July 24, 2004

ANOTHER ITEM FROM THE ONION turns out to be eerily prophetic.

I think I remarked a while back that The Onion wasn't as funny as it used to be. Maybe it's not their fault. Maybe the world has just gotten too bizarre for parody. . . .


Officials at the National Archives were so concerned about Samuel R. Berger's removal of classified documents last year that they imposed new security measures governing the review of sensitive material, including the installation of full-time surveillance cameras, government officials said Friday.

The new policy, issued March 31 to security officers at the archives, lays out toughened steps for safeguarding research rooms used by nongovernmental employees who are given special access to classified material. And it demands "continuous monitoring" of anyone reviewing such material.

The restrictions were put in place as a direct result of the Berger episode, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the continuing investigation. . . .

National Archives officials have reached no judgments on Mr. Berger's motives in removing the documents, and one law enforcement official said, "We don't know what he was thinking when he did it."

Nonetheless, officials at the National Archives viewed the episode as troubling enough that they reviewed their security procedures and issued new guidelines for dealing with nongovernmental researchers like Mr. Berger.

Wouldn't want any more of those inadvertent losses, I guess.

DAVID BROOKS NOTES that the 9/11 Commission is echoing the blogosphere:

We are facing, the report notes, a loose confederation of people who believe in a perverted stream of Islam that stretches from Ibn Taimaya to Sayyid Qutb. Terrorism is just the means they use to win converts to their cause.

It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory. . . .

We've had an investigation into our intelligence failures; we now need a commission to analyze our intellectual failures. Simply put, the unapologetic defenders of America often lack the expertise they need. And scholars who really know the Islamic world are often blind to its pathologies. They are so obsessed with the sins of the West, they are incapable of grappling with threats to the West.

We also need to mount our own ideological counteroffensive.

He's right.

UPDATE: Reader M. Simon emails:

It actually started a long time ago. It was recently articulated by an Iraqi. "Democracy, whiskey, sexy."

Brooks is too smart by half.

OTOH you can't fool me because I'm too stupid. i.e. The Emperor has no clothes.

Our very being is our best advertisement, offensive, and counter offensive all rolled into one.

Have you forgotten why they hate us?

No. It's occurred to many other readers that if Saudi oil weren't in Saudi hands, it would make a big difference, too.

This post by N.Z. Bear from 2002 anticipates Brooks' point -- which doesn't mean that it isn't worth making again.

ANN ALTHOUSE CORRECTS BARBARA EHRENREICH: "Being lower middle class doesn't make you dirty or despicable."

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT! "Dems bar Nader from Convention."

SLATE IS FOR SALE, but what I found most interesting was this bit: "Slate drew 4.6 million unique visitors last month."

I'm not sure how they count it, but some blogs -- including this one -- aren't too terribly far behind that number.

DO FREE DOWNLOADS HURT SALES? Well, the 9/11 Commission Report is number one on Amazon even though it's available for free online.

Not dispositive, I suppose, but interesting.

COLBERT KING writes that Sandy Berger is a test case for governing-class accountability:

Keep the focus where it belongs. Did Sandy Berger violate the rules regarding the protection of classified information entrusted to him, and if he did, will he be held accountable for his actions? . . .

Well, I don't know Berger or even love him except as my neighbor, in accordance with the Scriptures. But I do know that there are men and women in service to our nation who have paid a dear price for their mishandling of classified materials. They, too, were presumably known and loved by others. Nonetheless, their failure to properly safeguard sensitive information landed them in trouble with their government. Should Sandy Berger, because he is connected, be given a pass for taking classified materials out of the National Archives without permission? . . .

The question is, was Sandy Berger's violation due to negligence -- at best -- or was it deliberate -- at worst? And should he be held accountable for his actions? Or is he too important and well-connected to be treated like everyone else? What's the answer, Washington?

What, indeed?

VALERIE PLAME BREACHES SECURITY? Tom Maguire notes a rather odd defense of Joe Wilson. (Read this post from Maguire, too.) They seem to be getting more and more strained.

Add that to Peter Beinart's on-air crackup over Sandy Berger and this stuff isn't a very auspicious sign for the Democrats.

Perhaps they need to take a hint from this poll.

The Kerry Campaign seems to have figured things out, though -- the Joe Wilson "" website is gone from the Kerry page. And -- as Nick Queen notes -- searches for Wilson on the Kerry site now turn up nothing.

Wilson's been airbrushed, which seems like an admission that those who have been defending him were wasting their time. (For those interested in history, here's a preserved copy. Reportedly, they've even cleared the Google cache on this one! [LATER: Google cache found here.])

UPDATE: Rand Simberg observes: "Somehow, I suspect that, even after getting rid of Berger and Wilson, he's still got a lot of ballast to dump if he wants to win this fall, and he won't be able to do it without alienating the base. And his judgement (or lack thereof) in embracing them in the first place is one of the reasons that I'll have to hold my nose and vote for Bush this fall."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow, there's lots of airbrushing going on over at the Kerry site.

But Wilson's still speaking at the Democratic convention!

And he's still signed on for the Salon cruise!

You know, for the people who don't care about credibility. But for those who do, you can always search the web for and find the truth right at the top.. . . .

I'M SUPPOSED TO BE ON CNN at 3:00 Eastern today, talking about weblogs and politics.

UPDATE: Short, but not bad. It'll air again Sunday at 5, if you missed it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This story from the CNN website contains some additional quotes from the interview.

July 23, 2004

IT'S BEEN A WEEK OF TERRORISTS, STOLEN DOCUMENTS, and other disturbing news -- I think it's time for some catblogging. This is our other cat, Precious, as photographed by the Insta-Daughter. Happy Friday night!

GIRLIE MEN T-SHIRTS? I prefer the Security Mom ones myself. . . .

JAY ROSEN has thoughts on national greatness journalism.


LIVERMORE - Linda Ronstadt's political message sent close to a hundred concert-goers home early Thursday evening.

What had been a mellow evening at Wente Vineyards, with the crowd even serenading her with "Happy Birthday" at one point, turned into a rush for the exits by some fans angry by her encore tribute to filmmaker Michael Moore.

"She just had to do it," one fan steamed as he headed for the parking lot. "It was good until the end," another yelled to TV crews waiting outside the concert.


DAVE WINER HAS SET UP CONVENTIONBLOGGERS.COM, collecting blog posts from all the bloggers at the Democratic convention -- including blogging delegates.

LANNY THE LEAKER? He's not denying it.

UPDATE: Now he is.

WAS IT SOMETHING WE SAID? Gerard van der Leun notes that New York Times stock is at a one-year low. He wonders if that's why the Times seems so gloomy about the economy.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has more thoughts.

NEW PRIVATE SPACEFLIGHT LEGISLATION is ready to move, and it doesn't sound bad:

The bill — known as the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, or H.R. 3752— lays out the definition of a suborbital space passenger vehicle, solidifies the process for licensing such vehicles, and allows paying passengers to fly into space at their own risk. . . .

The months-long holdup had to do primarily with language defining suborbital space vehicles, which fall under the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The definition is considered important because any vehicle that doesn't fit the description might have to go through the far more stringent licensing process for commercial aircraft, which is managed by a different part of the FAA. . . .

In addition, the licensing process would become more streamlined, and for the first time, private companies would be allowed to fly paying passengers into outer space — as long as the would-be passengers signed forms acknowledging that they were flying at their own risk.

I think this is a significant step forward. And as I've written before, I think that space tourism is an essential driver for lowering costs in human spaceflight.

ON THE OFFENSIVE: Bush poses questions for black voters at the Urban League speech:

Does the Democrat party take African American voters for granted?

Is it a good thing for the African American community to be represented mainly by one political party?

How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?

Have the traditional solutions of the Democrat party truly served the African American community?

Does blocking the faith-based initiative help neighborhoods where the only social service provider could be a church?

Does the status quo in education really, really help the children of this country?

Does class warfare -- has class warfare or higher taxes ever created decent jobs in the inner city?

Are you satisfied with the same answers on crime, excuses for drugs and blindness to the problem of the family?

I doubt this will pay off big in this election cycle, but it's very interesting to see.

BERGER UPDATE: DRUDGE is flashing a New York Sun item on Sandy Berger. The bottom line:

“In his meeting with Tenet, Berger focused most, however, on the question of what was to be done with Bin Ladin if he were actually captured. He worried that the hard evidence against Bin Ladin was still skimpy and that there was a danger of snatching him and bringing him to the United States only to see him acquitted,” the report says, citing a May 1, 1998, Central Intelligence Agency memo summarizing the weekly meeting between Messrs. Berger and Tenet.

In June of 1999, another plan for action against Mr. bin Laden was on the table. The potential target was a Qaeda terrorist camp in Afghanistan known as Tarnak Farms. The commission report released yesterday cites Mr. Berger’s “handwritten notes on the meeting paper” referring to “the presence of 7 to 11 families in the Tarnak Farms facility, which could mean 60-65 casualties.”According to the Berger notes, “if he responds, we’re blamed.”

On December 4, 1999, the National Security Council’s counterterrorism coordinator, Richard Clarke, sent Mr. Berger a memo suggesting a strike in the last week of 1999 against Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Reports the commission: “In the margin next to Clarke’s suggestion to attack Al Qaeda facilities in the week before January 1, 2000, Berger wrote, ‘no.’ ”

In August of 2000, Mr. Berger was presented with another possible plan for attacking Mr. bin Laden.This time, the plan would be based on aerial surveillance from a “Predator” drone. Reports the commission: “In the memo’s margin,Berger wrote that before considering action, ‘I will want more than verified location: we will need, at least, data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place.’ ”

In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times — Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive today.

It really doesn’t matter now what was in the documents from the National Archives that Mr. Berger says he inadvertently misplaced. The evidence in the commission’s report yesterday is more than enough to embarrass him thoroughly.

(Emphasis added.) Ouch. The Sun is right to stress that this doesn't make Berger responsible for the 9/11 attacks, of course. But it does suggest that he was the wrong man to hold the job he held under Clinton, and that he was a poor choice as senior foreign policy adviser for the Kerry campaign. As Martin Peretz said, "He clearly still has McGovernite politics, which means, in my mind, at least, that he believes there is no international dispute that can't be solved by the U.S. walking away from it."

I hope John Kerry doesn't share those instincts, which proved tragically wrong in this case. But then why did he choose Berger as an advisor?

UPDATE: Especially with this track record, which I had forgotten about until a reader sent me this BBC story from 1999, found via Newsfeed:

President Clinton has defended his National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, against demands for him to resign over the alleged theft by China of US nuclear secrets.

Eighty opposition Republicans earlier wrote to Mr Clinton saying they wanted Mr Berger to resign.

"Mr Berger has failed in his responsibility as this nation's national security advisor by not properly informing you of the most serious espionage ever committed against the United States," the lawmakers said in the letter.

They said he knew of concerns about Chinese espionage, but delayed taking action.

What is it with this guy and secrets? And delays in taking action, or telling his boss?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kerry supporter Brendan Loy has thoughts: "I have to admit, at first blush, this (if true) gives even me pause about Kerry's choice of advisers. After all, if you want to judge a man, one thing you need to do is look at the type of people he surrounds himself with."

