Skip to comments.Bergerís secret
Posted on 07/26/2004 8:31:07 AM PDT by Elkiejg
COVER STORY: Turns out the surprise revelations that ex-Kerry foreign-policy adviser Sandy Berger mishandled classified documents should come as no surprise: Hes done it before, according to Congressman Curt Weldon in this WORLD exclusive.
At 500-plus pages, a reasonable assumption might be that the final report of the 9/11 commission would include plenty of information for even the most voracious reader. But on July 22, as official Washington began poring over the long-anticipated report, the most pressing questions centered on the few pages that might have been left out - after disappearing down the pants of a top Clinton aide.
The furor began on July 20, when former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger acknowledged he was the subject of a criminal investigation involving highly classified terrorism documents he had spirited out of the National Archives. His acknowledgment came after someone with knowledge of the probe leaked the news to the Associated Press. Asked by Mr. Clinton in late 2003 to review the documents for possible release to the 9/11 commission, Mr. Berger admitted he smuggled some papers out of the Archives building while inadvertently removing others. He claims he returned most of the materials when questioned by investigators last year, but several documents have disappeared entirely, leading House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to term the situation a national-security crisis.
The more immediate crisis may be political, however: Mr. Berger had been serving as an unpaid adviser to John Kerrys presidential campaign, prompting top Republicans to question whether he had misused classified information in an effort to embarrass the president. After apologizing for his honest mistake, Mr. Berger resigned his role with the Kerry campaign on July 21.
The Berger controversy threatened to eclipse the findings of the 9/11 commission, which labored for 20 months in putting together its report. In its quest for unanimity, the carefully balanced, bipartisan panel stopped short of saying the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington might have been prevented. But that still left plenty of room for criticism of the Bush administrations handling of the terrorist threat; some questioned whether the whole Berger scandal was a GOP effort to shift the attention of voters.
At a book signing in Denver, Mr. Clinton noted the interesting timing of the Berger revelations, while Kerry spokesman Phil Singer went much further. This appears to be a partisan attempt to divert attention away from the 9/11 commission report, Mr. Singer told members of the media. Instead of using the reports recommendations to learn how we can improve our homeland security, Republicans are playing politics with a criminal investigation. Thats wrong, and in November voters will have a choice on the ballot between a candidate they can trust and a president that continues to mislead the nation.
The Kerry camp went so far as to accuse Vice President Dick Cheney of personally leaking news of the Berger investigation in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans who later led the attack against the former national security adviser. If true, the fact that the White House has Cheney coordinating a political attack at a time when the 9/11 report is coming out with recommendations on how to improve the nations security speaks volumes about the Bush approach to governing, said a letter issued by the campaign.
Republicans, meanwhile, made accusations of their own. Noting that the stolen documents dealt with terrorist threats to ships and airplanes, GOP election officials pointed out that Mr. Berger, acting on behalf of the Kerry campaign, briefed reporters on that very topic last February. Now Republicans want to know if the Democrats used classified information in an effort to undermine the presidents standing on issues of national security.
In fairness to the president of the United States, its important that this be followed and pursued so the American people can know that the predicate of many of the charges made against George W. Bush are based on lies and deception, said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), noting the curious connection between the smuggled documents and the Kerry press conference.
I dont know what happened to these documents after they were put in Mr. Bergers pants, but its been reported in the press that these documents related to homeland security and our airports and seaports and its very interesting to note that those are two areas where Sen. Kerry has been critical of the Homeland Security Department, said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). I would hope, No. 1, that the Kerry administration would disavow any connections with Berger, that they would come forward with any documents . . . and that we can bring this matter to a close very quickly.
A quick close to the matter seems highly unlikely. The investigation has been quietly proceeding for nine months already, ever since workers at the National Archives reportedly saw Mr. Berger stuffing documents into his pants, shirts, and socks. The Archives inspector general notified Mr. Berger he was being investigated in October 2003. Four months later, the FBI broadened the inquiry into a criminal investigation.
Mr. Berger insists that the only papers he intentionally smuggled from the Archives were his own handwritten notes about the documents he was reviewing on behalf of Mr. Clinton. His lawyers initially said Mr. Berger knew he was violating Archives regulations by removing his notes, though he didnt think he was breaking any laws. They later backed off that claim, acknowledging Mr. Berger was cognizant of the law, which requires Archives staffers to review all papers that leave the reading rooms where classified documents are stored.
