Berger Cops To Misdemeanor

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.

Coalition Holds American Aide To Zarqawi

The Associate Press reports that the US forces in Iraq have held an American citizen who they claim served as a chief aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi since late last year. The Pentagon has declined to identify the man, but describes him as a Jordanian-born naturalized US citizen who has lived in several different American cities over a 20-year span:

U.S. forces in Iraq are holding a senior operative of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who has joint American-Jordanian citizenship, defense officials said Thursday.
The man was captured in a raid by U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq late in 2004, said Matthew Waxman, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.
“Weapons and bomb-making materials were in his residence at the time he was captured,” Waxman said.
Waxman described the man as an associate of Zarqawi and an emissary to insurgent groups in several cities in Iraq. Zarqawi, who has declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, is the most-wanted man in Iraq and is blamed for numerous bombings since the U.S.-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein from power two years ago.
Defense officials also believe the captured American helped coordinate the movement of insurgents and money into Iraq, Waxman said.

No reason was given for the secrecy of his capture or his identity, or why the Pentagon decided to release the information now. The easy tactical conclusions would indicate that the aide provided useful information to American interrogators, and that would appear to lead to the conclusion that his assistance has reached its end. Another possibility is that the secret of this aide’s fate kept Zarqawi from knowing fully whether his American assistant hadn’t broken under questioning, forcing the terrorist mastermind to abandon old plans and reorganizing networks to avoid capture, undermining their effectiveness. It could well be both.
However, the terrorist’s American citizenship will soon cause headaches for the coalition forces and the Pentagon. Despite his capture in a foreign territory by military forces in a war zone, the courts will inevitably demand to take jurisdiction over his case, just as with John Lindh. That would also explain why the Pentagon delayed announcing his capture, although probably only a secondary consideration.
The question facing the US now is whether to try him in an American civil court, as happened with Lindh, a military tribunal, or to just turn him over to the Iraqis against whom his crimes have been targeted. If I had a vote, it would go in support of the latter option. Let the greater victim seek the greater justice.

Pope In Serious Condition, Gets Sacrament Of The Sick (Update)

The Pope has taken a turn for the worse, suddenly running a high fever as a result of a urinary-tract infection. CNN reports his condition as “serious”, but radio reports have the Italian authorities sealing off the streets around the Holy See:

Pope John Paul II’s condition remained “serious” early Friday, but he appeared to be responding well to antibiotic treatment for a urinary tract infection that caused him to develop a fever, a Vatican official said.
Thursday night, as his health deteriorated, the pontiff was given the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church, a Vatican source told CNN.
The sacrament does not necessarily mean that the pope is dying. Last rites — also known as the sacrament of the sick or extreme unction — are commonly given to people who are seriously ill as well.

The First Mate, in fact, has received the sacrament prior to her transplant surgeries, so it should not necessarily be seen as a sign of surrender. However, given all of the recent changes in his health, we Catholics (and many others, I’m sure) want to pray for John Paul now, that he recover if that is God’s will, but that he remain comforted regardless.
UPDATE: The Pope appears to be stabilizing, according to Reuters:

“The Pope’s health is stabilizing,” said Father Konrad Hejmo, who is in charge of Polish pilgrims to the Vatican and has close ties to the Pontiff’s inner circle.
Hejmo told reporters that the Pope’s latest health crisis came about because he had lost a lot of weight following his recent throat surgery and because of a reaction to having a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. “The fever and the fall in (blood) pressure was the reaction of his body to the loss of 42 lb and being fed via a tube,” he said.

Despite the highly disturbing news that the Pope has lost 42 pounds during his illness — an undeniably bad indication for regaining his long-term strength — the positive response to his treatment gives us hope that he may yet recover. Prayers continue.

TNR: Bush Deserves More Credit For Democracy’s Spread

The New Republic’s Martin Peretz ventures into nearly uncharted territory for the Left, even the center-Left, in the latest edition of TNR. He argues that George Bush deserves more credit for tranforming the Middle East than given him by the media and punditry, and takes them to task for their “churlishness”:

If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn’t share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn’t have the resources or the bold–perhaps even somewhat reckless–instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?
No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy–the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats–never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history. Nothing about his past suggested that he harbored these ideals nor the qualities of character required for their realization. Right up to the moment Bush became president, I was convinced that his mind, at least on matters Levantine, belonged to his father and to James Baker III, whose worldview seemed to be defined by the pecuniary prejudice of oil and Texas: Keep the ruling Arabs happy. But I was wrong, and, in light of what has already been achieved in the Middle East, I am glad to say so. Most American liberals, alas, enjoy no similar gladness. They are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush’s campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.

