October 8, 2007

Old Scoop, Fresh Outrage

Bill Sammon belatedly discovers that Hillary Clinton has welcomed Sandy Berger to her campaign advisory panel, more than a month after Michael Hirsh at Newsweek mentioned it in passing as part of a profile on the Democratic frontrunner. While the news may not be new, the fact that Hillary continues to associate herself with a man who pled guilty to stealing national-security documents during a bipartisan investigation should continue to generate outrage:

Sandy Berger, who stole highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, destroyed them and lied to investigators, is now an adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Berger, who was fired from John Kerry’s presidential campaign when the scandal broke in 2004, has assumed a similar role in Clinton’s campaign, even though his security clearance has been suspended until September 2008. This is raising eyebrows even among Clinton’s admirers. “It shows poor judgment and a lack of regard for Berger’s serious misdeeds,” said law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University, who nonetheless called Clinton “by far the most impressive candidate in the Democratic field.”

Adler told The Examiner that it is “simply incomprehensible to me that a serious contender for the presidency would rely upon him as a key foreign policy advisor.” ...

Berger has admitted stealing documents from the National Archives in advance of the 9/11 Commission hearings in 2003. The documents, written by White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, were a “tough review” of the Clinton administration’s shortcomings in dealing with terrorism, Clarke’s lawyer told the Washington Post.

On several occasions, Berger stuffed highly classified documents into his pants and socks before spiriting them out of the Archives building in Washington, according to investigators. On one occasion, upon reaching the street, he hid documents under a construction trailer after checking the windows of the Archives and Justice Department buildings to make sure he was not being watched.

Berger came back later and retrieved the documents, taking them home and cutting them up with scissors. Two days later, he was informed by Archive employees that his removal of documents had been detected.

As I wrote last month, this was no mere technical violation. Berger deliberately destroyed documents that the government had placed under high classification after deliberately stealing them in the first place. After he got caught, he offered lame excuses about "sloppiness" that the Clintons publicly endorsed -- and which Berger himself admitted were lies. He did all of this in the context of an independent investigation looking into the failures of the American government to anticipate 9/11 and protect us from it -- which had the intent to prevent us from getting surprised again in the future.

This association carries much more liability than Hillary's work with convicted fraudster Norman Hsu. It goes to the heart of national security, and it reveals Hillary's priorities on that subject. She considers cronyism more important than protecting this nation's classified material, and shows her contempt for the latter by placing a convicted lawbreaker on her national security advisory panel. She and her husband have made excuses for Berger ever since his criminal activity took place, and now she wants to reintroduce him to sensitive material all over again.

Sammon may not have reported on a new story, but it's one that should come up again and again until Hillary either cuts Berger loose -- as John Kerry did, to his credit -- or loses an election for her association with him. She has no excuse for attempting to rehabilitate Berger and preparing him for a second assault on the National Archives. If elected, that's clearly what she's contemplating. And Hillary should be held accountable for it before he gets that opportunity.

UPDATE: Mark Memmott and Susan Page get Hillary's response: "He has no official role in my campaign. He's been a friend for more than 30 years." Mark also reminds me that Hirsh's first name is Michael, not Tim, which I've corrected. Be sure to read all of Mark's post at USA Today.


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