of another, but imperative to find how ASAP who he was working for.
12.22.2006 10:57am
Tom Holsinger (mail):
And Berger's behavior suggests a treasonous conspiracy in wartime. This has happened before - Alger Hiss was highly thought of.
12.22.2006 11:00am
SG:
Anus:

I agree that there's a lot of rank speculation going on, but really, doesn't Occam's razor cut disturbingly deep in this case? We've got classified information being removed from the archives intentionally and apparently with premeditation. Even your "most logical explanation" requires us to assume that a former National Security Advisor in the process of investigating the leadup to 9/11 would commit felonies just to compare notes? If he really is that stupid, that's a scandal in itself.

It seems to me that the simplest explanation consistent with the known facts is that he believed he was permanently removing politically embarassing information (without true national security relevance) from the historical record, but was mistaken about it (i.e., other copies existed). Since the information was not permanently lost and was only politically important, it was treated with less severity than it deserved.

And of course the lack of interest in this story by the press is a scandal in itself.
12.22.2006 11:14am
cathyf:
If you read the accounts closely (especially the WaPo reporting) the sequence of events appears to be something like this:

1) Berger visited the Archives twice in May &June 2003, and spent his time reviewing documents which were uncatalogued and poorly organized, some of which would have been irreplaceable originals.

2) Archive staff was suspicious about his behavior but realized that because of their own disarray with the documents they had no way to know whether he was doing anything nefarious or was just a weird guy with eccentric mannerisms. So they set a trap for him on his next visit.

3) They caught him in their trap. Their trap involved documents which had value for espionage for sure, but those particular documents were copies not originals so it was impossible for Berger to destroy anything with those particular five documents.
Berger has said he removed nothing during those visits [the first two visists], and a source close to him said last night that no one had accused him of doing so.
Well, to borrow a phrase, it depends upon what the meaning of "accuse" is. The Archive employees who set the trap obviously didn't do so on just a whim.

And just a note about argumentation -- when bloggers take known information and speculate as to possibilities for the unknown information, this is a completely reasonable thing to do. Responding to such speculation by supplying additional information that makes this or that speculation impossible is a completely valid rebuttal. Ad hominem harumphing about how stupid or insane the speculators are does not rebut their arguments.

(Hook a generator up to this spin machine and we could make the US energy independent...)
12.22.2006 11:25am
SG:
And Angus (sorry about the typo on your name before), would you be as inclined to give the benefit of the doubt in if, say, Condoleeza Rice did the equivalent during a bipartisan commission investigating Iraq war intelligence failures? I suspect the press would be much more interested in the story in that case.
12.22.2006 11:26am
markm (mail):

Finally, there is no logical explanation for Berger hiding documents in his pants, or socks to spirit them out of the archives, to hide them under a construction site, and later to cut them up if all he was working with were copies. What was the point?

There was a very good reason for hiding and destroying them after he spirited them out - they were evidence of a major felony, namely stealing classified documents. Originals, copies, hand-notes, or fresh printouts doesn't matter. Classified documents aren't classified to prevent us from losing information - good computer backup and hard-copy filing practices are the best way to prevent that - but to prevent our enemies from gaining information. If someone takes documents out of the building, then he may be planning to make and sell copies. If that's not his intention, it still opens the opportunity for spies to gain access to the documents by stealth (burglary) or force (robbery), and we may not ever know that they've been compromised.

Even if nothing happens, it's still a major felony, because there are so many things that could happen. I've been in the Air Force and worked for a defense contractor. I never had access to anything nearly as important as what Berger stole, but if I had similarly mishandled the documents I did have access to, even the Secret (not Top Secret) manuals to an aircraft the Air Force was just about to scrap, I'd be doing 20 years in a federal prison right now.

It's an outrageous application of the Important Person principle. Of course, this is a principle GW Bush is as familiar with as Ted Kennedy must be - check out Bush's criminal record sometime.
12.22.2006 11:27am
Deoxy:
Berger has ben caught (admiitting under oath, even) committing the exact same crime Martha Stewart spent time in jail over, PLUS the same crime Libby is undre arrest for, PLUS STEALING TOP SECRET CODE WORD DUCUMENTS. Compare to, oh, say... Marth Stewart, who got jail time, just for what she did.

The double-standard is stupendously apparent. The facts in contention (socks, notes on pages, etc) are irrelevant to that.

Wondering why (plus wondering how much damage was done) is quite reasonable. He did several things that highly resemble espionage, so just writing him off as bumbling or some such is fairly disingenious. Possible? Sure. LIKELY? Um, I have a bridge for sale...
12.22.2006 11:54am
Old Bailey:

Henri, et al.: "Bill Clinton chuckled the whole thing off as 'ol scattered brained Sandy'"
Angus: "The most logical explanation is just plain stupidity on Berger's part."