LEON KASS is big on the idea of disgust as a moral touchstone. Julian Sanchez interviews Martha Nussbaum, who isn't.

I just got her new book, Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law, today, and so don't have much to add about it beyond what's in the interview.

Two books I have had a chance to look through, though are Hugh Hewitt's and Maureen Dowd's. The Insta-Wife read Hewitt's book and liked it a lot; it looked pretty good to me, too, though it's an interesting mixture of big-picture and grassroots rolled into one.

Dowd's book is, basically, a bunch of her columns sorted by topic. If you like her columns, you'll like the book. If you don't, there's not much value-added.

BLOWBACK IN BOSTON: A minor embarrassment for the DNC.

UPDATE: More here.

INTERESTING FIND in the 9/11 Commission report:

In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests “over there” should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America “over here.” In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet. But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism —especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.

As we mentioned in chapter 2, Usama Bin Ladin and other Islamist terrorist leaders draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam (a minority tradition), from at least Ibn Taimiyyah, through the founders of Wahhabism, through the Muslim Brotherhood, to Sayyid Qutb. That stream is motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by Bin Ladin and widely felt throughout the Muslim world—against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the “head of the snake,” and it must be converted or destroyed.

It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.

(Emphasis added). This language was found by Wizbang, which notes that the Washington Post seems to have missed the significance of this statement.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Cathy Seipp -- though the discussion in the comments soon degenerates into requests for Cathy to wear fewer clothes when appearing on television.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interresting comments here: "After reading some of the reactions from around the sphere, it's clear that the report really is a Mirror of Erised in pdf form - most people don't see the truth, but what their hearts desire."

And Reid Stott says it's all about Congressional priorities:

They say their legislative agenda is so full of such important things, things apparently more important than protecting America from future attack, it’s highly unlikely any of the commission’s dramatic recommendations will even be considered by Congress before the election.

The election. You know, the one they claim will probably be preceded by an Al Qaeda attack. Can’t deal with this, until after that.

At which point we’ll have to create a new commission, call it the 11/1 Commission. In three years, we’ll get their recommendations. If there’s anybody in Congress left alive to give them to. . . .



Once the hijackers were in control, they knew that passengers were using cell phones and seat-back phones to call the ground "but did not seem to care," according to the report. Yet clearly what the passengers learned in those phone calls inspired their counterattack on the cockpit. . . .

"It might not have occurred to him that they were certain to learn what had happened in New York, thereby defeating his attempts at deception," the report said. . . .

The report does not clarify whether the hijackers' goal for Flight 93 was the White House or the Capitol, but indicates that the hijackers tuned a cockpit radio to the frequency of a navigation beacon at National Airport, just across the Potomac River from the capital, erasing any doubt about the region of their intended destination.

At three seconds after 10 a.m., Mr. Jarrah is heard on the cockpit voice recorder saying: "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?"

But another hijacker responds: "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."

The voice recorder captured sounds of continued fighting, and Mr. Jarrah pitched the plane up and then down. A passenger is heard to say, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!"

Then a passenger yelled "Roll it!" Some aviation experts have speculated that this was a reference to a food cart, being used as a battering ram.

Mr. Jarrah "stopped the violent maneuvers" at 10:01:00, according to the report, and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!"

"He then asked another hijacker in the cockpit, `Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?' to which the other replied, `Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.' "

Eighty seconds later, a hijacker is heard to say, "Pull it down! Pull it down!"

"The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them," according to the report, which seems to indicate that the hijackers themselves crashed the plane. "With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C," according to the report.

Seems like this article by Brad Todd holds up pretty well, almost three years later.

SABOTEURS: Amir Taheri writes on the U.N. role in Iraq.

THE 9/11 COMMISSION AND "TERROR IN THE SKIES" -- both discussed over at

July 22, 2004

A SURPRISING REAGAN / CLINTON CONNECTION: Or maybe it's an essential quality for being re-elected. . . .


A while ago I noted that I had ceased to rely on my paper for international and national news. The web’s competitive advantage is overwhelming. Now I turn straight to the Metro section, because the web can’t yet match the resources and reach of a newspaper. If I were king of the forest, I’d turn the A section into the Metro section. For most papers beside the big swingin’ Johnson dailies, the A section is a lost cause; its lunch has not only been eaten but digested and excreted, and most newspapers think it’s still on the plate with its garnish intact. Newspapers to me no longer look like great sober edifices inscribing the details of history as the parade clatters past. They just look like group blogs. Without the honest admission of bias.


REPORTING ON TERRORISM BEFORE 9/11 comes in for criticism.

DAVID WARREN: "No matter who is President after November, it appears the U.S. and Iran are now on course for another history-making collision."

MATTHEW CONTINETTI ASKS: "Are these journalists going to fall on their swords for politics? . . . Is Wilson saying that Kristof published something different from what he told him? It's quite a charge." And it's one you'd think people would answer.


"MUGGED BY VIACOM:" John Lehman expresses his dissatisfaction with the 9/11 Commission's process. (Via Ed Morrissey).

BUSH'S STRATEGERY: Steven Den Beste and Gerard van der Leun offer their takes. Are they right? Beats me, but they're interesting.

CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED: Soundfury's roundup of Iraqi blogs is up.

Al-Hurra needs to get over its problems.

A BUSH-TWINS CAPTION CONTEST and much, much more -- all over at InstaPunk. Where the blog name is derivative, but the blog content isn't!

STICKY FINGERS: The funniest Sandy Berger photoshop yet.


I tuned in to the NBC nightly news just to see what sort of misleading spin would be offered on the latest developments in the Berger situation.

Lo and behold, he didn't even mention it.

I guess that's how it is. I never thought the media bias that is SO obvious was THAT blatant and widespread.

Just thought you might like to know.

I didn't watch Brokaw tonight, but I'm not surprised. Though it seems to me that the media folks are doing long-term damage to their position for short-term political gains.

HOW TO BECOME A LAW PROFESSOR: Orin Kerr has some links to useful information for those who may be interested.

A LOST AND FOUND NOTE FROM THE GEORGETOWN STARBUCKS -- I hope the poor guy finds those lost papers. . . .

HERE'S A LINK TO A SEARCHABLE VERSION of the 9/11 Commission report.


How about that? How many times have we heard Clinton say that he missed Bin Ladin by just a few hours? Yet the after-action report is missing, so the Commission relied on Sandy Berger's testimony.

My guess is that someone would have asked about that, and once on the subject of Berger and missing after-action reports, the story of the criminal investigation could hardly be kept quiet. Hence, a pre-emptive leak by someone close to the commission to avoid distraction. . . .

Well, I'll know I am on to something if I don't see it in the Times tomorrow.

(Emphasis added.) Go there, and follow the links. This just may answer some important questions about what Berger was up to, and why the leak happened when it did.

THE 9/11 COMMISSION BOTTOM LINE: "We believe we are safer. But we are not safe." Ed Morrissey has more.

"REYNOLDS SHAMED:" I'm being seriously dissed by Andrew Stuttaford. Next he'll be questioning my patriotism! Those right-wing smear artists will stop at nothing, you know.

AN OBLIQUE REFERENCE TO SANDY BERGER? A reader sends this passage from page xvii of the 9/11 Commission Report:

We have not interviewed every knowledgeable person or found every relevant piece of paper.

Heh. More interesting stuff here.

UPDATE: On Berger, reader Kyle Kveton emails:

Let's leave aside who leaked, why it leaked, or even whether all he took were copies. He has said he "believes" the documents he didn't return were "inadvertently destroyed." What if the "loveably sloppy" former NSA didn't destroy them? What if they're still around--out there somewhere? What assurances can he give us that those highest level classified documents haven't been taken by someone else? Where did he leave them? Were they in his "sloppy office" where a cleaning crew could pick them up? Did he even try to secure them after they were removed from the archives? Let's ask Berger and his lawyers to answer those questions.

I wish somebody would.

PHOTOBLOGGING THE CONVENTIONS: The ExposureManager folks have set up a special free site for bloggers covering the political conventions to make photoblogging easier.

I hope that a lot of the bloggers there will post photos -- and maybe even video -- of what's going on, along with their reports.

JEFF JARVIS WILL BE ON CNN TONIGHT, talking about how we've changed since 9/11.

HEH: Google, circa 1960.

RAND SIMBERG is answering Mickey Kaus's questions about the Berger document-theft scandal and classification.

TOM MAGUIRE JOINS THE CROWD razzing The New York Times for its miserable and dishonest coverage of the Sandy Berger document-theft scandal. (More here, too.)

I got an email from a journalist asking me to assess Bill Keller's Times so far. I'd say the answer is -- not really any better than under Howell Raines.

THE FAILURE OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION: Ryan Boots asks, "what did the Commission tell us that we didn't already know?"

And here's what he wants to know:

-What has changed in airline safety since 9/11?

-Are we still frisking grandmothers and six-year-olds and letting Mohammed Atta-lookalikes cruise through metal detectors? If so, why?

-How well is the Patriot Act really working? Is it preventing terrorism? Is it helping track down al-Qaeda cells? What aspects of the Patriot Act work, and what portions of it don't?

-What is being done to protect industrial infrastructure, such as nuclear plants and sources of water?

-What has been done to strengthen border security? (snicker)

-Have the immigration loopholes exploited by the 9/11 hijackers been closed? If not, why not?

I haven't perused the report yet, but I don't think it answers these questions. And I agree that they matter.

RELIGION CRUSHING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: Virginia Postrel has a frightening tale.

UPDATE: Where's the religion, here? It's the "religion" of animal rights in Britain, a comparison that Virginia makes quite explicitly. A lot of readers seem to be missing that, though.

ONE SUSPECTS THAT MOST BIG MEDIA OUTLETS, already none-too-eager to cover the Sandy Berger Trousergate fiasco, will use the release of the 9/11 Commission report as an excuse to ignore it.

If I were Karl Rove, I'd encourage Republicans to counter this by prefacing all comments on the report with something like this: "In light of the ongoing criminal investigation involving charges that former Kerry foreign policy adviser Sandy Berger stole top secret documents from Commission files, we can't be sure that the Commission had all the facts at its disposal, but. . . "

But I'm not Karl Rove.

UPDATE: Rove may want to follow my advice, though. Reader Robert Jacoby emails:

Here are the top stories on my (customized) yahoo news page, all AP stories:

1) 9/11 Panel Suggests Intelligence Overhaul
2) Video Shows 9/11 Hijackers' Security Check
3) U.S. Reports 94 Cases of Prisoner Abuse
4) House Takes Up Gay Marriage Issue Again
5) Marines Kill 25 Insurgents in Ramadi
6) Threatening Note Found on Amtrak Train

7) 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Making GOP Nervous

I'll spare you the rest of the headlines. Not one of the 20 stories on that page says anything about Berger. Now it makes sense for most of the stories to be there, but why the Michael Moore story and not the Berger story? That has much deeper implications that a movie. I get similar results for my customized Netscape page, including the Moore story. Not only are the news outlets ignoring Bergergate, they are in its place pushing anti-Bush stories.

