The Trojan Berger — What Did Sandy Bring To The Archives?

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gives a new twist to Trousergate today, reporting that Sandy Berger may have not only taken top-secret information out of the National Archives, but also may have acted as a Trojan Horse for disinformation getting in (via Instapundit):

What was Sandy Berger up to when he “inadvertently” removed versions of a classified National Archives memo that critiqued Clinton administration intelligence and security efforts regarding the millennium celebrations? We still don’t know.
But a bigger question is being posed by some of the well-sourced wags with whom we regularly converse. In fact, one says the thrust of the federal investigation now looking into Mr. Berger’s actions should center not necessarily on what was taken from the archived files but what was placed in them [emph in original]. …
And adding an entirely new layer of intrigue to the story is word that telephone calls made by Berger during those latter two visits may have been monitored by an “unauthorized agency.”

One of the stories widely reported this week was the discovery that Sandy Berger had blocked four different efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, in one case because the US did not have him under indictment. Could it be that Berger attempted to replace the memo with his handwritten objections to these operations with a new version without the notes? Or, even more possible given the authorship of the draft memos he stole, could Berger have tried to replace the stolen documents with forgeries rewritten in order to coincide with the testimony that Richard Clarke later gave the 9/11 Commission in public hearings? John Lehman blasted Clarke for the changes in his testimony between the closed sessions and the open sessions of the commission hearings in an interview this week. Coult this be related?
The phone calls are even more disturbing, as any kind of electronic communications while reviewing highly classified documents are strictly forbidden, for obvious reasons. It appears that Berger and at least one other person conspired to get information out of the National Archives and possibly to get fraudulent information into it as well. Why didn’t the Archives staff confiscate the phone at the time the calls were made?
The window of innocent explanations has closed on these incidents. It’s clear that Berger knowingly broke the law in a number of different ways. The House investigators and the FBI need to find out why Clinton’s NSA would take such a dangerous and stupid risk, and on whose behalf.
NOTE: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review doesn’t disclose its sources for this editorial, but it does note that the information comes from sources within the investigation. Are they reliable? Maybe, maybe not; we’ll find out eventually. As Sean Hackbarth notes in the comments, it’s good to be skeptical, but the information about telephone calls comes from multiple sources now — and that troubles me most, as it indicates a conspiracy to either take information out or to plant information within the National Archives.

Height Of Hypocrisy

The press continues to focus on the least egregious leak in the entire Trousergate scandal surrounding Sandy Berger, as the Democrats play a little sleight of hand in pushing the focus onto the White House instead of Sandy Berger:

A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that some National Security Council officials knew Berger — who has resigned from his position as informal adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry — was suspected of mishandling National Archives documents that were being sought by the commission. …
Former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart, who is serving as a spokesman for Berger during the controversy, said the expanding circle of officials who the White House acknowledges knew of the criminal investigation heightens his suspicion about the timing of the disclosure that Berger is under investigation. “This is the third day in a row that the story has changed,” Lockhart said. “Did the political operation know? Did [adviser] Karl Rove know? I think it’s time for them to come clean, say what they knew, when they knew it, and what role if anything they had in leaking it.”

So again, the Democrats prove themselves completely unserious by defending what Berger did — committing serious and deliberate security breaches, even by his own description — as harmless, even though top-secret data is now missing and unaccounted for, and possibly out in the open. On the other hand, hacks like Lockhart keep jumping up and down screaming about someone leaking the fact that Berger had been under investigation for months for violating security at the National Archives, as if that were supposed to be more important than the top-secret codeword information he stole.
And what’s today’s revelation? That the National Security Council knew about the investigation? Well, color me shocked! The National Security Council has to be kept informed of major security breaches, if for no other reason than to make a proper assessment of the damage done to National Security. And believe me, when specially compartmented information (SCI — “codeword”) data gets into the open, that is a major security breach.
So the people who needed to know, knew. What a revelation. Here’s a much better question — why did Bruce Lindsey know? What government position did Lindsey fill in 2003 that got him placed at the top of the notification list when Berger stole the files? Why did Bill Clinton know, for months? Who told him? If Berger told Bill Clinton, why didn’t Berger tell John Kerry?
Something smells, all right, but the stink isn’t coming from Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sloppiness Turns To Suspicion

Sandy Berger’s preferred excuse, one that Bill Clinton himself has publicly endorsed, that his “sloppiness” led to the pilfering of classified documents from the National Archives takes another body blow in today’s Washington Post. John Harris and Susan Schmidt report that National Archive staff had become so suspicious of Berger’s conduct that they implemented a special coding system to, in effect, sting him for his repeated security violations:

Last Oct. 2, former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger stayed huddled over papers at the National Archives until 8 p.m. What he did not know as he labored through that long Thursday was that the same Archives employees who were solicitously retrieving documents for him were also watching their important visitor with a suspicious eye.
After Berger’s previous visit, in September, Archives officials believed documents were missing. This time, they specially coded the papers to more easily tell whether some disappeared, said government officials and legal sources familiar with the case. …
A government official with knowledge of the investigation said Archives employees took action promptly after noticing a missing document in September. This official said an Archives employee called former White House deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey, who is former president Bill Clinton’s liaison to the National Archives. The Archives employee said documents were missing and would have to be returned.
Under this version of events — which Breuer denied — documents were returned the following day from Berger’s office to the Archives. Not included in these papers, the government official said, were any drafts of the document at the center of this week’s controversy.
The documents that Berger has acknowledged taking — some of which remain missing — are different drafts of a January 2000 “after-action review” of how the government responded to terrorism plots at the turn of the millennium. The document was written by White House anti-terrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke, at Berger’s direction when he was in government.

According to this chronology, Berger took the missing documents at issue in September, not October, and returned to take even more documents after that security breach. Not only does this tend to indict NA security officers — who never should have let Berger back in after the first security lapse, but obviously politics played a part in that decision — but it demolishes any notion that Berger’s supposedly legendary sloppiness led to an inadvertent theft, a notion ridiculous on its face. As I’ve described before, classified documents have brightly-colored covers indicating their level of classification, and in any case SCI-classified (codeword) material is never supposed to leave the Archives.
So what happened when Berger returned on October 2? Berger fell into the trap that National Archives security staff set up for him:

The government source said the Archives employees were deferential toward Berger, given his prominence, but were worried when he returned to view more documents on Oct. 2. They devised a coding system and marked the documents they knew Berger was interested in canvassing, and watched him carefully. They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. At one point an Archives employee even handed Berger a coded draft and asked whether he was sure he had seen it.
At the end of the day, Archives employees determined that that draft and all four or five other versions of the millennium memo had disappeared from the files, this source said.
This source and another government official said that archivists gave Berger use of a special room for reviewing the documents. He was examining the documents to recommend to the Bush administration which papers should be released to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said that employees closely monitor anyone cleared to review classified presidential materials.

And now we get to the crux of the problem, besides the obvious and purposeful security breaches that Berger committed. This description of the material makes clear that while the documents themselves in their original form were copies of a memo, they had handwritten notes on them that made each one unique. It also acknowledges his role in selecting documents for the 9/11 Commission to review as part of its investigation.
What exactly did Clinton Administration officials write on those after-action draft memos that Berger and others didn’t want the 9/11 Commission to see?
We’ll probably never know now, thanks to Berger’s theft and the unwillingness of the National Archive’s security staff to enforce its procedures.

Unless Sandy Berger Works There, In Which Case It’s All Political

The Washington Post reports that ongoing security breaches at the nation’s top weapons development lab have shut down operations and may result in a criminal investigation:

Failure at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to follow security procedures is widespread and the highly secretive nuclear facility lacks an effective system to prevent employees from removing classified material, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in a toughly worded statement yesterday that threatened firings and left open the possibility of a criminal investigation.
Missing computer disks, classified information sent out via e-mail and an accident involving a summer intern injured in the eye by a laser forced Los Alamos to stop nearly all of its operations over the weekend, including weapons research and field testing, as a major investigation into serious security breaches and accidents got underway.

Los Alamos promises to start firing people to get the message across after several incidents at the laboratory have failed to change the behavior of veteran “cowboys” at the facility. It sounds like Animal House to me. The firings should have taken place when disks first went missing, and we already should have had the FBI investigating the security lapses at Los Alamos.
We are at war, people. It’s way past time to get serious about security at our classified facilities.

Trousergate Timing Gets More Curious

The New York Times, in its update on the Sandy Berger debacle known as Trousergate among bloggers, raises even bigger questions regarding the timing not of the revelation of the investigation but of Berger’s association with the Kerry campaign:

For months, Mr. Berger has consulted regularly with Mr. Kerry on the Iraq war, Middle East relations, terrorism and other foreign policy matters, helping to formulate speeches, prepare op-ed articles and brief reporters on the candidate’s positions, campaign officials said.
“Sandy Berger is my friend, and he has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction,” Mr. Kerry said Tuesday in a statement. “I respect his decision to step aside as an adviser to the campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly.”
Associates said he would probably try to rejoin the campaign after the Federal Bureau of Investigation had concluded an investigation that began in earnest in January after the National Archives discovered that classified material Mr. Berger had reviewed was missing. …
Mr. Berger spent about 30 hours over three days in the summer and fall of 2003 reviewing classified material in a secure government reading room, his associates said. … Officials at the National Archives realized late last year that several documents were missing and turned the matter over to the F.B.I., which later searched Mr. Berger’s home and office, officials said. Mr. Breuer said that Mr. Berger had returned two of the documents, but that he had apparently discarded several others inadvertently.