Read the entire article, if it can be accessed without subscription. Peretz goes into a lengthy analysis of the efforts over the past two administrations to handle Middle Eastern turmoil, and he surprisingly savages the Clinton Administration’s fumbling efforts to avoid being seen as losers rather than take any bold initiatives to transform it. He faults the first few months of the Bush administration along similar lines — fairly, in my opinion — but gives Bush credit for learning his lesson after 9/11, a lesson Peretz notes that the American Left still has yet to comprehend. In fact, as Peretz concludes, the greatest irony about George Bush and the Middle East is that history may show that one of the most conservative administrations in ages (Peretz’ opinion) managed to be the first to actually spread liberalism throughout a region most liberals thought to be hopeless.

Oupatient Hospiblogging For Today (Updated)

I’m sitting in a treatment room at the Transplant Center this afternoon as we have combined a couple of appointments for the First Mate and eaten up most of the afternoon here. I haven’t posted an FM update in quite a while, mostly because not much has changed. She still hasn’t required any additional insulin since the days after her release from the hospital, and her blood levels for kidney function have been the best since … well, since I’ve known her. She’s completely off of blood-pressure medication now — she used to take three different hypertension meds in combination to get it under control — and her appetite has even improved a little.
Unfortunately, her anemia has returned, and she needs iron infusions via IV for the next few weeks, which is one of the reasons we’re here today. She has a nasty cough that she picked up from someone, and although her chest X-ray came back clean, the center wanted a CT scan to be sure she doesn’t have pneumonia. The doctor will probably prescribe a big ol’ dose of Cipro for the next few days if the CT scan doesn’t show anything, and hopefully that will take care of the cough, because neither one of us has gotten much sleep this week.
In fact, last night I started losing my voice and picking up a lighter version of her cough, and today I have total laryngitis. I started calling myself the Hoarse Whisperer in the office this morning on e-mail (since I couldn’t answer my phone), and I’m afraid I may miss my NARN appearance on Saturday unless it improves greatly over the next 36 hours. I did miss an opportunity to join Hugh Hewitt on today’s show, which kills me because working with Hugh and Duane is about as much fun as one can have while avoiding illegality, and that’s the truth. Be sure to tune in Hugh to hear what I missed.
We’ll be here another couple of hours, so I may get more blogging time in this afternoon. The iron infusion just finished, but maybe they’ll let the FM just sleep in the bed until the doctor comes to see her.
UPDATE: The CT scan didn’t go all that well. The radiologist saw some fluid in the FM’s right lung, so she’ll need a bronchoscopy tomorrow to determine what kind of infection she’s got going. It’s an all-day kind of test, so our “second son” will take her in the morning and I’ll pick her up in the afternoon when she’s done. It’s likely either bronchitis or a mild form of pneumonia, and the test should tell us which by Monday. The doctors don’t feel that this is anything to get panicked about, but once they know what it is, they can treat it correctly.

American Intelligence ‘Dead Wrong’ On WMD: Panel

The presidential panel report on WMD intelligence has determined that the spy agencies got its information “dead wrong” but did not politicize or distort its findings to suit any particular policy, the AP reports this morning:

In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that America’s spy agencies were “dead wrong” in most of their judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States knows “disturbingly little” about the weapons programs and threats posed by many of the nation’s most dangerous adversaries.
The commission called for dramatic change to prevent future failures. It outlined more than 70 recommendations, saying that President Bush must give John Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, broader powers for overseeing the nation’s 15 spy agencies.
It also called for sweeping changes at the FBI to combine the bureau’s counterterrorism and counterintelligence resources into a new office.

On the oft-leveled charge of politicization, the panel unanimously rejected the notion that anyone bent the intelligence agencies’ arms to get the analyses either administration wanted:

But the commission also said that it found no indication that spy agencies distorted the evidence they had concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, a charge raised against the administration during last year’s presidential campaign.
“This is not `politicization’,” the panel said of its own report. “It is a necessary part of the intelligence process.”

Hopefully we will see the unclassified report released later today in PDF format so that a more detailed look at their post-mortem and recommendations can be had by all. Please scroll to my previous post for an analysis of the recommendations made by the panel regarding even more bureaucratic shuffling in response to their concerns.