I guess Evan Thomas was right.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner says that my advice to Karl Rove is terrible. Good thing I'm not Karl Rove!

HERE'S THE LINK to the 9/11 Commission report. I can't get it to open at the moment, because of high traffic I suppose. I'll try later. In the meantime, the folks at The Corner are posting tidbits.

SUCCESSFUL ANTITERRORISM: Giving credit where it's due. But have you ever heard of Diana Dean? And why not?

JAMES LILEKS' SYNDICATED COLUMN is on the Sandy Berger affair:

Hey, it's happened to us all. You have an orange for lunch, your hands get sticky. Things happen, and besides, none of the memos could possibly have cast the Clinton team in a bad light, of course.

But let's play everyone's favorite game, "What If He Was a Republican?" Imagine Dick Cheney caught filling his socks with documents on pre-Sept. 11 security procedures. Imagine a hidden camera snapping shots of Condi Rice slipping secret memos into her foundation garments. We wouldn't be hearing about impeachment, we'd be debating the probity of rolling a guillotine toward the White House, and whether the heads should be arranged alphabetically on the fence spikes, or by seniority.

So what do we do with a guy who not only treats his trousers as a diplomatic pouch but was national security adviser during the years when al-Qaida feasted on American laziness?

Blame Bush, if you listen to David Sanger and Eric Lichtblau.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: "C'mon, Keller. You can do better."

WAS KERRY THE ONLY ONE WHO DIDN'T KNOW? I found this quote from the otherwise-unimpressive New York Times story interesting, and it gets more interesting as I think about it:

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Berger's spokesman, Joe Lockhart, said: "Mr. Berger never passed any classified information to the Kerry campaign. Any suggestion to the contrary cannot be supported by any facts."

At the Kerry campaign, officials say they were taken by surprise by the accusation. It appears that Mr. Berger did not disclose the investigation to Mr. Kerry's aides. Mr. Lockhart said that was because "we were dealing in good faith with the Department of Justice on this matter for many months, and part of our agreement was that this was not to be discussed beyond Sandy's legal team."

So Berger knew he was under investigation. As we've seen earlier, Bill Clinton says that he knew months ahead. And, I guess, so did Joe Lockhart, serving as Berger's "spokesman." (Hence the "we" and "our" -- and who else might be included in those terms? And why does a retired government official have a spokesman, anyway? Beats me.) Yet John Kerry says that he "didn't have a clue."

If I were Kerry, I'd worry about what else my staff wasn't telling me.

UPDATE: Reader Jim Geraghty emails:

There's one element strangely missing from this story. Kerry has said he didn't know, and high-level Kerry advisors with good records of veracity have said the campaign didn't know until the story broke.

So where's the anger?

I'm not expecting Kerry himself to snarl, "No, that [BAD WORD]ing two-faced son of a [ANOTHER BAD WORD] didn't tell me about a FBI investigation, even though he found the time to tell Bill [REALLY BAD WORD]ing Clinton!" But where are the anonymous quotes from Kerry's supporters trashing Berger? Where are the "how could Berger do this to our guy" comments?

According to Kerry's version of events, Berger just stabbed his party's man in the back by not telling him about the FBI investigation. Doesn't anybody in the Democratic party want to call Berger a jerk?

This is a dog that has been very, very quiet lately.

Good point. They let him go swiftly, but didn't act all that upset for what by any measure is a major blow to their campaign. That would tend to support Kevin Drum's Democratic leaker theory.

MORE: "Bill Clinton may be laughing, but I'll bet John Kerry isn't." I'm not sure.

SOME THOUGHTS on what weblogs add to news.

IRAQ, IRAN, SAUDI ARABIA, AND MORE: Check out Dan Darling's war news roundup.

Because there's more to the news than ketchup, or Sandy Berger's socks.

And speaking of ketchup-blogging, Sean Hackbarth is at it again, with this proviso: "Cheap gimmick not endorsed by Glenn Reynolds."

Because there has to be one cheap gimmick that I don't endorse. . . .

DARFUR UPDATE: The Washington Post editorializes:

It is as though, in the wake of the West's failure to prevent Rwanda's genocide, the gods of history are asking, okay, if we give you a second chance and months of warning, will you do better? So far the prospect that 300,000 to 1 million people may perish -- an estimate offered more than a month ago by Andrew S. Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development -- is failing to galvanize serious action.

Genocide works, because, fundamentally, the world doesn't care. And the genocidaires can always find ready allies.

MAUREEN DOWD'S BACK, and Stephen Green is paying attention. Well, somebody has to.

GREG DJEREJIAN says that The New York Times has no shame in its treatment of the Berger story:

Rarely have I seen a major newspaper play a story in such brazenly partisan fashion.

It truly beggars belief.

Check out today's lead NYT story on the unfolding Sandy Berger scandal by Eric Lichtblau and Dave Sanger.

Boy, is it a whopper. . . . Your baffled NYT readers might be excused, at this juncture, from thinking George Bush himself was stuffing docs down his socks and trousers.

Read his dissection. I think this tells us that they're really scared that this story has real substance, and legs. As with Pravda, you have to read between the lines. And this Washington Post story may explain why they're scared:

Last Oct. 2, former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger stayed huddled over papers at the National Archives until 8 p.m.

What he did not know as he labored through that long Thursday was that the same Archives employees who were solicitously retrieving documents for him were also watching their important visitor with a suspicious eye.

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 disappeared, said government officials and legal sources familiar with the case. . . .

The government source said the Archives employees were deferential toward Berger, given his prominence, but were worried when he returned to view more documents on Oct. 2. They devised a coding system and marked the documents they knew Berger was interested in canvassing, and watched him carefully. They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. At one point an Archives employee even handed Berger a coded draft and asked whether he was sure he had seen it.

At the end of the day, Archives employees determined that that draft and all four or five other versions of the millennium memo had disappeared from the files, this source said.

This makes the "inadvertence" defense look less plausible, and the uniqueness of each draft -- with different people's handwritten notes -- explains why he might have taken them all.

No wonder the Times people are frantically spinning. Ed Morrissey has more thoughts, and also links this story on more suspicious-sounding behavior:

WASHINGTON - Former national security adviser Sandy Berger repeatedly persuaded monitors assigned to watch him review top secret documents to break the rules and leave him alone, sources said yesterday.

Berger, accused of smuggling some of the secret files out of the National Archives, got the monitors out of the high-security room by telling them he had to make sensitive phone calls.

Berger also took "lots of bathroom breaks" that apparently aroused some suspicion, the source added.

It is standard security procedure to constantly monitor anyone with a security clearance who examines the type of code-word classified files stored in the underground archives vault in the building where tourists view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Asked if guards left Berger alone in the classified reading room while he made calls, archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper replied, "I'm not going to say I haven't heard that."

Curiouser and curiouser. I suppose that it's possible that this could all be innocent -- but it sure doesn't sound that way, does it?

UPDATE: Martin Peretz writes in The New Republic:

I do not like Sandy Berger; and I have not liked him since the first time we met, long ago during the McGovern campaign, not because of his politics since I more or less shared them then, but for his hauteur. . . . Still, here's his story about the filched classified materials dealing with the foiled Al Qaeda millennium terrorist bombing plot from the National Archives: He inadvertently took home documents and notes about documents that he was not permitted to take from the archives; secondly, he inadvertently didn't notice the papers in his possession when he got home and actually looked at them; and, thirdly, he inadvertently discarded some of these same files so that they are now missing.

Gone, in fact. One of his lawyers attributes this behavior to "sloppiness," which may better explain his career as Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser and certainly describes his presentation of self in everyday life. But it is not an explanation of his conduct in the archives or, for that matter, at home. . . .

So my question is: Did Berger, who knew that he was under scrutiny since last fall, alert Kerry to the combustible fact that he was the subject of a criminal probe by the Justice Department and the FBI? My guess is not. Kerry is far too smart, too responsible to have kept him around had he known. But if Kerry didn't know, it tells you a lot about Berger, too much, really.

(Emphasis added in all cases.) Yes. And, I should note, the New York Times' frantic spinning of such a major story tells us a lot about the Times. Too much, really.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More disappearing documents here. Interesting.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dave Johnson finds the phone-call bit intriguing: "Who was he calling and what where they talking about? The Feds should subpoena his Cell phone records. Then they need to see who that person called. This story has legs." Perhaps they've already done that.

July 21, 2004

WHILE I BLOG ABOUT SOCKS, AND KETCHUP, Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell have authored a scholarly paper on blogs.

WHAT ABOUT THE SOCKS? My emailers, left and right, seem to care a lot. I don't. Fawn Hall's underwear, I care about. Well, at least abstractly, in a 1987 sort of way. Sandy Berger's socks -- no. (I envision the old-fashioned kind, with garters, though they're probably more like these high-fashion items). Close enough.

Anyway, The Daily Howler is raining scorn on the socks story, though he doesn't engage this report. My position: Who cares? What I'd like to know is, in general, what was taken and why.

[Sock-blogging and Ketchup-blogging in one night? You need a vacation -- Ed. I'm not sock-blogging -- I'm blogging about not sock-blogging! . . .Riiigghht. --Ed. No, really. Now this is sock-blogging. A shameful thing. But sexy camisoles are another matter entirely. . . . I'm heading back to Kaus's. It's getting too exciting over here. --Ed. Good luck. He's got socks, too!]


It's deja vu all over again - it was only two years ago that Sandy Berger was promoting to TIME magazine a bold Clinton response to Al Qaeda that had been shelved by the incoming Administration.

However, a visit to a Congressional committee jogged his memory (scroll to "A Story Sullivan Likes"), and the Man with a Plan became the Man with a Nice Powerpoint Presentation - Sandy Berger admitted that the TIME story was, well, a story.

Again, ouch.


John Kerry to Tom Brokaw tonight:

Brokaw: "Did you know that [Berger] was under investigation?"

Kerry: "I didn't have a clue, not a clue."

Brokaw: "He didn't share that with you?

Kerry: "I didn't have a clue."


HOW DID BERGER GET STUFF OUT OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES? Apparently, the rules are different for the big shots:

WASHINGTON -- Pens are forbidden, pencils provided. Each scribbled piece of paper is checked, then stamped. Cell phones and jackets go into lockers. Prying eyes make sure nothing precious walks off.

Researchers digging into the nation's history at the National Archives are watched every step of the way.

Despite precautions like those, former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger somehow came away with material he wasn't supposed to have. . . .

The process is somewhat different for those who have security clearance or otherwise are allowed access to classified information, as Berger was.

"He was a special case," Kornbluh said. "He was a former government official who was there to look at still-classified material."

Some users are more equal than others. I hope that this new policy will be applied evenhandedly, though. Or maybe I should say "evenfootedly."

DONALD SENSING looks at developments with China and Taiwan.

