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July 20, 2004
Trousergate: Just An Encore?

Instapundit links to an interesting revelation in the AP update which seems to indicate that not only was this not Berger's first incident of "sloppiness", but that security officers took an unusual step in its handling of the breach:

In the FBI search of his office, Berger also was found in possession of a small number of classified note cards containing his handwritten notes from the Middle East peace talks during the 1990s, but those are not a focal point of the current criminal probe, according to officials and lawyers.

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.

The discovery of earlier classified material could conceivably corroborate Berger's supposed sloppiness, the call to Bruce Lindsey rather than escalating the problem through the relevant security structure appears highly suspicious. After all, Lindsey by this time had been in the private sector for over three years, and could hardly be described as an uninterested third party. Concerns should have been raised with the facility security officer, and after that with DoD investigators or the FBI.

It's not just Berger that has some explaining to do; the security group guarding these documents have plenty to explain as well.

UPDATE: My good friend Jon at QandO has his doubts:

It will be difficult to explain to anyone's satisfaction why Berger felt the need to stuff notes from sensitive documents down his pants.

Why would that be difficult to explain? I can't speak for Sandy Berger, but my pants are where I keep my pockets. The cited story says Berger stuck "them in his jacket and pants", which doesn't really indicate whether he had put them in pockets or not....but that doesn't seem like an unreasonable assumption, unless we have specific information to the contrary.

We'll have to wait for more information, but I doubt this will be the scandal it first appears. I'm most reminded of the Paul O'Neill mini-drama with classified documents, in which he was eventually cleared.

I understand what Jon says here, but it's important to remember the context. First, Berger had his leather case with him -- why would he stick things in his pockets? Could it be that normal security procedures at secure facilities call for all briefcases to be inspected? Also, when does a man with a briefcase stick papers in his jacket and pants pockets instead? It doesn't make much sense.

If Berger took any classified material outside of a secure facility without permission and without taking proper steps to ensure their containment, he committed a crime. It looks now like he's done it on multiple occasions. The motive may be interesting -- but it won't mitigate the crime itself.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 20, 2004 8:47 AM

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We have learned of a security breach by Sandy Berger, the former National Security Advisor under Clinton. Why am I not surprised to learn this? I seem to recall that during the entire eight years of Clinton that there was little regard for intelligen... [Read More]

Tracked on July 20, 2004 10:07 AM

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