When Bureaucracies Grow, They Tend To Collide

One of my main criticisms of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was that the ultimate resolution called for a greater bureaucracy rather than a reorganization along functional lines. In other words, rather than take the alphabet soup of intelligence services and reorganize them into two agencies — FBI for all domestic counterintelligence and the CIA for everything else — the 9/11 Commission recommended that two more layers of management be added on top of all the existing agencies and that a new Director of National Intelligence would become the President’s sole advisor for all intelligence work.
At the same time, the 9/11 Commission recommended the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center to act as a clearinghouse for all these agencies to coordinate their efforts. Again, had the Commission exercised better judgment, the NCTC wouldn’t be necessary as the only coordination required would be between two agencies, the FBI and the CIA, with the President and his national-security advisor acting as arbiters on final policy. That history becomes important when analyzing the latest flack on the recommendations from the presidential investigative panel on WMD intelligence, whose recommendations have stirred controversy even before their release:

One proposal being questioned calls for restructuring the FBI’s counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations and analysis under one director, and having that individual report both to the new director of national intelligence as well as to the FBI director.
Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, who had been briefed by FBI sources on the proposal, said that giving the DNI, whose prime concern is foreign intelligence, a role in domestic counterterrorism operations could create civil liberties issues. …
The panel makes suggestions for better organization of the intelligence community. The report acknowledges a “problem” in the potential conflict between the new position of DNI and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center but, according to sources, does not make a recommendation for addressing it. The position of DNI, which will be filled by Iraq Ambassador John D. Negroponte, and the NCTC were part of the intelligence reorganization legislation adopted by Congress in December. The NCTC’s mission is to fuse all foreign and domestic terrorism intelligence, and to conduct strategic planning for counterterrorism operations at home and abroad.
Under the new intelligence reform statute, the NCTC director is tasked to brief the president on counterterrorism operations, a role that some officials say will undercut the authority of the DNI, who is supposed to be the president’s chief adviser on all intelligence activities, including terrorism.

Again, had the 9/11 Commission thought about reducing bureaucracy to improve efficiency, the entire civil liberties issue would have remained moot, or nearly so. By blurring the lines of management between domestic and foreign CT but not creating any partnerships between the two in the trenches, the 9/11 Commission gave us literally the worst of both worlds. We still have multiple agencies doing intelligence work, especially overseas, but they don’t coordinate at all except at the executive level. Instead of allowing the president greater access to raw information and the primary analysts, two more layers of political appointments have been added between them. And for panels which faulted two administrations for not having enough contrarians in positions of authority to challenge the conventional wisdom, both seem far too eager to promote the DNI as the only person allowed to advise presidents on intelligence matters.
Now we have a conflict between the NCTC and the DNI, and possibly between the FBI and both of them, as the top-heavy bureaucracy starts to sink our responsiveness and efficiency at gathering intelligence and acting on it. I propose that we start over from scratch, using the template of two agencies only to maintain the customary divide between domestic and foreign CT activities to protect civil liberties, but which will allow greater cooperation in the field and more efficiency at information gathering and analysis. Make the domestic agency separate from the FBI and the Department of Justice, if necessary, so that both agencies can then report to the president.
Most importantly, let’s get rid of the excess bureaucracy that causes petty jurisdictional infighting like we see now. None of that makes us any safer, now or in the future.

Abbas: OK, Now I’m Serious

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has had a credibility problem ever since Yasser Arafat named him as Prime Minister. He has never had a mandate for action of any kind, as the Palestinian electoral fraud that hoisted him into the presidency demonstrated. His Fatah faction has only minority support, as the Palestinians have openly endorsed Hamas by a 2-1 margin in the only election cycle that Hamas contested.
Now it appears that even his Fatah faction may be deserting Abbas, as their al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has now overtly turned their guns on their leader — and Abbas suddenly has become a convert to the rule of law:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a crackdown on Thursday on Ramallah militants who defied demands that they lay down their arms under peace moves he had agreed with Israel.
Abbas took a tougher line after half a dozen gunmen from his own ruling Fatah faction fired at his Ramallah compound on Wednesday night while he was inside and then went on a rampage in the West Bank city, damaging several restaurants and shops.
In another sign of lawlessness plaguing the Palestinian territories, an angry crowd burned down tents used as offices by Palestinian police in the West Bank town of Tulkarm early on Thursday after police shot and wounded three suspects.
“President Mahmoud Abbas has issued an order to prevent any security violations and harm to citizens’ property,” a spokesman said. “Security units have been deployed to prevent further attacks.”

Expect to see more of this infighting, probably escalating to the point of civil war in the territories, if Abbas cracks down and tries to reach a compromise with Israel. The Palestinian people have made clear their preference for the Hamas approach to Israeli relations, which means that any agreement that falls short of the Mediterranean for the Palestinians will not be accepted by them. His Fatah faction can only count on about 30% of the electorate’s support at any time, and this clearly shows that even Fatah’s loyalties are split — and since they qualify as the moderate party in the Palestinian Authority, Abbas’ presidency is puttering on political Empty.
Abbas has nothing to lose with his new get-tough policy, and perhaps it will lead to one of the key goals of the so-called Road Map: the elimination of the militias in favor of a state-controlled security apparatus than can get the nutcases under control. With the thin support he enjoys inside and outside his own power base, however, one must conclude that Abbas needs a lot of luck and tremendous strategic stupidity on the part of his opponents to succeed. Given the history of the PA, that’s still possible, but it looks more and more unlikely.