HMM. I'M GUESSING THAT THERE'S A CONNECTION between these two headlines:

Presbyterians divest themselves from Israel

Protestants May Lose Majority In U.S. Population

I'm a Presbyterian, though somewhat nominally. And one reason it's nominal is the lack of moral seriousness in the church, as in many denominations. They have nothing -- at least nothing worth listening to -- to say that I can't hear on NPR. Like the Anglicans in Britain, they worship political correctness (the URL for the Presbyterian Church is, appropriately enough,, and it has feet of clay. Er, or something clay-like.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I'm an elder in a PCUSA church and I am firmly convinced that the thing holds together--so far--solely becauses the pewdwellers have no clue what HQ is doing. HQ is in Louisville, but I've been dealing with that bunch of SDS retreads since they were on Riverside Drive in New York. They have been on the wrong side of just about everything that's been important in the last thirty years. In the days of the Cold War, I used to inquire if there were as many as one issue of US military or foreign policy in which the PCUSA disagreed with the USSR. Of course, in many cases one side or the other (presuming they were different sides) had a position and the other didn't. But nobody at HQ ever could tell me one where the two sides disagreed. They got mad when I asked. Once my term is over--end of the year--I am likely to leave. It's getting tougher to look my Jewish friends in the eye.

The spread of antisemitism to the left is shocking. The spread of antisemitism to the Christian left is more shocking. But maybe that's my naivete showing.

HEY, THAT'S MY CATCHPHRASE: But it's a good one.

ENOUGH ON THE SCANDALS OF THE WEEK: Now I want to address the most unimportant political question of the day, while also undermining claims from Old-Media Pooh-Bahs that bloggers never do original reporting. Stinging from such accusations, I decided to do a side-by-side taste test of Heinz Ketchup and the new upstart, W Ketchup -- thus answering a question that, to the best of my knowledge, Old Media outlets have shamefully ignored. Is it because they're afraid of the truth? Let's go to the test results.

Regular InstaPundit readers will know that I am a committed Heinz Ketchup partisan, and should keep that in mind in reading these results. (We bloggers wear our biases on our sleeves -- take that, Poynter people!) Nonetheless, I wanted to give this new guy a chance to win me over. To ensure fairness, I ordered the W Ketchup off their internet site -- no free-sample corruption here, despite my fond hopes therefor. It's easy to be incorruptible when nobody's offering to buy you anyway. . . .

The test apparatus is pictured at right -- a plate, the two contenders, and a standardized product, McDonald's French Fries, which should make this experiment fully replicatable by interested readers. The Heinz bottle is bigger than W -- but so is John Kerry, so that seemed fair. And the French Fries are a traditional all-American product, like George Bush -- but they're French in origin, like John Kerry. That's as fair and balanced as I can make things.

The expert taste panel, consisting of me and the Insta-Daughter, alternated between fries dipped in Heinz Ketchup, and fries dipped in W Ketchup, until we felt comfortable arriving at an opinion.

The unanimous victor -- no hanging chads here -- was Heinz. The W Ketchup wasn't bad -- somewhat sweeter than Heinz, which is no surprise given that its ingredient label lists "high fructose corn syrup" ahead of vinegar, while the Heinz label reverses the order. (The W Ketchup also has 5 more calories per serving). This too seems to reflect the candidates' personality, with Kerry coming across as the more astringent. (Some people, however, are concerned about this: "A bigger worry for Democrats is that enough voters might decide that Kerry offers too much vinegar and not enough sugar." But in ketchup, at least, a higher vinegar-to-sugar ratio turns out to be good thing.)

But the result is a bit of a role reversal: While W Ketchup is a perfectly respectable contender, it's not enough to knock the reigning incumbent off his throne.

Of course, spoiling the already silly, but widely invoked, use of a ketchup contest as a proxy for the political contest is the proudly non-partisan status of the H.J. Heinz Company, and the lack of any connection, as far as I can tell, between the W Ketchup folks and President Bush. (And Teresa Heinz's connection to the Heinz company itself is, despite the claims of the W Ketchup folks -- "Choose Heinz and you're supporting Teresa Heinz and her liberal causes, such as Kerry for President" -- rather limited -- though I'd like to own a similarly "limited" 4% of Heinz stock myself. . . .) And I suppose it was never much of a contest, as even potent anti-Kerry partisans freely admit the long-standing superiority of Heinz ketchup. Bush supporters can thus spin this as a triumph for traditional values.

Nonetheless, for those wondering whether W Ketchup can stand up to Heinz, the answer is that as a candidate it can cut the mustard, but its appeal isn't strong enough to cut into the base.

STEPHEN GREEN: "Terry McAuliffe wants all the records of the Sandy Berger investigation released . . . Fine by me -- if we also get to see what documents Berger pants-pilfered out of the National Archives."

UPDATE: Related thoughts here:

We'll grant that visions of a former National Security Adviser stuffing classified documents down his trousers or socks makes for good copy. But count us more interested in learning what's in the documents themselves than in where on his person Sandy Berger may have put them when he was sneaking them out of the National Archives.

For the evidence suggests that the missing material cuts to the heart of the choice offered in this election: Whether America treats terrorism as a problem of law enforcement or an act of war. . . .

If it's all as innocent as Mr. Berger's friends are saying, there's no reason not to make them public. But there are good reasons for questioning Mr. Berger's dog-ate-my-homework explanation. To begin with, he was not simply preparing for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. He was the point man for the Clinton Administration, reviewing and selecting the documents to be turned over to the Commission.


THE TIMING OF THE LEAKS: Reader John Lucas has an observation:

Berger could have released it himself last year, but chose not to do so, even though he proclaims his innocence. He can't now be heard to complain about the timing, since that was always in his control.

Good point.

UPDATE: Here's a chronology of timing questions. Boy, there's been a lot of that.


THE JOE WILSON IMPLOSION: The Washington Post editorializes:

Mr. Wilson chose to emphasize the latter point, that no deal was likely -- but that does not negate the one Mr. Bush made in his speech, which was that Iraq was looking for bomb material. This suggests another caution: Some of those who now fairly condemn the administration's "slam-dunk" approach to judging the intelligence about Iraq risk making the same error themselves. The failure to find significant stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons or an active nuclear program in Iraq has caused some war opponents to claim that Iraq was never much to worry about. The Niger story indicates otherwise. Like the reporting of postwar weapons investigator David Kay, it suggests that Saddam Hussein never gave up his intention to develop weapons of mass destruction and continued clandestine programs he would have accelerated when U.N. sanctions were lifted. No, the evidence is not conclusive. But neither did President Bush invent it.

Then there's this story, with further problems for the "Bush Lied" claim:

An upcoming report will contain "a good deal of new information" backing up the Bush administration's contention that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass destruction, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said Tuesday.

The report will be out in September. Some people will question its timing.

And speaking of timing, this chronological post on Joe Wilson from David Adesnik is worth reading.

And, finally, Tom Maguire responds to Joe Wilson's latest attempt at rebutting his critics, which Maguire finds unpersuasive:

My goodness, he is awfully coy about his anonymous leaks to the media before he went public. Those leaks drove the public debate, and do not seem to have stood up to careful examination. Perhaps his memory betrayed him - he ought to re-read his own book, pages 330-332. Or re-read his chat with Vanity Fair. One wonders whether this is when Mr. Wilson acquired his familiarity with smear campaigns. Was he also orchestrated, or simply a one-man band?

Read the whole thing. And I love this observation from one of Tom's commenters:

This was an IQ test for the elite media (and others) -- and the scores have indicated that Johnny has "special needs" and can no longer be schooled with the rest of the kids. A little understanding of the world and 15 minutes with Google and a broadband connection, salted with at least some understanding of intel, sufficed to conclude that Wilson had little of interest to add (as the CIA apparently instantly concluded). That was BEFORE the Brits confirmed their confidence in the assessment and explained no forged documents were available to them in making it, and BEFORE various parliamentary groups took a look and pronounced the assessment reasonable.

As I've said before, the story never made sense even on its own terms.

HEH: "Berger Returns U.S. Constitution to Archives."

HAMMER AND CRESCENT: More on the Euro-left's alliance with radical Islam. "A potential electoral force is emerging from the anti–war movement. But why is a supposedly ‘progressive’ grouping making room for religious conservatives?"

WHO LEAKED THE BERGER STORY? Tom Maguire observes:

Commenting on Josh Marshall's attempt to spin the Sandy Berger pants-dance, Jonah Goldberg points out that "Republican dirty tricks" is not the "only possible" explanation. Mr. Goldberg's perfectly plausible explanation - this was a pre-emptive leak by the Democratic side. . . .

Allow me to suggest another possibility: the 9/11 Commission is due to release their report shortly. They have been informed of this investigation, but, as of the release date, it appears that the investigation will not have been resolved.

Isn't it at least possible that the Commission will have a cryptic, "CYA" sentence in the report mentioning irregularities in the handling of documents? Wouldn't they have to - if the Sandy Burglar criminal investigation eventually turns into something big, won't their report be tainted? And how will they explain the omission of any hint of that taint?

From which it follows, they can release the report with the cryptic (or maybe not-so-cryptic) hint, and await the distraction; or "they" can leak it now. And maybe it is someone from the Democratic side who would prefer that the press coverage of the report focus on Bush rather than mishandled documents.

Kevin Drum observes:

I think it must have actually been a Democrat who leaked it. Frankly, if I were a Republican, I would have waited until around the last week of October or so. My guess is that some sharp Democratic operative figured out that this wasn't going to stay a secret forever and decided (correctly) that it was better to get it into the open now rather than later.

Matthew Yglesias is pointing the finger at Richard Holbrooke.

Jonah Goldberg has already fingered Lanny Davis.

Maybe it was Berger. Sure, that sounds stupid -- but so was snitching classified documents.

HMM. THIS SEEMS HARD to square with the "honest mistake" theory:

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.

And it was on multiple occasions:

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.

Emphasis added. This might be a case of (rather serious) laxity, rather than ill-intent, as Claire Berlinski suggests below. But it's hard to see how this kind of a pattern could be "inadvertent," as Berger is claiming.

UPDATE: Reader Kevin Hurst emails:

I work with classified documents and while it is true that violations of procedure are not uncommon, it is extremely rare, at least in my corner of the world, to see something like this. I can't even take a briefcase into the unclassified reading room at the National Archives, yet Berger is stuffing classified documents into a leather bag?! I know that the Clinton people were famous (infamous?) for lax document security, but I have trouble imagining that a former NSA can be this incompetent. Samuel L. Morison spent over a year in Federal prison for sending classified satellite photos of a Soviet carrier under construction to Jane's Defense Weekly and I don't see how what he did is any worse that what Berger has done.

I've gotten a lot of emails along these lines from federal employees who work with classified documents. It would be interesting to see a news story interviewing some people like that, and looking at what happens to worker-bee types who violate security this way.

MORE: I'm not the only one who's getting these emails: "I still haven't gotten a single email from someone who regularly deals with classified info who isn't scandalized by this. Meanwhile I get a half-dozen of these every hour or so."

