Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s former National Security Advisor, will plead guilty to a single misdemeanor tomorrow for taking a raft of classified documents out of the National Archives just ahead of the 9/11 Commission’s investigation:
Former national security adviser Sandy Berger will plead guilty to taking classified material from the National Archives, a misdemeanor, the Justice Department said Thursday. …
The former Clinton administration official previously acknowledged he removed from the National Archives copies of documents about the government’s anti-terror efforts and notes that he took on those documents. He said he was reviewing the materials to help determine which Clinton administration documents to provide to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
He called the episode “an honest mistake,” and denied criminal wrongdoing.
Sorry, that explanation simply doesn’t fly. As anyone who has ever held a clearance can testify, the security briefings regularly delivered to cleared personnel make absolutely certain that no one misunderstands the consequences of taking classified material out of secured areas. Simply moving documents into another unsecured room can easily get someone fired. Taking them out of the facility altogether not only will definitely get someone fired, but also charged with a crime — and destroying the material would get anyone but Berger charged with a felony for each missing document. After all, the only evidence we have that the documents no longer exist is Berger’s testimony. Who can prove a negative?
The people who signed off on this deal probably just want to get Berger off the national stage for good, and see little gain in staging a sensational trial of the former Cabinet officer. Unfortunately, the message that this plea deal sends is that the violation itself was little more than a political faux pas instead of the obstruction of justice and clumsy cover-up that it was. The material missing was unique, with specific handwritten notes that directly related to the work the 9/11 Commission did to reconstruct the history of why we were so vulnerable to al-Qaeda’s attacks. That information will never come out, which includes Berger’s role in dithering while al-Qaeda gained strength at our expense.
The image of Berger stuffing his pants may be humorous, but I assure you that his crimes were anything but. Charging him with a single misdemeanor so that he can collect his wrist-slap and go back to the lecture circuit fails the American public that Berger should have protected all along. (via Michelle Malkin, graphic courtesy of CQ reader Peyton Randolph)
UPDATE: Rocket Man agrees.