Among spies & spyhunters, it is said that The Greatest Compliment You Can Ever Pay A Spy is:

"Him? You think he's a spy? Ha ha, c'mon, he's too dumb to be a spy."
12.22.2006 12:29pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Here is a link to the Adobe Acrobat Reader file for the National Archives Inspector General report on Berger.
12.22.2006 1:16pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
The most obvious and logical explanation for Berger's stashing of stolen classified documents at a construction site is that he was working for someone else.
12.22.2006 1:20pm
Dave H (mail):
It has been my experience as a litigator that people almost never do things out of stupity, rather, they usually fail to do things out of stupidity. Whenever I see behavior in an opponent that doesn't seem to make sense, it is almost always because I don't have all the evidence needed to understand their motivations. People do things for a reason, and the choice made to do them may be stupidly based on a lack of information, but people just don't do things, especially things they know are illegal, based on plain stupidity. People don't rob banks bercause they're stupid, they do it because they want money. The decision to do it may be stupid, but stupidity alone does not explain their motivation. And people who rise to positions such as NSA are not stupid. So "that's just Sandy being stupid" doesn't cut it as a valid explanation. He was motivated to do what he did, although what he did may be pretty stupid. But stupidity was not his motivation, something else was. What was it?
12.22.2006 3:03pm
SG:
Tom Holsinger:

The most obvious and logical explanation needs to account for the facts that Berger has been cleared to the highest levels and was only given a slap on the wrist. Plus he retrieved the dead drop himself. These facts argue against (but obviously do not rule out) espionage for a third party.

Assuming the most damaging intrerpretation consistent with the facts (and I agree that your interpretation is consistent with the facts) is neither obvious or logical.
12.22.2006 3:07pm
cathyf:
Plus he retrieved the dead drop himself.
Well he says that he did. I'll note that this is an assertion where the only evidence that has been offered is Berger's word. Pardon me if I take that as something less than mathmatical certainty.
12.22.2006 3:17pm
SG:
cathyf:

Fair enough. My knowledge of this is secondhand and I hadn't heard of that datum being contetested. I agree that Berger's word doesn't count for much, and as he would certainly have motive to lie about that if he were conspiring with others, if there's no independent corroboration of that assertion then it sholdn't be considered valid.
12.22.2006 3:47pm
cathyf:
Well, to be fair to Berger, he claims that he carefully looked around to make sure that there were no witnesses both when he made the drop and when he picked it up. It's not that I'm really contesting Berger's story. I'm just pointing out that you have the whole prove-the-negative problem -- that there is nothing that he could give us that could give us any real confidence that he is telling the truth.

Sometimes you look at something and say, "aha! I see what is true!" Sometimes you look and say, "If only I find out this and this and this, I will know what is true!" This is one of those cases where you say, "it is logically possible that some information could surface that shows that what is claimed is false, but no matter what happens, there is no way to have any confidence that what is claimed is true."
12.22.2006 4:45pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
The dead drop issue raises the issue of conspiracy. Who, or what, was Berger conspiring with?

This one should be done by the book, late for sure, but done by the book. Follow the leads where-ever they go. Assume nothing - in particular, do not assume Berger's good faith, truthfulness or assertions that he acted alone.

People in high places swore up and down that Alger Hiss was innocent, could not possibly have been the agent of a foreign power, etc.
12.22.2006 6:28pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Dave H,

The obvious explanation here is that Berger was conspiring with other high officials of the Clinton admnistration to conceal damaging documents from the 9/11 Commission. I suspect in particular Commissoner Jamie Gorelick, former Deputy Attorney General.

I would love to see the cell phone records of Berger, Gorelick and Ben-Veniste for the six months before and after the Berger was inside the Nation Archives and potentially had documents removed from there.

Note that foreign powers in the D.C. area listen to cell phone calls, and can zero in on those operated by persons of interest. This has blackmail potential.

Do this one by the book. Do it all. Where-ever it goes.
12.22.2006 6:39pm
Justin (mail):
Tom, the report's notes say that all "originals" were "copies" made for the purpose of the review. In other words, no original documents were destroyed. If any documents that had notes on them were destroyed, those notes would have been made by Berger while reviewing them, not while working as National Security Advsior.
12.22.2006 7:04pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
Justin,

I talked onlyl about the dead drop. You are trying to change the subject. Is there a reason you are trying to change the subject?
12.22.2006 8:21pm
breen (mail):

Is there a reason you are trying to change the subject?

I think Justin's a spy, Tom. Get him!
12.22.2006 8:43pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
What Berger did, and what the objective of a possible conspiracy might be, are two different things. The latter is only speculative at this point - I pointed out an obvious possibility. What Berger did, i.e., behave as though he was a spy and therefore a member of a larger conspiracy, merits a full-bore investigation.
12.22.2006 9:12pm
jeanneb (mail):
From Page 14 of the IG's report:

"________ said ___ informed the White House that NARA was not able to reconstruct the responsive documents for EOP2, as Mr. Berger was provided original documents. ________ said ____ would never know what if any original documents were missing from Mr. Berger's visits on May 30, 2003 and July 18, 2003.

