Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Sandy Berger and his backside

On the one hand the Sandy Berger matter seems kind of odd, if not silly. On the other hand, I assume that Berger is not a silly man. So what is going on here? How seriously should this be taken. Not very, according to Bill Clinton. The Denver Post reports that Clinton said this about the Sandy Berger matter: "We were all laughing about it on the way over here," the former president said of the investigation into Samuel "Sandy" Berger on classified terrorism documents missing from the National Archives. "People who don’t know him might find it hard to believe. But ... all of us who’ve been in his office have always found him buried beneath papers." It seems to me that this is a revealing response from Clinton. It shows what a fundamentally unserious person Clitnon is. This is a good reminder of what his presidency was, as a wit once said, "a series of sexual episodes between two Bushes."

The New York Times reports that not only did classified memos got placed in his portfolio, but "Mr. Berger also put in his jacket and pants pockets handwritten notes that he had made during his review of the documents," according to his lawyer. The Washington Post story on the matter says this (which Andrew Sullivan focuses on: "A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government’s response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified "codeword," the government’s highest level of document security." The key word in this is "all five or six drafts..." Sullivan thinks this may be typical Clinton-era advance damage (and sleazy) control.

USA Today notes (as AP did yesterday) that Berger did this on more than one occasion: "After one of his visits to the Archives last fall, one of the government officials said, Berger was alerted to the missing documents and later returned some of the materials. On subsequent visits by Berger, Archives staffers specially marked documents he reviewed to try to ensure their return. But the government official said some of those materials also went missing, prompting Archives staffers to alert federal authorities."

Byron York claims that Berger did some heavy lifting: "The documents Berger took — each copy of the millennium report is said to be in the range of 15 to 30 pages — were highly secret. They were classified at what is known as the "code word" level, which is the government’s highest tier of secrecy. Any person who is authorized to remove such documents from a special secure room is required to do so in a locked case that is handcuffed to his or her wrist." Now again there is key word here. It is the number of pages (15 to 30) that each document contained. This apparently means that he may have taken over a hundred pages, and I wonder what Berger’s "honest mistake" will prove to mean.

Vodkapundit claims more, and, once you get past the few amusing paragraphs about how he understands what it means to stuff things down your pants, you will get to his concern: Berger (ironically) was more concerned about legalities than national security back in
1996 when he recommended to Clinton that we not accept Sudan’s offer to turn over Osama bin Laden because the FBI did not have enough evidence to indict bin Laden.

The Belmont Club only has this to say about the matter: "The Berger story will make it impossible to post until a sense of its extent emerges. The story of the former National Security Adviser stuffing classified material pertaining to the 9/11 terrorist investigation into his pants and socks is like an opening scene into a larger show; the vestibule into a darkened mansion; the trailer to a movie we are half afraid and half compelled to watch."

Discussions - 4 Comments

It appears that the Clinton defenders are going to go with the well-worn Bubba defense on this one. It was all just another chuckle, yuck, yuck snafu of the Clintonian Keystone Cops adventure, this time for the top national security adviser.

The obvious danger in this line of defense is that the American people are no longer in the mood for these sorts of antics, which they gave a pass on previous to 9/11.

The Clinton response is very odd. What frickin’ planet are these people on?

Although I read somewhere (instapundit??) that this is Clinton laying the groundwork for Sandy’s "I didn’t knowingly take classified materials" criminal defense because I am such a sloppy guy.

Don’t forget that today, 7/21/2004, both CNN and MSNBC reported the National Archives had stated the original document resulting from these working drafts was still in its Archives. Sounds stupid to me to take the drafts and leave the original report if one is trying to conceal information?

First, did Sandy Bergler know that? Second, this is just so odd.

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