Roger L. Simon

Flipping Bergers

Byron York has an interesting summation of the Sandy Berger situation so far with an intriguing parenthetical at the end:

…some of the evidence in the case casts doubt on Berger’s explanation. First, Berger has reportedly conceded that he knowingly hid his handwritten notes in his jacket and pants in order to sneak them out of the Archives. Any notes made from classified material have to be cleared before they can be removed from the Archives – a common method of safeguarding classified information – and Berger’s admission that he hid the notes in his clothing is a clear sign of intent to conceal his actions.

Second, although Berger said he reviewed thousands of pages, he apparently homed in on a single document: the so-called “after-action report” on the Clinton administration’s handling of the millennium plot of 1999/2000. Berger is said to have taken multiple copies of the same paper. He is also said to have taken those copies on at least two different days. There have been no reports that he took any other documents, which suggests that his choice of papers was quite specific, and not the result of simple carelessness.

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. (There was no surveillance camera in the room in which Berger worked with the documents, meaning there is no videotape record of the incidents.)

Whoa… no surveillance cameras in the room? Why is that? This is the archive where the most important secure documents of our county are kept. This is a head scratcher to me. I hope it will be rectified.

Also, I don’t think this scandal will go away so easily, excused as mere “sloppiness.” At the very least it is extraordinary arrogance — a man thinking because of who he was it was fine for him to take some documents home for review. Never mind that we are at war or (for those who prefer to define it differently) in a police “situation” with foreign terrorists who want to blow us up. Some of Berger’s documents have gone missing. Even assuming this is, again, “sloppiness,” where are they? Chances are nowhere important, but what if they’re not? What has Berger then done? Should we excuse that? This is, of course, at the heart of the reason you are not supposed to remove documents from the archive, indeed that it is illegal.

MEANWHILE: The WSJ is less interested in the form than the content (of what Berger brought home). Just as I have done, they refer to the twin views of our current situation, whether it is a war or a police action:

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.