Expertise's Politics and Sports Blog

Thursday, July 22, 2004
The Washington Post's crippling story on Berger.

There's no other way to put this.  If the Washington Post is dead on the money in this article, set to be in their paper this morning, Sandy Berger is done.

Here are some exerpts:

"After Berger's previous visit, in September, Archives officials believed documents were missing. This time, they specially coded the papers to more easily tell whether some went missing, said government officials and legal sources familiar with the case. 

If this is true, and they indeed coded the documents in anticipation to Berger entering the archives, then that kills the idea that it was an "accident" and was "unintentional", as Berger has been claiming from the start.

Here's more:

"Several days later, after he had retained Breuer as counsel, Berger volunteered that he had also taken 40 to 50 pages of notes during three visits to the Archives beginning in July, the lawyer said. Berger turned the notes over to the Archives. He has acknowledged through attorneys that he knowingly did not show these papers to Archives officials for review before leaving -- a violation of Archives rules, but not one that he perceived as a serious security lapse."


Now, I got the impression that these were a few handwritten notes.  40 to 50 pages?  That sounds like a pretty large portfolio. 

Considering the high security measures taken by National Archives staffers with HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS, that "perception" is full of bunk too.  Either the former National Security Advisor - who at the very least is supposed to understand the importance of securing highly classified documents -  is completely ignorant, or he thinks everyone just fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

Also, the Washington Post's use of the word "volunteered" needs to be defined:

"As his attorneys tell it, Berger had no idea in October that documents were missing from the Archives, or that archivists suspected him in the disappearance. It was not until two days later, on Saturday, Oct. 4, that he was contacted by Archives employees who said that they were concerned about missing files, from his September and October visits. This call -- in Berger's version of the chronology, which is disputed in essential respects by a government official with knowledge of the investigation -- was made with a tone of concern, but not accusation. 

Berger, his attorney Lanny Breuer said, checked his office and realized for the first time that he had walked out -- unintentionally, he says -- with important papers relating to the Clinton administration's efforts to combat terrorism.

Berger alerted Archives employees that evening to what he had found. The classified documents were sensitive enough that employees arrived on a Sunday morning to pick them up."
The way the rest of the press has reported on this story, they made it seem as if Berger handed over the documents on his own, as if he went BACK to the Archives and gave them the documents on his own without any type of notification that he took them.


"Berger has known for months that he was in potential jeopardy. Breuer was hired in October, and in January former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart was enlisted to remain on standby if a public controversy blossomed. But Berger allies said he did not inform Kerry because he had resolved to work privately with Justice Department officials, and received assurances that these officials would treat the matter confidentially."
Oh yeah.  He knew from the start that he was wrong in taking that material.  That's why he called up Breuer and Lockhart.  And I'm sure he wasn't the only one that was informed as well, as Slick Willie was the one who told him to go to the National Archives in the first place.

In light of this story by the Washington Post, I don't see how criminal charges could not, and should not, be filed against Sandy Berger.

Even if their allegation of the coding system turns out not to be true, the simple fact remains that Berger admitted to taking unclassified documents that had not been cleared by the National Archives THREE TIMES starting in July. and did not return any of them until he was notified by the National Archives that they were missing after his visit.

One time could be deemed unintentional.  THREE TIMES is deemed intentional.  Regardless of if he did it in the auspices of a cover-up or not, the fact remains that he took them when he shouldn't have, and that's illegal.  Ashcroft needs to get to work.

Posted at 02:25 am by Expertise



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