And this summary of the Berger affair is worth reading, too: "Third, it appears that Berger's 'inadvertent' actions clearly aroused the suspicion of the professional staff at the Archives. Staff members there are said to have seen Berger concealing the papers; they became so concerned that they set up what was in effect a small sting operation to catch him. And sure enough, Berger took some more. Those witnesses went to their superiors, who ultimately went to the Justice Department."

But, reportedly, there was no surveillance camera.

UPDATE: Here's another report from someone who does research at the Archives:

Here is the kicker - You are not allowed to bring in briefcases, or binders, or even your own pens or pencils. You are not allowed to wear a jacket or clothing with more than the normal number of pockets. They are extra sensitive to loose clothing. I had some notes that I drafted before heading up (listing what I was looking for). Those were reviewed by security, time and date stamped, and logged in before I was allowed to go further than the front entry hall. The manila folder (not envelope) they were in was taken from me (I had the option of renting a locker for it, but chose to throw it out instead). When I left, I was searched (though they didn't pat me down) and the papers I had were checked to ensure they were the same ones I entered with.

Now, its true, Sandy Berger has a higher security classification than me. But what I find incredible, is that the protocols the press is reporting (that he could bring in a briefcase and note pads and pens) are significantly more lax than are applied to non classified materials made available to the general public.

Yes. And here's another worker-bee email:

Just to back up some of your other correspondents. I spent 27 years total in the AF - with a Top Secret clearance. I had at times, specific appended code word clearances, which are controlled on a strict need-to-know basis - because they often involve sensitive sources (say, you are getting data from a mole in the Itanian Gov. - that particular data would be graded TS and then given a code word to further identify it as very sensitive and to restrict access from those with just general TS clearances). In a nutshell, the security system from least classified to most classified was: Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret codeword). When we worked on Top Secret codeword (it might read something like Top Secret Fishhook), it was in a vault and our notes were put in burn bags. We were not allowed to take any notes out -period. We clearly understood that you didn't screw around with Secret, much less TS or TS codeword. For us a slip-up meant the slammer. What Berger did is so far removed from accepted security procedure, that I can only see two possible explanations: dishonesty with an ulterior motive (political CYA, I would guess) Or he's crazy. There is no way a veteran in the security business doesn't understand the gravity of walking out with TS codeword data.

Doug Rivers

Did Sandy just think that he shouldn't have to follow the rules?

Reader Jon Henke is unhappy with the Archives staff:

In all the fuss about Berger's multiple inadvertent security breaches, why is nobody questioning the role of the security personnel, who--apparently--saw him hiding and walking out with documents on multiple occasions, yet never stopped him.

Certainly, I want to know why he did it, but I'm a bit more concerned that the personnel guarding our classified documents give violators a 4-5 instance head start before doing something about it.

And Michael Ubaldi writes:

It's worth noting, in light of appeals for us to give Berger "the benefit of the doubt," that the benefit of the doubt was given to Berger - by National Archives staff, the first time he got caught.


MORE: Another "worker bee" emails:

Glenn, I really must take great offense at both Claire Berlinski and Virginia Postrel. I handle tons of classified documents every day, and have for 27 years in the United States Navy. I do not ever forget that loose lips sink ships, and I do not think that the Berger the Bumbler theory has any credibility at all. Facts which oppose this theory are as follows: All of the drafts and the handwritten notes removed WERE ALL REGARDING THE SAME REPORT, the drafts of the after action report written by Richard Clarke regarding the millennium celebration terrorism threat. If he was just a bumbler, he would have removed various items on many different topics, not on all the same topic. And the fact that they were DRAFTS leads me to conclude that there were unedited passages in those drafts, which were probably more truthful than the final version, that probably made Berger or President Clinton or both look really bad. This would damage Berger's ability to obtain a high level job in the Kerry administration, further tarnish Clinton's reputation as a President, and invariably help George Bush. So, before the 9/11 commission could find them, Berger took the drafts, destroyed the offending passages and returned what was left. I really do not see how the bumbler theory makes any sense, and I highly object to the idea that people who work with very highly classified information simply forget the rules. Only someone who DOES NOT work with very highly classified information could possibly make that charge. My two cents, please do not use my name, workplace, or contact info if you use any of this on your website.

So noted.


Cement barriers, 8-foot-tall chain-link fencing, and heavy black netting have been installed around the protest zone outside the FleetCenter, angering protesters who say they will be penned in and closed off from Democratic National Convention delegates.

Much of the area is located under abandoned elevated Green Line tracks that slope downward. The setup, which one netting installer called ''an internment camp," will force tall protesters at the southern end of the zone to lower their heads to avoid banging them on green metal girders.

Furious that protesters are being shoehorned into an enclosed space, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild said they will ask a federal judge to open up or move the zone.

More on this topic here and here.

N.Z. BEAR: "They may not know it yet, but the bloggers aren't there to cover the convention. They are there to cover the journalists. So my advice to Mr. Jones, and any other pro journalist out there venturing to the conventions: I suggest you put on your best suit. You are being watched."


Baghdad, Iraq, Jul. 21 (UPI) -- Iraqi security reportedly discovered three missiles carrying nuclear heads concealed in a concrete trench northwest of Baghdad, official sources said Wednesday. . . .

"The three missiles were discovered by chance when the Iraqi security forces captured former Baath party official Khoder al-Douri who revealed during interrogation the location of the missiles saying they carried nuclear heads," the sources said.

They pointed out that the missiles were actually discovered in the trenches lying under six meters of concrete and designed in a way to unable sophisticated sensors from discovering nuclear radiation.

But if it pans out, I'll never scoff at another rope-a-dope theory again. . . . (Via the also-skeptical CA Yankee).

UPDATE: A reader at Reuters says this story is bogus, and that the American and Iraqi authorities are denying it.

WHAT WAS SANDY BERGER THINKING? A lot of us are wondering that. Claire Berlinski sends these thoughts:

Greetings from your underperforming Paris correspondent. Your question about Berger -- "what the hell was he thinking?" -- is the subject of my novel about stupid security lapses in the intelligence community. (Loose Lips -- Now out in paperback!) I very much suspect that the answer is, "He just wasn't thinking." He may perhaps have been thinking, "Gee, this chair is really hurting my butt, I guess I'll just take these papers home and read them on my nice comfy couch." Of course there may be a more interesting story here, but before reaching for the conspiracy theory, it's wise to keep in mind that unfathomably stupid security blunders are remarkably common, even among people who should obviously know better. It appears to be surprisingly easy, psychologically, for people with access to classified material to become careless. Just as people who drive every day tend to become inured to the fact that automobiles are in fact fast-moving, highly lethal weapons and deathtraps, people who handle sensitive material every day tend to forget that loose lips really do sink ships. It's no excuse, of course.

Worth keeping in mind; simple stupidity explains an awful lot in this world. Meanwhile Virginia Postrel continues to champion the Berger-as-bumbler theory, which certainly has a lot of credibility:

I'm an odd defender of Berger, who used to make me wince at his incompetence when he was national security adviser. He's a good argument against the return of the not-very-deep Democratic foreign policy team--but not because of purloined notes.

Either way, Berger -- and Kerry -- look bad.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Sylvain Galineau notes a problem with the 'honest mistake' theory:

In other words, Berger made an "honest mistake" once, was told about it, and did it again. And again. Stuffing documents in his clothes to bypass security protocols which, for classified documents in such facilities, usually involve a search of your bag(s) and/or briefcase(s) on the way out.

Is this the pattern of an "honest" one-off mistake?

I wonder if there were surveillance cameras? The video might be interesting.

WHY ARE THE KIDS ALRIGHT? My TechCentralStation column, looking at the troubling lack of problems among today's youth, is up. Harry Potter, however, is not mentioned. And Arnold Kling already has comments.


UPDATE: Was Lanny Davis the leaker?

July 20, 2004

THERE'S LOTS OF COMMENTARY on the Berger grilling over at Stephen Green's place, including this observation about a Chris Lehane talk-TV appearance: "Lehane didn't answer a single question, he just rattled off a set of rather nasty talking points with a Joker-worthy fixed grin. And he looked absolutely terrified."

UPDATE: Useful question here: Why didn't Berger tell Kerry he was under investigation?

Why, indeed?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Clinton knew months ago, but Kerry didn't? As Roger Simon notes, Clinton isn't doing Kerry any favors here. Chalk one up for those Clinton-will-torpedo-Kerry-so-Hillary-can-run-in-2008 conspiracy theorists? Attention theorists: Maybe he's the leaker -- he knew!

And Andrew Sullivan has more questions.

More here, too.

I BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE RELEVANT STATUTE, 18 U.S.C. 793 (f), governing Berger's behavior:

Sec. 793. - Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information


Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,


through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or


having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer -

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

(Via reader David Radulski.) I'm no expert in this area of the law (I teach National Security Law, but don't spend much time on these sorts of questions), but this would seem to rule out "inadvertence" as a defense. The legalities of this are the least important part from my perspective -- I'm far more concerned with what the Hell he was thinking -- but this may be useful. And if readers with more expertise think this statute isn't applicable for some reason, please let me know. Berger's statements in this story sound like an admission that he's violated this statute:

"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," Berger said.

"When I was informed by the Archives that there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had except for a few documents that I apparently had accidentally discarded," he said.

Gross negligence? Sounds like it to me. But again, I'm not an expert. In fact, this almost makes me wonder why he hasn't been charged -- though the decision to charge someone, even someone admittedly guilty, is always a matter of discretion, and criminal charges against a former National Security Adviser are a rather big deal. It's easy to understand why the Justice Department might be reluctant to bring such charges even if it's satisfied that all the elements of the crime are present.

UPDATE: Lawyer-reader David Danner emails:

As noted, the culpable mental state for a 793(f)(1) violation is "gross negligence". I'm not sure of the Federal standard, but as a general rule, gross negligence is more reckless than ordinary negligence, and in the case of property usually means failing to exercise the care one would with one's own property. Former President Clinton's joking about Berger always losing things, as quoted by Drudge, sounds like a carefully crafted legal strategy to show that Berger lacked this culpable mental state because he was always sloppy, even with his own property.

That gets him out of the felony. There is also a potential misdemeanor violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924 for the notes, where the standard is "knowing" removal of classified documents. On the misdemeanor, I would imagine he will argue that while he knew he removed his notes, he didn't "know" they contained anything classified (meaning he thought they did not). Since actual knowledge, not gross negligence, is the standard under § 1924, a reasonable belief that his notes contained no classified information would appear to suffice (at least before a jury).

So, the things he knew were classified he inadvertently took and the things he knowingly took he didn't know were classified. Suddenly all these news reports sound like a well-crafted legal strategy.

Hmm. Is that more or less reason to believe them. . . ?

JOE WILSON was on the Newshour tonight, having not appeared last night, and Silent Running has a report. Related thoughts on Wilson's credibility here.

And a reader suggests that "The Joe Wilson Implosion" is a pretty good name for a '60s band.

READER MICHAEL GREENSPAN makes this obvious, but important, point regarding the Sandy Berger story:

Democrats are "questioning the timing of the report" of the Berger investigation. But no matter when the story broke, Republicans would be accused of exploiting it to distract public attention from something -- Bush's National Guard service, the Democratic primaries, Abu Ghraib, continuing unrest in Iraq, the 9/11 commission, whatever might sit atop the anti-Bush hit parade that week.


