Lee P Butler

*Sticky Fingers Berger And The Case Of The Inadvertently Missing Documents

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Sticky Fingers Berger And The Case Of The Inadvertently Missing Documents

July 25, 2004

Just as Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke were being soundly discredited by the Senate Select Committee investigation, another former member of the Clinton administration was being investigated for the possible violation of federal law. It is alleged that former Clinton National Security Advisor, Samuel Berger, removed highly classified documents on terrorism as it was handled by the Clinton administration and were part of the 9-11 commission investigation from the National Archives.

It is a federal crime to remove classified documents from the Archives and against Archives’ policy to leave with notes before they can be cleared by review. Every high ranking member of any administration should have first hand knowledge of these rules. After all, it is common knowledge that you can’t remove a book from a library without checking the book out with the librarian first. The same thing applies here.

Once the story was reported in the press, Berger said, “In the course of reviewing over several days thousands of pages of documents on behalf of the Clinton administration in connection with requests by the Sept. 11 commission, I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives.” He and his lawyer also admit that he ‘inadvertently’ took the classified documents, ‘in a leather portfolio.’

Which was the inadvertent part: putting the documents in the leather portfolio, closing the leather portfolio with the documents inside, or leaving the Archives with the leather portfolio containing the documents? What about his unchecked handwritten notes he admits to putting in his jacket and pants?

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, commented after another Berger statement relegated the incident to ‘sloppiness’. “That’s not sloppy,” DeLay said. “I think it’s gravely, gravely serious…It could be a national security crisis.”

But former President Bill Clinton thought the situation was funny. “We were all laughing about it on the way over here,” he said in an attempt to defend Berger. “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.” That statement actually does more harm than good because it could be speculated that was the reason Clinton chose Berger to handle the sensitive situation of document examination, then conveniently sloppy misplacement.

The plot thickened when it was also discovered that some of the classified documentation Berger ‘sloppily and inadvertently’ took were never returned when the FBI began their investigation. “When I was informed by the Archives there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had, except for a few documents that apparently I had accidentally discarded,” Berger said.

So the chasm of mystery grew wider as it appeared that the ‘accidentally discarded’ documents were written by none other than Clinton terrorism czar Richard Clarke and those documents concerned the handling of al Qaeda terrorist threats involving the millennium celebration in December of 1999 by the Clinton administration and identified the vulnerabilities to terrorism at seaports and airports in America.

Throwing away some papers from a messy desk by mistake is understandable. A former National Security Advisor discarding highly classified documentation, even by accident is unconscionable.

Berger lamented further, “I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced.” But he forgot to add, ‘except for the part I accidentally discarded.’

Democrats have tried to draw a bridge across this growing void and go on the offensive by claiming that they are truly worried about the ‘ interesting timing’ with which this story became newsworthy. This is a classic liberal tactic to avoid the consequences of culpability and redirect attention towards the accuser.

Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., asserted, “So is this about Sandy Berger or is this about politics?” Uh, this would be about national security, breaking federal laws, and compromising public trust. These people aren't concerned that a crime may have been committed, it only matters that a political advantage may be gained.

Just as the old rickety rope bridge over an expanse begins to fall apart in movies, the same could be said is happening with this story for Democrats who are trying to make this a ‘non-issue’ or worse claiming it's a political attack by Republicans who really have very little to gain from this situation.

Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry on the other hand has a lot to lose because Sandy Berger was an informal foreign policy adviser on his election campaign team. Once the news hit the national media and his lawyers confirmed he was under criminal investigation, he quit the Kerry campaign. This information opens up two channels of speculation in which the Kerry campaign either knew about the federal investigation and disregarded it or was totally in the dark about it.

Which ever train of thought you want to ride on this issue doesn’t bode well for the man who wants to be the President of the United States, especially when you take into consideration it had been contended that Kerry was going to appoint Berger to his administration if he won election.

Questioning the ‘timing’ of the news release doesn’t change the fact that a possible federal crime was committed by a man who was a major player in the Clinton administration, had his sights set on a position in a new administration and knew he was under suspicion of violating a federal law about which he should have known better. The question that should be answered is…why.

Lee P Butler

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