The OI, with assistance from __________, reviewed the documents Mr. Berger had reviewed in an attempt to identify if it could be determined if additional documents were missing. It was not apparent that Mr. Berger removed an entire NSC numbered package or a SMOF file folder, however, the contents of these documents could not be verified. Due to complications, the emails Mr. Berger reviewed could not be readily reconstructed."


There are numerous statements in the report that, while no "folders" are known to be missing, the Archives does not have a way of knowing whether any pages are missing from a folder. On one occasion Berger removed a document related to the Millenium report. On a later visit he "was surprised" to see the same report---so he took it again! (Tell me this wasn't an attempt to destroy all copies of...well, something!).

In a couple of instances, Berger apparently took a document which was the only document in a folder. Archives employees later found different documents in those folders. There are references to "sticky notes" being moved or missing from documents after Berger's visits.

Granted, it's not an easy report to read. The redactions make it even harder. But I made it through the whole thing.
12.22.2006 9:53pm
cathyf:
Tom, the report's notes say that all "originals" were "copies" made for the purpose of the review. In other words, no original documents were destroyed. If any documents that had notes on them were destroyed, those notes would have been made by Berger while reviewing them, not while working as National Security Advsior.
No, Justin, the report says that the five documents that they are sure that Berger took in Oct, 2003 were copies. It's somewhat ambiguous whether they were copies because that made sense because of the form that they were stored in the Archives, or that they were copies because the Archives staff was suspicious of his behavior and so they were taking precautions if their suspicions turned out to be well-founded.

As for the documents that he had access to in his May and July trips, those were uncatalogued originals. If those had simply been copies, then the Archives staff wouldn't have had any reason to be suspicious -- they would know for sure that either all of the copies had come back or not, because they could simply compare to the originals.
12.22.2006 11:20pm
jeanneb (mail):
Here's how the Washington Post summarizes part of the IG's interview with Berger:
Berger said he started taking the copies on Sept. 2, to help him prepare for his testimony before [the 9/11 Commission]...

On a subsequent visit, on Oct. 2, Berger was surprised to see other copies of the document in the files he was given, and he slid each one under his briefcase to hide them.


I read the parts they're summarizing, but I can't copy/paste from the document. Sure sounds to me like he had specific intent to remove all evidence of that particular document.

As Cathy said, if one takes the time to read the report, there are numerous places where it says the Archives...

1) ...cannot say whether any documents were removed during his May, July visits.

2) ...cannot replicate emails he took during his Sept, Oct visits.

3) ...can only say that no entire "folder" was taken. The entire contents of one folder did disappear...and replaced with other documents that didn't belong in that folder. The missing document was 12 or 13 pages.

4) ...cannot say whether pages are missing from any folders, given that only the folders were catalogued. The Archives had no record of the individual pages/documents in a given folder. Thus a missing document would be untraceable.

5) ...discovered that original sticky notes were removed from some documents, in some cases re-stuck to a different document.


In other words, we will never know what was removed. I can't say he altered the historical record. But neither can others say "nothing was lost...there were copies". This report makes it clear the Archives did not have a record of what was in those files. Therefore they cannot say whether anything was removed.

Lastly, I have a question for those who say Berger simply wanted the documents to help him prepare for his testimony.
According to the report he worked until after dark the night he hid the docs under the trailer. He then went to his office and destroyed at least 3 of them.

If he wanted them for his preparation, why did he destroy them on the same night he pilfered them?!
12.23.2006 7:53am
cathyf:
Lastly, I have a question for those who say Berger simply wanted the documents to help him prepare for his testimony.
Ok, the only things that we have proof that Berger took are:

1) Most of his notes that he took during his May, July, September and October visits. Security regulations were that he would write the notes, leave them at the Archives, they would be copied, catalogued, security reviewed, and sent to the 9/11 Commission. He left behind a few pages of notes to avoid it being obvious that he was stealing the notes.

2) Five printouts of four emails that the Archives has on disk (and Berger knew that they were printouts of emails, because the job he was doing was to sift through the thousand search "hits", paging by the false positives and making printouts of the emails that they thought were relevant.) Two of the printouts were of the same email -- that Berger stole one, and then when they printed out another copy he stole that one too was the smoking gun that proved he was stealing documents. All four of the emails whose printouts he stole were emails which were sending four different revisions of the Millennium Alert After Action Report.

Ok, so, to answer your question, the reason that Berger stole copies of all four revisions of the MAAAR was that he needed to know exactly what they did and did not say so that he could co-ordinate his lies to the reports so that his lies wouldn't be detectable. That might not be exactly what people usually mean by "Berger simply wanted the documents to help him prepare for his testimony," I suppose. But put that way, it doesn't seem like that irrational an act, eh?
12.23.2006 7:02pm