THE KERRY CAMPAIGN has shed Sandy Berger but Ed Morrissey says that the New York Times is spinning the resignation.

Meanwhile Mickey Kaus comments on the Times treatment of the original Berger story:

A-16: Even cynical New York Times-bashers must be amazed that that is where the paper ran the news of the Sandy Berger criminal investigation. ... I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page. ...

[They're untucked to make more room for secret documents! It's related! -- Ed. Try to be serious about this, please.]

And Tom Maguire is looking at the not-even-good-enough-to-call-anemic coverage of the Joe Wilson implosion by CBS.

What could possibly explain such a thing?

UPDATE: How bad has it gotten? The Times is recycling corrections about the State of the Union. ("The urge to misquote President Bush is apparently irresistible. But doesn't the Times employ editors anymore?"). Sheesh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, it's noted that the Washington Post was describing Berger as a "top Kerry adviser" back in May, but is now calling him an "informal" advisor. What gives?

Reader Jonathan Bailey has a related observation:

If you think the NY Times placement of the Sandy Berger story was questionable, the LA Times placement should certainly raise an eyebrow. It's in the "In Brief" section. In Brief indeed, though I had always thought it was plural, "briefs". Must have been a Freudian slip.

This whole national security thing threatens to become a "wedgie issue" for the Democrats!


Q: Who covertly removes top secret documents?
A: Spies.

Q: So who's he spying for?
A: If we're lucky, the Kerry campaign, or the company he's chairman of.

Q: If we're not lucky?
A: Let's hope we're lucky.

A bit harsh, perhaps -- we must bear in mind that Berger might just be a bumbler who doesn't deserve a security clearance -- but useful analysis follows, from a (albeit reluctant) Kerry supporter.

I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN JOE WILSON -- and neither has Bob Somerby, who absolutely rips him.

SANITIZED FOR THEIR PROTECTION: Wizbang compares the New York Times coverage of Sandy Berger with the AP story.

WENT OFF ON A PICTURE-TAKING EXPEDITION, but took the InstaDaughter along. Took fewer pictures but had a good time. We walked the trail around the lake at Indian Boundary, and waded in the water at the beach. (Since we didn't know where we were going when we set out, we didn't prepare). A fine time was had by all, and I was ready for a few hours away from the blog.

Judging by my huge volume of unread email, everyone else stayed at their computers today. Back later.

THANKS (INDIRECTLY) TO REGIME CHANGE IN TENNESSEE, the InstaWife was able to get some new prison interviews and recut her documentary. I mentioned that a while back, and some people asked me to tell them when the new version was out.

Since I was too lame to keep the email addresses, I'll just tell everyone -- the recut version is now available here. Buy dozens of copies! They make great wedding and bar mitzvah presents! (Trailers here, order here). Did I mention that they're fun for the entire family? It's about teenage lesbian satanist killers! What more do you need to know?

SISSY WILLIS says that the New York Times is way behind the curve on the Berger story. "In an inversion of Winston Churchill's famous comparison of the speed of lies vs. truth,* the blogosphere had already promulgated and commented upon the information contained in the AP report yesterday afternoon and evening before the Times had had a chance to put its pants on, so to speak. "

FOLLOWED THE LINK in the new Manchurian Candidate blogad (over on the right) and watched the preview. To my surprise, Meryl Streep really does come across like Hillary Clinton. It's not a physical resemblance so much as the uber-professional-woman aura, and the wardrobe.

UPDATE: But watch out for The Manchurian Columnist!

JOE WILSON must be hoping that the Sandy Berger scandal will take attention away from his continuing dissolution. But Tom Maguire has the Paula Zahn transcript from last night, and it's not pretty.

UPDATE: More on Berger: "The Berger affair is pennies from heaven for the Bush presidential campaign . . . . Presidential challenger Kerry will have to think twice before attacking Bush on national security issues lest he lay himself open to reminders that a former Clinton aide and his own adviser was caught red-handed misappropriating classified materials that revealed how a Democratic president mishandled the threat of terror."

DARFUR UPDATE: More evidence that the Sudanese government is behind the genocide.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Paul Volcker is telling Congress to tread softly, lest it undermine his investigation.

WHAT'S IN SANDY BERGER'S PANTS: Stephen Green has some thoughts:

What bothers me – and what should bother you – is that the man who was too concerned with the law to get Osama when he had the chance, was rather cavalier about the law when it came to shoving classified items down his 46-inch waistband.

Sandy Berger covered his ass, quite literally, with the papers which, just might, show how he inadvertently helped Osama bin Laden murder the asses of 3,000 of Berger's fellow Americans.

Once, when I was young and foolish, I almost spent the night in jail for dropping trou in public. What should become of Sandy Berger for stuffing his?

Nothing good, I imagine. I don't know what's more appalling -- the thought that Berger is covering up some dreadful failing, or the thought that the man in charge of national security for much of the Clinton administration is utterly incompetent at handling supersecret national security documents. Well, I do, actually, but it's pretty appalling either way. And I still wonder if anyone has seen Fawn Hall lately.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel: "Bumbling Berger. . . . could we please hear a little less about how the Bush administration's foreign policy advisers are incompetent? This guy was National Security Adviser. Yikes." And might be again -- or at least, might have been, before this happened.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Morrissey is deconstructing the spin on this: "For my money, that's at least one 'inadvertently' too many, and that is not a literary criticism. Perhaps this explanation will fly for those who have never worked around classified documents, but since I spent three years producing such material, I can tell you that it's impossible to 'inadvertently' take or destroy them. . . . I find it highly suspect that the first expert the Post found to speak on this is Richard Clarke. How many of the partisans will come out of the woodwork? Next, we'll have Joe Wilson come out and claim that the documents never existed in the first place."

Another reader wonders why Clinton lawyer Bruce Lindsey was seemingly the first person the archivists called:

Breuer said the Archives staff first raised concerns with Berger during an Oct. 2 review of documents that at least one copy of the post-millennium report he had reviewed earlier was missing. Berger was given a second copy that day, Breuer said.

Officials familiar with the investigation said Archive staff specially marked the documents and when the new copy and others disappeared, Archive officials called Clinton attorney Bruce Lindsey to raise concerns.

This makes it sound as if Berger had documents disappear on more than one occasion, too. Quite odd, and it certainly bears looking into. Closely.


Hmm. Sandy Berger hasn't been out there lately, has he?

THE ALLAWI / ALICE COOPER CONNECTION: Frank Zappa is involved, too.

IS IT A MEDIA ENRON? There certainly seem to be funny numbers, and inadequate auditors:

In addition to its massive self-examination of circulation problems at its own paper, Newsday of Melville, N.Y., today also examined, as it it put it, "questions about who is minding the store" elsewhere, with special focus on the Audit Bureau of Circulations. And, according to Newsday, "some Wall Street analysts and advertisers now say the system is broken" at ABC.

It quoted a former, unnamed ABC employee: "ABC sends their best auditors to the biggest newspapers, like the Chicago Sun-Times and Newsday," two papers embroiled in the current circulation scandal. "So what this is saying is, if their best auditors went into these papers, they kept signing off on no-good circulation year after year.

"You guys are cheating, granted, but ABC's going in and saying you are correct. How come they're not the ones who have to pay the advertisers now?"

I think that there's more to be discovered, here.

UPDATE: More here:

In a surprise announcement, Tribune Co. today replaced its publishers at Newsday and Hoy -- two newspapers reeling from circulation scandals.

What's next?

July 19, 2004

TERROR IN THE SKIES AUTHOR Annie Jacobsen is on MSNBC right now, with her husband.

UPDATE: Good hour of TV. The Jacobsens seemed credible -- by which I mean they seemed honest. The experts afterward were skeptical that they actually witnessed anything untoward, but they all agreed that security is still weak. Annie Jacobsen said that the investigators couldn't even say what kind of instruments the musicians were carrying suggesting that the investigation wasn't as thorough as the FBI is claiming, and at the end Joe Scarborough said they had been flooded with emails from passengers and crew who said that things have seemed odd lately on a number of flights.

I don't know if there's anything to this or not, and we may never find out. It's certainly true, though, that it's focusing attention onto problems with flight security, and we need that.


WASHINGTON - President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, is the focus of a criminal investigation after removing highly classified terrorism documents and handwritten notes from a secure reading room during preparations for the Sept. 11 commission hearings, The Associated Press has learned. . . .

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed handwritten notes he had made while reading classified anti-terror documents he reviewed at the archives by sticking them in his jacket and pants. He also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio, they said. . . .

The officials said the missing documents were highly classified, and included critical assessments about the Clinton administration's handling of the millennium terror threats as well as identification of America's terror vulnerabilities at airports to sea ports.

(Via Ed Morrissey, who wonders what Berger was thinking.) Has anybody seen Fawn Hall lately?

UPDATE: I didn't know this, but it turns out that Berger is "now a chief foreign policy adviser to Senator John Kerry." You'd think that a man in his position would be more careful. (Via TLM -- and via the TLM comments you can see this item from Kerry's website in which Berger serves as a spokesman).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Brian Leone wants to call this "trousergate."

Tom Maguire looks forward to evaluating some commentators on the basis of consistency. And did Dana Milbank speak too soon?

MORE: Hugh Hewitt:

Ask yourself what would be going on in Washington, D.C. tonght, and on the network news, within the blogosphere, and in the morning papers, if it had been revealed that Condi Rice was the target of a criminal investigation for removing classified handwritten notes from the government records relating to terrorism.

I think we know. But it's early yet -- this may get more attention from Big Media tomorrow. Or, I suppose, it could turn out to be nothing -- though for that to be true, the news accounts would have to be awfully wrong.

More links here. And Josh Marshall is troubled. "The whole thing seems almost inexplicable."

And Tom Maguire emails: "One of my commenters says he finds it refreshing that a Clinton Admin official got in trouble for what he put INTO his pants." Lots of blog posts, here.

MORE: Here's a report on the missing after-action documents and what they said -- apparently, something embarrassing for the Clinton Administration. And read this, too.

JOE WILSON was reportedly an unexplained no-show on the PBS Newshour tonight.

UPDATE: I didn't see it, but reader J.M. Hanes saw Wilson on Paula Zahn tonight and sends this:

You've probably heard this by now, but Joe Wilson did appear on Paula Zahn's show tonight. As he's been doing in his written defenses lately, he avoided answering questions by reading from documents instead. Zahn ended up by reminding the audience of the Select Committee's finding on the role of his wife -- which Wilson essentially had to listen to without being able to respond as the segment wrapped. The guy can parse words with the best of them, but these days, he doesn't go anywhere without his notes and his reading glasses!

Interesting. No transcript online yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Corn's defense of Wilson is evaluated here.

JAY ROSEN has further thoughts on Alex Jones' piece on weblogs and journalism:

He's a fine person, a serious man, with deep knowledge of his craft, willing to stand up and be counted when it comes to protecting professional values. I respect his opinion, and his experience. But that analysis Sunday is beneath his standards and the standards he saw himself as protecting in the Los Angeles Times.