Besides his own notes, Mr. Berger admits to removing several highly classified documents by inadvertently slipping them into a leather portfolio he was carrying. In addition to numerous memos, those documents reportedly included several draft versions of a report critical of the Clinton administrations counterterrorism efforts surrounding the millennium celebrations of Jan. 1, 2000. When confronted by investigators, Mr. Berger says he promptly returned all the documents he could find, though some apparently were discarded - again, inadvertently.
I made an honest mistake which I deeply regret, Mr. Berger told reporters the day the scandal became public. I dealt with this issue in October 2003 fully and completely. Everything that I have done all along in this process has been for the purpose of aiding and supporting the work of the 9/11 commission, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply absolutely wrong.
But his explanations - and his track record - have left many in Washington with lingering questions. Why, for instance, would Mr. Berger go to such lengths merely to sneak his own notes from the reading room? Archives workers who bent the rules by letting him bring his leather portfolio to the table - something thats normally forbidden with presidential papers - would surely have been lenient when reviewing the notes he was making.
And what of the classified documents he accidentally removed and subsequently lost? While some might be willing to believe he let one copy of the millennium terror report fall unnoticed into his portfolio, how could he mistakenly remove multiple draft copies of the same report over a one-month period?
Mr. Bergers defenders note that he is known for his sloppiness, and that it took multiple assistants to keep him organized during his tenure as national security adviser. But his detractors remember something more sinister about his years in the Clinton White House: Even then he was manipulating classified information to achieve political goals.
This is the second time now that we have a documented case of Berger mishandling classified information, said Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), recalling a 1999 incident that led him to take to the floor of the House to criticize the outrageous and curious behavior of our so-called national security adviser.
As a member of the Cox Committee charged with investigating the transfer of high-tech secrets to China during the Clinton administration, in January 1999 Rep. Weldon sent an advance copy of the committees report to Mr. Berger for his review. After seven months of closed-door, bipartisan hearings with no leaks to the press, the committee of five Republicans and four Democrats had unanimously recommended some three dozen steps that should be taken to protect Americas national security.
Within days, however, Sandy Berger issued a statement to selected members of the media putting the White House spin on what was still a classified document, congressman Weldon recalled. He did that without asking any member of the committee. Before the CIA director could even read our report, Berger was already spinning. That sets the pattern for what may have occurred in the Archives case, Rep. Weldon believes.
Though he planned to remain silent on the current controversy until more facts came to light, a reminder of Mr. Bergers record was enough to change Rep. Weldons mind. I remember this vividly now, he told WORLD in his first interview on the subject. I went through it in a detailed way on the floor of the House. Theres absolutely no doubt in my mind that Berger pre-released classified information to benefit the White House.
Then as now, the Pennsylvania congressman faults the Clinton spin machine for putting political calculus before the national interest. This was an egregious violation of our countrys national security, he said of the top-secret documents missing from the National Archives. Theres no way that any human being would put information in their socks unless they were trying desperately to hide something.
The question is, for what reason? We dont know for sure what documents are missing, and we may never know. But obviously there was something there that bothered him dramatically.
"We dont know for sure what documents are missing, and we may never know."
I heard that he never handled the originals, but only copies - so they all should still be there.
Does anyone know the procedures used ?
How did this fool ever get a job in intell.
You are falling for Democrat spin.
Each "copy" was a unique document in that they had all been circulated for review and comment and each had it's own collection of comments attached.
It looks like it was the comments that Berger was stripping away because someone had appended something damaging to the docs.
Suppose for instance, clintion had written on there "we need to do more about airports, we don't want another Jumbo jet brought down off Long Island with a Stinger missile"
that sort of comment would have been devastating once the 9/11 commision got hold of it.
It Appears Berger was going through all versions of the document removing incriminating attachments such as post-its and stealing entire documents where there was something written in the margin that he didn't like.
So what was left was sanitized versions of a report. The incriminating stuff was all stripped away.
"So what was left was sanitized versions of a report. The incriminating stuff was all stripped away."
This you miss-posted to me... but I don't think he had the originals of anything, including drafts or postits.
My best guess is that he wanted to have copies of the originals including margin notes and postits so he ( the DNC ) could spin anything that came out of it. The original writer of the margin notes and postits would not necessarily have a copy of it.