Photo IDs The New Form Of Jim Crow?

Three states have begun debating the need for better identification at polling places during elections, especially after seeing the voting debacles in Washington and Wisconsin. Seeing how a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID has become necessary for almost any business transaction in modern life, one might expect such a mundane requirement to attract little passion, let alone serious opposition. However, lawmakers in two of the three states — Indiana and Georgia — walked off the job and out of the debate in protest, and Wisconsin’s governor again threatened to veto any legislation requiring identification at the polls:

Legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots has touched off fierce debate in three states, with opponents complaining the measures represent a return to the days of poll taxes and Jim Crow.
Lawmakers in Georgia and Indiana walked off the job to protest the proposals, which they say would deprive the poor, the elderly and minorities of the right to vote. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, has already vetoed a similar measure and has vowed to do so again. …
Georgia’s proposal, for example, would allow people without photo IDs to cast provisional ballots but require them to return within 48 hours with a picture ID.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat, said that amounts to “an updated form of Jim Crow,” referring to segregation-era laws that kept blacks from voting. About 100 people rallied outside the Georgia Capitol last week to protest the legislation, which passed the state Senate on Tuesday and now goes to the House.

Can anyone tell me what Jim Crow has to do with proper identification at the polls? Nothing. The argument typifies the usual Democratic response to anything that threatens their ability to exploit the shamefully lax methods we use to secure the vote for eligible citizens across the nation. When that ability is threatened in any way, the Democrats squeal about racism and classism, and in this case drag out the homeless as well.
Excuse me for injecting a little common sense into this argument, but voting has its responsibilities as well as its rights. The voter should be responsible for properly registering in advance for an election. People who want to ensure that their votes count properly should welcome better polling security. After all, voter fraud dilutes the impact of legitimate votes. Just ask the people of Milwaukee, or the non-felons in Washington.
Getting a photo ID in advance of an election should not present a difficult task for anyone with an address. For the homeless, a serious question of eligibility exists. If they do not have a residence, in which precinct and district should they vote? That isn’t just a flippant question. Often, local initiatives are decided by a handful of votes in a community, and having transients vote with no stake in the result skews the democratic process. If states want to offer the homeless an option for voting by having them register using government buildings for addresses, why not simply allow them to get state photo IDs (not drivers’ licenses) at those same addresses?
Calling a requirement for proper identification to ensure the elimination of fraud from our basic democratic process a new form of Jim Crow demonstrates demagoguery at its worst. The injustices of Jim Crow were much too profound for these empty suits to hijack them just to protect their back-door method of ballot stuffing. The legislators who walked out rather than defend an intellectually and morally bankrupt position showed cowardice, not principle. This display clearly marks the Democrats as the party of hysteria and race-baiting, and voters should chastise them where it counts: at the polls.

Robed Pot Calls Kettle Black?

In denying the Schindlers a final en banc appeal, the opinion for the denial includes a shot at Congress and the President by Justice Stanley Birch:

Birch went on to scold President Bush and Congress for their attempts to intervene in the judicial process, by saying: “In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people our Constitution [sic].”

Talk about judicial arrogance! Not only did the Eleventh Circuit openly disregard the law written by Congress, this justice arrogantly tells the other equal branches that the only branch guaranteeing a free people is the one not accountable to the will of the electorate. Bear in mind that none of the courts that reviewed this case after the passage of the emergency legislation found it unconstitutional; that at least would have put the court on record. Instead, the judiciary simply and contemptuously disregarded a law which to this moment remains legal and valid.
If Birch thinks that this law constitutes such a serious threat to the Republic, then the court should have ruled it unconstitutional. However, that would have meant a hearing on its merits, which the 11th Circuit cravenly refused to provide. Birch instead reacted in keeping with the hyperinflated notion of the judiciary in modern times as a superlegislature with veto power over actions taken by the other two branches without any due process whatsoever.
Birch’s comment demonstrates that this out-of-control judiciary constitutes the main threat to the Founding Fathers’ blueprint. They have set themselves up as a star chamber, an unelected group of secular mullahs determining which laws they choose to observe and which they choose to ignore. The arrogance of this written opinion will resonate through all nominations to the federal court over the next several years. It will motivate us to ensure that judges nominated will start respecting the power of the people’s representatives to write and enact laws, and the duty of the judiciary to follow them or to specify their unconstitutional nature in the explicit text of the Constitution itself.
In the meantime, perhaps the Senate may want to read this opinion closely and discuss impeaching Justice Birch for his inability to apply the laws of Congress as required. This statement should provide all the proof necessary.