Overall, the piece hasn't been terribly well received.

UPDATE: If monopoly newspapers keep cutting budgets, there will be nothing but bloggers soon.

DEMOCRATIC BLOGGER KEITH BERRY: "If I had to pick a Democratic senator to lose in November, it would be Senator Tom Daschle." Republicans are invited to pick their least favorite senators, too.

UPDATE: Want more on the Daschle v. Thune race? Go here!

CUBANS FOR KERRY: Is the Bush campaign blowing Florida?

THIS JOE WILSON OPED from February of 2003 certainly undercuts the "Bush Lied" argument:

There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him.

And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that.

Or maybe, considering the source, it doesn't. . . .

HERE'S A TROUBLING OPED ON CHINESE MILITARY NANOTECHNOLOGY: The Chinese want a revolution in military affairs that will offset U.S. power. (Via Soundfury).

IN THE MAIL: Hugh Hewitt's new book, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It, -- and, taking what I think is probably a very different view, a pre-print of Maureen Dowd's forthcoming Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. (Irresistible Dowd-like observation: Bush? Enter? Sounds like a porn flick! Hey, there's a column in that, somewhere. . . .) I haven't done a compare-and-contrast, but I'm pretty sure they disagree a lot.


French President Jacques Chirac informed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon he is not welcome in Paris after he urged all French Jews to leave the country immediately, Israeli television reported. . . .

Sharon sparked anger in Paris with a speech on Sunday in which he urged all French Jews to move immediately to Israel in order to escape what he called the "spread of the wildest anti-Semitism."

More arrogant unilateralism from the increasingly isolated Chirac, who saves his open-arms welcomes for corrupt, murderous dictators.

UPDATE: Maybe this has Chirac out of sorts:

Young guns conspire to get rid of Chirac

The machinations in the court of the president, the finance minister and their party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, were summed up yesterday on the front page of the newspaper Libйration, which showed Mr Sarkozy and Mr Chirac shaking hands beside the headline: "How far will they go?"

The newspapers have been packed for several days with reports from meetings of loyalists on both sides. Mr Chirac's old guard have been rallied for one last stand for their man, while Mr Sarkozy's gunslingers are taking every opportunity to paint the president as well past his prime.

Perhaps he can commiserate with Yasser Arafat.

THIS is interesting:

The Sun is burning brighter than at any time over the past 1,150 years, according to a study by a professor at a Swiss university.

Professor Sami Solanki said this could be compounding the effects of greenhouse gases and contributing to global warming.

“We have to acknowledge that the Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago, and this brightening started relatively recently – in the last 100 to 150 years. We expect it to have an impact on global warming,” he told swissinfo.

Via Futurepundit, who speculates that this means the Earth is likely to be cooler in the future (since it's at an apparent high point now). Hmm. Fallen Angels is looking more prophetic all the time. Gary Hudson, call your office!

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, Fallen Angels is available for free online at the Baen Free Library. Thanks to reader Ray Alderman for the pointer. For those too busy or too lazy to follow the links, the twist in Fallen Angels is that the Earth has been in an ice age for a hundred years, with only greenhouse emissions offsetting it. When those are cut for environmental reasons, the ice age falls and the glaciers advance.

STEM CELL RESEARCH: Heating up as a political issue?

TERROR IN THE SKIES, UPDATE: Here's another piece by Annie Jacobsen. It's worth reading in connection with this post by Daniel Drezner.

And -- in the interest of continuing the I-told-you-so motif -- read this, this, this, and most especially this.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing remains skeptical.

I DIDN'T BELIEVE THE LATEST SEYMOUR HERSH STORY that everyone was emailing me. Looks like I was right.

UPDATE: But read this from Ed Cone, which doesn't misquote Hersh. I must confess that I tend to dismiss what Hersh reports until it's confirmed elsewhere by a more reliable source. His stuff is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always in a "we're losing" vein, and it's been that way since before we went into Afghanistan.


Locked in a stalemate with the Democratic legislature over the state budget, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger abandoned his charm campaign this weekend and went on the attack. He toured three districts of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and accused them of being "obstructionists" and "girlie men," in a takeoff of that old "Saturday Night Live" skit that parodied Schwarzenegger-like bodybuilders.

But the governor was engaged in a lot more than just sound-bite politics. His spokesman indicated he was seriously considering sponsoring initiatives to both change the entrenched legislature to part-time status and to redraw California's gerrymandered political districts. "This weekend, the budget fight stopped being about local government and started being about major political reform," said Dan Schnur, a GOP political consultant.

The California electorate is hungry for such change, and the governor had large crowds in three cities eating out of his hand. "I want you to go out there and go after those Democratic legislators. Vote them out of office, and we will put new faces in there," he said in Stockton. The audience in Ontario went wild when he launched into a description of how legislators catered to special interests: "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers, and I want them to make the millions of dollars -- if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men."

Democrats responded that the remark was sexist, anti-gay and bullying, but given the lighthearted way Mr. Schwarzenegger delivered the remarks those criticisms aren't likely to gain traction. Democrats must also realize that the governor's approval ratings are close to 70% while the legislature's ratings are a measly 30%.

If Mr. Schwarzenegger moved quickly he could qualify an initiative mandating new boundaries for California's 120 legislative districts and then hold a special election next May. That ballot could also contain an initiative to create a part-time legislature, which might prove popular with a frustrated public. "He could pass an initiative," says Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles think tank. "He could get 60%. It would pass easily." Democratic legislators may yet come to regret that through their intransigence on the budget they have unleashed the political Terminator.

As a bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger was very good at playing on his opponents' insecurities. I guess he still is.

MARK STEYN on Why They Hate Us:

The Arab Islamists despise America because it’s all lap-dancing and gay-phone sex; Europe’s radical secularists despise America because it’s all born-again Christians hung up on abortion. They’re both right. The free market enables Hustler to thrive. And the free market in churches enables religion to thrive.

I'm sure there's a Harry Potter angle to this.

TOM MAGUIRE HAS MULTIPLE POSTS on the Joe Wilson developments. They're all must-reads -- just keep scrolling.

CENSORSHIP IN CANADA: I wish that this were a surprise.

UPDATE: Sissy Willis notes that it's not just Canada. Read this, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I guess it goes with the mindset differences displayed by these two towns, one American, the other Canadian:

First we called up the respective town authorities. Hyder, the American town, turned out to have no town authorities--and, technically, no town. The Hyderites chose not to incorporate as a municipality, creating instead a community association--a private nonprofit corporation. Stewart, the Canadian town, is a real municipality with a traditional government.

When we phoned Stewart, the government agent refused to answer any questions until they were submitted in writing. The Hyder community association representative said, sure, she'd tell us anything we wanted to know, right now, on the phone. But to make it a fair comparison, we faxed written questions to both parties, and got written answers back.

The Canadian government official, evidently aspiring to create a faceless bureaucracy in this 700-person outpost, signed the response as "Government Agent"--capital letters but no name or sex--and explained that Stewart had a "Municipal Government incorporated under the laws of the Province of British Columbia," with a mayor and a city council of six members. As to Stewart's nearby neighbors, Government Agent from Canada said diplomatically, "I'm not sure how Hyder is governed," but expressed polite disapproval of its apparent libertarian streak.


UPDATE: Reader Sean Galbraith points to this entry from The Vancouver Scrum, saying that the censorship claim linked at the top of this post is wrong.

SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on campaign blog comments -- I'm not sure what this means, but it's not what I would have expected.


And he sipped tea poolside, never really investigated a thing, and upon returning to the US, delivered a verbal briefing after the trip.

To whom? Well, the same people who sent him to Niger, naturally. Who are...?

We don't know. But we should. Because Wilson's mission appears to have been a sham from the start.

Meanwhile William Safire has more on Wilson's imploding credibility:

Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the president's lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth.

Contrary to his indignant claim that "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter" of selecting him for the African trip, the Senate published testimony that his C.I.A. wife had "offered up his name" and printed her memo to her boss that "my husband has good relations" with Niger officials and "lots of French contacts." Further destroying his credibility, Wilson now insists this strong pitch did not constitute a recommendation.

Wilson is scheduled to be on PBS's Newshour tonight. I hope they ask him some tough questions on these, and other, problems with his public statements.

Michael Barone has more on the collapse of the "Bush Lied" argument:

So much for the wild charges that Bush manipulated intelligence and lied about weapons of mass destruction. He simply said what was believed by every informed person -- including leading members of the Clinton administration before 2001 and Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards in their speeches in October 2002 supporting military action in Iraq.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report also refuted completely the charges by former diplomat Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration ignored his conclusion, based on several days in Niger, that Iraq had not sought to buy uranium in that country. Democrats and many in the press claimed that Wilson refuted the 16-word sentence Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, noting that British intelligence reported that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa.

But British intelligence stands by that finding, and the committee noted that Wilson confirmed that Iraq had approached Niger, whose main exports are uranium and goats, and intelligence analysts concluded that his report added nothing else to their previous knowledge. And the report flatly denied Wilson's statements that his wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, had nothing to do with his mission to Niger -- it quotes Plame's memo taking credit for the appointment.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: More questions here.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett was right -- it's not just an oil-for-food scandal, but an oil-for-terror scandal:

American officials believe that millions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program are now being used to help fund the bloody rebel campaign against U.S. forces and the new Iraqi government, The Post has learned.

U.S. intelligence officials and congressional investigators said last night that the "oil-for-insurgency link" has been recently unearthed in the numerous probes now under way into the giant U.N. humanitarian program, in which Saddam is believed to have pocketed $10.1 billion through oil smuggling and kickbacks from suppliers.

We should send Kofi a bill. And somebody should send Rosett a Pulitzer as she's been consistently ahead on this story.

DARFUR UPDATE: Here's an argument for secession.

PUBLIC ATTITUDES TOWARD NANOTECHNOLOGY: Interesting stuff from an NSF-Funded study:

Despite lacking concrete knowledge about nanotechnology, most Americans hold a generally positive view of the emerging science and believe the technology’s potential benefits outweigh its perceived risks. At the same time, most Americans do not trust business leaders in the nanotechnology industry to minimize potential risks to humans.

Read the whole thing. Read this, too.

YESTERDAY, I noted new reports of an Iran/Al Qaeda connection and wondered if skeptics of the Iraq war would be calling for an invasion of Iran. Now, in response to those reports, Brad DeLong writes: "And where is our counterstrike against the Iranian government? It is now, by my count, some 1030 days overdue."

While I'm glad to see DeLong recognizing Iran's membership in the Axis of Evil, I agree with Pejman Yousefzadeh that it's hard to figure out what this means. Is Kerry likely to do this? Would DeLong support Bush if he did this? What kind of counterstrike? No doubt further thoughts will be forthcoming.

UPDATE: David Pinto emails:

I posted this in the comments to Brad DeLong's 1030 Days post, but I thought you'd be interested:

An attack against Iran will be much easier now since we can force them into a two front war, attacking from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe this has been the strategy all along.