He's not a fool, he's a spy and a traitor. His purpose was to enable and progress communism. Like the Rosenbergs he will take the fall, if necessary to ensure the sucess of commies. Unlike the Rosenbergs he has more cover and assistance from other commies that promote the "fool" label. A fool might get off.
Okaaaaay now...it is all starting to make sense now...
The sweep revealed that a wire had been installed inside the wall structure leading to and from the ninth and tenth floors of the DoDIG (areas which comprise the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the personal office space of the inspector general)."
Clinton's former IG, Eleanor Hill, was staff director of the Joint Intelligence Committee who decided what information the 9/11 committee members would see and which witnesses would be called to testify. She also helped cover up Chinagate according to this story...
The results of the investigation was due to be released in the summer of 2002. Why have we not heard about this?
Clinton:"We have all been laughing about it"
I heard this too (I think it was on fox??). What i'd REALLY like to see of course are the originals of the docs he purloined. In the sense that these should tell you if he really had something to gain by disappearing them.
Then again, it's not much of a choice for the dems: either he's stupid, or he's devious. Since he actually WAS a very effective mover in intel, he's probably not stupid, so...
Still, I guess I COULD just possibly imagine it was an honest mistake, if I could see that what was missing wasn't in itself incrimiating/embarassing. Naturally I'm not gonna be holding my breath though...
Exactly correct about each copy having potentially distinct and damaging information. I mean there was probably one copy on which Clinton marked "can't be botherted with this Bin Laden guy--having too much fun with my own Osama Mama. Or another where Hillary indicated that there was nothing to be gained politically by taking action. Or one where Berger indicated he had "lost" the Sudan's offer somewhere on his desk and would just let it slide, etc.
"Each "copy" was a unique document in that they had all been circulated for review and comment and each had it's own collection of comments attached."
Do we know this as fact ?
A "copy" with a handwriten note or a postit would be an original of the note or postit, it appears to me...
I could imagine security being lax if all he had access to were copies of everything, he had clearance to read them anyway and distributing them would be against other laws.
I can't see any reason for anyone to be allowed access to any originals - I would be very interested for some insight by someone who truely knows the procedures.
That's the democrat spin, but it probably isn't true. Time will tell.
I don't have first hand knowledge of this but have heard fom someone who knows what happens to these documents and how they are handled.
Each copy of each revision of the draft circulated to different locations (Say, one to the White House, one to the Pentagon, and one to Justice) Each copy then collected a different set of comments and found it's way back to the author (Clarke in this case) The copies, once dealt with by Clarke are then Archived with their comments.
I think your assertion that further copies are made in the Archives is misguided. When you are guarding secrets why would you unnecessarily double your task by making copies?
Surely, the fact that they are originals is why the eloborate procedures for handling and guarding them are in place.
If Berger was placing stuff in his socks it is hadly likely he would get 8 x 11 pages in there, but post-its are a distinct possibility.
I still believe he was sanitizing the comments, thats why he wanted all the circulated copies of the drafts.
"When you are guarding secrets why would you unnecessarily double your task by making copies? "
My thoughts were that he would request the documents from the clerks, who would then make and give him copies of each one to review - those copies would be accounted for and destroyed when he leaves.
This way they never handle the originals, and a record could be keep of each document reviewed.
But I guess that would make too much sense :-)
That is way too logical....:-)
Actually it becomes something of a logistical nightmare once you are into documents that maybe hundreds of pages.
When the director of the National Archives found out that Berger was being investigated by the FBI for stealing classified documents, the director's first call went to.... Bruce Lindsey. That National Archives director was subsequently fired, but I suspect that before he left he likely destroyed the originals at Lindsey's request.
"When the director of the National Archives found out that Berger was being investigated by the FBI for stealing classified documents, the director's first call went to.... Bruce Lindsey. That National Archives director was subsequently fired, but I suspect that before he left he likely destroyed the originals at Lindsey's request."
How does this make sense ? The director would have to know which documents Berger stole, then obviously any indexing method they use to keep track of them would also have to be sanitized, so now you also have the FBI wondering just where the originals went. The director would also have to trust that the copies would never see the light of day after he shreads the originals.
The director was a crook. He was fired.
I wouldn't underestimate what his involvement may have been in this whole trouser-gate scandal. We may never know.