We've done a pretty good job of surrounding potential trouble makers. Pakistan has the US on one side and India on the other. Iran has the US on two fronts. And Syria has the US and Israel on two fronts. Not a bad strategic maneuver.

Gee, do you think they had that in mind all along?

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts on the strategery involved, here. Do you think the plan has been misunderestimated?

Meanwhile, here's more news on Iran:

An Iranian general collaborated with al Qaeda to arrange the transit through Iran of nine of the September 11 hijackers, the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Monday.

"A general in the apparatus (Revolutionary Guard) coordinated with the number two man in al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, to provide 'safe passage' to around nine of those who carried out the attacks," the London-based paper said.

Can you say "counterstrike?" Brad DeLong can!

Still more on the master plan, here, via the Naval War College. And reader Joel Finch emails:

To concur with David Pinto, I have always considered the Iraq war, coupled with Afghanistan, as a strategy against IRAN, and that the benefits which came along with it (seed of democracy, Saddam on trial, etc.), secondary. I think to any halfway informed individual, Iran is the ultimate reforming goal. I do believe, the strategy has been "misunderstimated".

It is interesting to put this stuff on a map, and I'm surprised we haven't seen more press analysis along these lines. But Michael Ledeen has a piece out today, and he's not gloating as much as, well, I might have. Well, maybe he is: "What a surprise! Terrorists at Iranian military bases! Who ever would have imagined such a thing?"

MORE: Gerard Van Der Leun has the maps that illustrate what's going on.

SLOPPINESS: Spinsanity says that Lewis Lapham's new book is chockfull of factual errors. ("Disturbingly, many of these recapitulate previous errors from columns in Harper's that were recycled in the book.") I can't say I'm surprised.

UPDATE: More on Lapham, here.

July 18, 2004

ALEX JONES writes that press credentials don't turn bloggers into "journalists." True enough. Of course, neither does a paycheck from the New York Times or NPR.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has a well-thought-out and even-tempered commentary on Jones's oped.

MORE: Matt Welch's commentary is less even-tempered, but fun to read. And right.

STILL MORE: It's worth reading this post ("The next generation of journalists will start as bloggers") from Ernest Miller, too.

MORE STILL: Jeff Jarvis: "What, as if major media aren't the No. 1 juicy target for manipulation? Jeesh. Wake up and smell the breath of the PR guy and the political spinmeister whispering in your ear, Alex."

AND YET MORE: Patrick Belton: "Alex Jones of the Kennedy School of Government manages to do precisely what he accuses blogs of: making vituperative arguments driven by emotion rather than fact, and marked by remarkable lack of engagement with facts or evidence, or an understanding of the subject matter at hand. . . . Blogging, as I've experienced it, is characterised by polite running conversations, backed up by evidence. I have to respond to friends on my left such as Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias, and ones to my right such as the Winds of Change. Maureen Dowd doesn't."

I STILL MISS WILL VEHRS' "PUNDITWATCH," but Silent Running has a roundup of the Sunday talk shows posted.

And don't miss their report on official anti-semitism in New Zealand.


While scores of political blogs don't go beyond gossip and bickering, many are quite influential, analysts say. Some feature political commentaries, such as the liberal or the conservative . . .

It is impossible to obtain a precise figure for the number of political blogs, but they number in the thousands at least, according to the blog community.

It is uncertain whether these blogs will generate enough cash and attention to make a difference in the November elections and beyond.

But analysts say bloggers should not be ignored.

"Many people don't take into account how influential bloggers are," said Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. "Blogs are getting an increasing readership. People who are going to those blogs are real political junkies who can then reach everybody else."


UPDATE: Some readers are amused at seeing InstaPundit called "liberal," when so many journalists have called it "conservative." One's just about as accurate as the other, I'd say.

YESTERDAY, I linked to a piece by Jim Glassman saying that today's younger generation is smarter, healthier, and more conservative. My own column for next week looks at why that might be. But, silly me, I forgot to consult important French literary theorists, or I would have realized that the answer was Harry Potter:

On the face of it, the world of Harry Potter has nothing in common with our own. Nothing at all, except one detail: like ours, the fantastic universe of Harry Potter is a capitalist universe. . . .

The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson.

He says that like it's a bad thing. Of course, it's possible to imagine a post-capitalist world, but we won't get there by magic.

UPDATE: More thoughts in response to Glassman, here:

Although Democrats should be shaking in their boots about how this could change things for the next decade or so, traditional Republicans cannot take these young people for granted either. They do not trust institutions that abuse power, whether it be governments or large corporations. But they do embrace the system of free enterprise and they long to build stronger families that will last. The Republican shift back toward moderation may not resonate with this group for very long.

Yes. Today's two parties are split along historical interest-group lines, but I believe that divide is less and less reflective of how people actually think.

ANDREW STUTTAFORD: "Incredibly, the Senate, which was, I naively believed, controlled by the GOP, has voted to subject tobacco to the FDA. . . . Big government meddling and big government spending - all in one fat package."

"A LITTLE LITERARY FLAIR:" Here's more on Joe Wilson's credibility problems.

UPDATE: Joe Wilson was just on CNN. Here are some observations:

Wilson essentially recycled the defense presented in the Washington Post and Salon. However, new ground was broken when Wolf Blitzer asked him about the misleading information given by Wilson to the Washington Post. Wilson's explanation to the Senate staff was that he "mis-spoke". His new explanation to Wolf Blitzer is that he had not read the stories the staffers were asking about; he see now that they have several sources, so he actually mis-spoke to the Senate staff - he should have said that he was "misattributed".

Our thought - oh, please. The Senate staff had (we imagine) supporting evidence, and possibly statements from the reporters themselves (Wilson's role in this had already been reported by the WaPo). For Wilson to change his story now, when we the people can't see all the evidence, is a bit slim.

Follow the link for more. And there's more here, too.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian says that Josh Marshall is beginning to admit the seriousness of Wilson's problems -- but only beginning.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A transcript of Wilson's appearance is now up, and Tom Maguire has further observations on Wilson's blame-shifting efforts directed at Walter Pincus of the Washington Post.

MORE: I said this on Hugh Hewitt's show the other night, and it's probably worth mentioning here, too: The fact that Wilson appears to be deeply untrustworthy and of doubtful competence doesn't, by itself, make the Plame "outing" scandal go away -- though to the extent that evidence comes from Wilson, it is of course less compelling. (And the likelihood that any revelations involving Plame came in this fashion -- Q: "Why did we send someone untrustworthy and of doubtful competence, on an important mission to Niger?" A: "Oh, that. His wife pulled strings." -- undercuts the "revenge" motive that many were bruiting about).

However, the main point for which Wilson has been used as a source -- the argument that Bush's State of the Union Speech about Iraq trying to buy uranium in Africa was disproved by Wilson's report -- seems pretty thoroughly undercut by Wilson's credibility implosion. (And, of course, the whole Niger bit, as The Daily Howler noted, never made sense). For extra clarity, here's a quote from The Howler:

First, Bush’s “sixteen words” said that Saddam had sought uranium from Africa. Bush didn’t say that Saddam obtained it. But Wilson’s report stressed the opinion that, due to international oversight, it would have been very hard for Saddam to obtain uranium from Niger. This may have been valid (we simply don’t know), but it didn’t address the question at hand—had Saddam been seeking uranium? And, as noted in Catan’s report, when Wilson interviewed Mayaki, the Nigerien official specifically said he got the impression that Iraq was interested in seeking uranium. Clearly, Mayaki’s impression wasn’t dispositive. But it tended to support, not debunk, Bush’s controversial sixteen words.

Second, Bush’s sixteen words said that Saddam was seeking uranium “from Africa.” Even if Wilson somehow showed that no such approach was made in Niger, that obviously couldn’t, by itself, debunk Bush’s wider claim.

Yet many in the media -- whose credibility is suffering here as much as Wilson's is, since they should have known better -- took the opposite position. Wilson's credibility implosion hurts them, too.

A WHILE BACK, I wrote that if Kerry is elected he'll probably wind up like Jimmy Carter: The "anybody but Bush" constituency will evaporate as soon as he's sworn in, leaving him weak and subject to attacks from within his own party. For the barest glimpse of what a Kerry presidency might look like, read this Maureen Dowd column. And note this comment on Kerry from Garry Trudeau: "Like most Americans, I've been forced to unambiguously take sides, and I'm not particularly happy about it."

Not exactly a strong base of support, but it's what happens when you nominate a weak candidate, and unify your party around hatred for the incumbent.

UPDATE: Matt Welch wonders if Bush in 2000 was different. Well, we didn't have poisonous Michael Moore anti-warism.

As for his Hillary comments -- I'd much rather see Hillary at the top of the Democratic ticket. She's better on the war, and seems to have much more backbone in general. No Carter, she.

ANN ALTHOUSE is striking fear into terrorists.

WILSON-LIED MEDIA SPIN UPDATE: The New York Times initiates another quasi-rowback with this story on the Niger / Uranium flap. But look at the headline, and note what's left out. Or read Tom Maguire's discussion of the Times coverage, and non-coverage:

Some of Mr. Wilson's credibility problems are cited. However, the Times remains sphinx-like on the Senate report finding, undisputed by Mr. Wilson, that the Ambassador gave "misleading information" in anonymous leaks to the Washington Post and by extension, Nick Kristof of the NY Times. They also mention that Mr. Wilson's credibility is challenged by the news that his report to the CIA included information about an Iraqi trade delegation, but they fail to mention that Mr. Wilson omitted this key fact from his famous NY Times op-ed, and they slide past the fact that George Tenet disputed this part of the Wilson op-ed a year ago.

We also note that the Times gives one sentence to the Senate finding that Wilson lied about his wife's involvement, and four sentences to Wilson's response, thereby giving space to Wilson to rebut a case the Times never presents. Bah.

Read the whole thing. You'd think they were more interested in swinging the election than reporting the news, or something.

UPDATE: Powerline notes that the Kerry campaign has a Joe Wilson problem. ("Apparently Kerry not only was too busy to receive a briefing on terrorism, he was also too busy to read the Senate Intelligence Committee report.") Somebody should ask them about this. I wonder if anyone will.


London - South African soldiers have been accused of involvement in a massive sex abuse scandal in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they are on peace-keeping duties.

The allegations include a staggering 50 cases of sex attacks on minors over the past year, carried out by Monuc, the United Nations mission to the DRC, in Bunia in the north-east.

More here.


Gunmen burned down offices of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority in Gaza Sunday, as anger spread over the Palestinian leader's overhaul of his security forces that many saw as falling short of genuine reform. . . .

Dozens of militants belonging to an extreme offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement stormed an office building in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis shortly after midnight to protest Arafat's appointment of his cousin, Moussa Arafat, as chief of security.

Some people are speculating that this is a good time to get rid of Arafat. Apparently, some palestinians agree. More here.

UPDATE: Reader Harry Shepler emails: "Your recent posts regarding the situation in Gaza and the PA highlight the inevitable as the intifada comes to an end, with the help of the security fences and targeted assassinatons. At the end of most 'wars' the losing regime loses power."