So this investigation has been ongoing since January — since before Kerry became the frontrunner in the Democratic primaries. Berger himself knew of this investigation at that time. One would presume that the Justice Department knew about it. The Clintons knew about it, thanks to the call early on to Bruce Lindsey from National Archives staff members.
So when did Kerry know about it? Did his “good friend” Sandy Berger keep it a secret from him? Nothing in Kerry’s statement mentions when this matter was brought to his attention. Someone had to be aware of it, or else Berger had another way to access classified information for reviewing the data for Kerry. Either Berger kept the whole thing secret from Kerry (which seems like an odd thing to do to a friend), or Kerry has been promoting Berger through his campaign knowing that he breached security on multiple occasions when reviewing highly classified terror-related materials.
So when did Kerry know his friend and national-security advisor broke security laws?
One other point about timing. Many people, including Bill Clinton and several other prominent Democrats, have accused the current administration of leaking this now to deflect attention from the 9/11 Commission report. But if Berger was under investigation for security violations since January, wouldn’t it have been better (for the Bush administration) to have leaked it during Berger’s public testimony? Besides, with the news that the commission report will wind up without concluding that the attacks were avoidable and the Senate about to issue a report supporting the WMD claims made by the administration, Bush didn’t need the Berger debacle at all.
Ask yourself this: who benefits from a Kerry implosion before the convention?

Kerry Gives Berger The Boot

The Kerry campaign acted with uncharacteristic haste to distance itself from the debacle of Sandy Berger’s breach of security at the National Archives, as Berger announced his “resignation” from a position that both Kerry and Berger now say didn’t officially exist:

Former national security adviser Sandy Berger, the subject of a criminal investigation over the disappearance of terrorism documents, stepped aside on Tuesday as an informal adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
The investigation had threatened to become a political problem for Kerry a week before his nominating convention in Boston in which he hopes to persuade voters that he is ready to be commander in chief. The cornerstone of Kerry’s argument against Bush is that he used faulty intelligence and poor judgment in waging war against Iraq.

The question now is when did the Kerry campaign find out about the security breaches at the National Archives? These thefts happened in October 2003, and Berger served the Kerry campaign since he started sweeping the primaries in February, at least. Bruce Lindsey had been notified at the time the documents disappeared. Not only that, but in order to receive security briefings during the campaign, Berger would have to either have retained his clearance or applied for a new one. While under this kind of investigation, that clearance had to have been cancelled or suspended — something that the Kerry campaign had to know.
The question is what did Kerry know, and when did he know it?

It’s Just Trousergate, According To Clintonites

CNN, which had earlier reported that former Clinton Administration National Security Advisor Sandy Berger had stuffed his notes on classified documents in his socks to get them past security at the National Archives, now reports that Berger’s associates vehemently dispute that detail:

[L]aw enforcement sources told CNN that some of the papers he is said to have taken from the National Archives were stuffed into his socks as well as other parts of his clothing. That allegation drew sharp responses from two of Berger’s associates. President Clinton’s former spokesman, Joe Lockhart, said Berger “categorically denies that he ever took documents and stuffed them in his socks.
“That is absurd,” said Lockhart, who is now advising Berger. “And anyone who says that is interested in something other than the truth.”
Former Clinton aide Lanny Davis challenged any unnamed official who accuses Berger of stuffing documents into his socks to come forward and level that charge publicly.
“I suggest that person is lying,” he said. “And if that person has the guts, let’s see who it is who made the comment that Sandy Berger stuffed something into his socks.”

We’ll see soon enough, I suppose; I’d assume that the area where Berger viewed the files had video surveillance. However, longtime CQ reader and funnyman Peyton Randolph reminds me that transmitting classified information is acceptable as long as the correct container is used:
MIL-S-713 Podiatric Transmission Container

Why Trousergate’s Timing Matters, But Not How You Think

On both this blog and on my cross-post at Oh, That Liberal Media, commenters have questioned the timing of this leak (via Jon at QandO) to the press and the seriousness of the damage done by Sandy Berger’s theft. Some have suggested that Bush operatives within the FBI deliberately let this leak out just before the release of the 9/11 Commission’s report in order to dilute its impact, too.
Let’s take the last issue first. A family friend has been visiting the past few days, and we discussed this at breakfast this morning. (Well, in between my grunts as I moved around …) She also questioned the timing and made the same assumption about the leak. Possibly, she’s right. However, let me ask this — when would people prefer to have the information that the 9/11 Commission was denied access to highly classified material relating to the Clinton Administration’s response to terrorism — after the report came out, or before? For that matter, when would the commission itself prefer to find this out? I’d say it’s better to have this information in the public eye now, especially since the commission made such a show about public testimony, including that of Sandy Berger. If they publish a report based on incomplete evidence, I want to have that information in hand before assessing its credibility.
In terms of the potential damage done by Berger’s actions, it’s not likely that the commission would leave innocuous documents highly classified if no damage could be done by their release. In fact, the commission has publicly demanded other documents to be declassified, including the unprecedented release of a presidential daily briefing on threat assessments. If that can be declassified, the retention of classification on these documents indicates that they could be highly damaging to national security, which is (after all) the reason for their classification in the first place.
Small wonder that even Democratic lawmakers consider this to be an extremely serious problem:

Although lawmakers didn’t want to make a judgment call on Berger’s fate until all the facts are known, they agreed that the situation doesn’t look good for Berger, or even for Kerry.
“There’s an ethic here — that is of strict discipline, of not letting the fact you’re working on a political campaign start to color your actions when it comes to national security,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told FOX News on Tuesday.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., called the news “surprising” and said that “unless we learn otherwise, I have to assume that what Sandy said was right — that any removal of documents was inadvertent. But it is serious.”
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, “we need more information — obviously the timing of it is not good” for Kerry. “From now on, until the election, everything like this will have a spotlight put on it, examined very carefully,” Lott continued.

For one last pass at why this information came out now, I’d say that it had more to do with the investigation being passed to the Justice Department than anything else. However, I’d remind you that the investigation was well known to many parties — and that one of the first person contacted on the document theft was Bruce Lindsey, Bill Clinton’s counsel. If people want to assume conspiratorial motives to Bush, it’s just as plausible to assign them to the Clintons as well, who might wind up benefiting from a Kerry collapse. (I think it’s a silly argument, but I also think the Bush argument is equally silly.)
On the notion that this is just a mistake on Berger’s part, this update seems to discredit that notion, too (emphasis mine):

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

Nothing about this story adds up to an innocent mistake on Berger’s part. He wanted to sneak the material out from its secured location. Motive will be important, but the search for why should not obscure the already-known what.

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.

Trousergate, Cont’d

The Washington Post essentially recaps the AP story last night on Trousergate, Sandy Berger’s theft of classified documents from a secure room last October, although they manage to leave out the trousers from their article. However, the story has shifted into a more muted tone in the hands of Susan Schmidt and Dan Eggen:

The FBI is investigating Clinton administration national security adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger’s removal of classified documents from the National Archives, attorneys for Berger confirmed last night.
Berger inadvertently took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall, said his attorney Lanny Breuer. The lawyer said one or more of the copies were then inadvertently discarded. …
Berger discovered several versions of the classified memo in a leather portfolio he had taken to the Archives, his attorney said. He returned them and papers on which he had taken notes about materials he had reviewed. Those notes, Breuer said, were not supposed to have been removed from the Archives without review by employees there. Berger’s actions, said Breuer, were the result of “sloppiness” and were unintentional.

For my money, that’s at least one “inadvertently” too many, and that is not a literary criticism. Perhaps this explanation will fly for those who have never worked around classified documents, but since I spent three years producing such material, I can tell you that it’s impossible to “inadvertently” take or destroy them. For one thing, such documents are required to have covers — bright covers in primary colors that indicate their level of classification. Each sheet of paper is required to have the classification level of the page (each page may be classified differently) at the top and bottom of each side of the paper. Documents with higher classifications are numbered, and each copy is tracked with an access log, and nowadays I suppose they’re tracking them by computers.
Under these rules, it’s difficult to see how anyone could “inadvertently” mix up handwritten notes with classified documents, especially when sticking them into one’s jacket and pants. Furthermore, as Clinton’s NSA, Berger would have been one of the people responsible for enforcing these regimens, not simply subject to them. The DOD makes these rules crystal clear during the clearance process at each level of access, and security officers (which Berger clearly was) undergo even further training and assessment on security procedures. “Inadvertent” and “sloppiness”, in the real context of secured documentation, not only don’t qualify as an excuse but don’t even register as a possibility.
Schmidt and Eggen also try to tone down the potential damage Berger’s theft could do to national security:

The missing copies, according to Breuer and their author, Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism chief in the Clinton administration and early in President Bush’s administration, were versions of after-action reports recommending changes following threats of terrorism as 1999 turned to 2000. Clarke said he prepared about two dozen ideas for countering terrorist threats. The recommendations were circulated among Cabinet agencies, and various versions of the memo contained additions and refinements, Clarke said last night.
Breuer said that Clarke had prepared a “tough review” and that the document was something of a critical assessment of what agencies did well and what they failed to do in the face of the millennium threat.
Clarke said it is illogical to assume Berger would have sought to hide versions of the memo, because “everybody in town had copies of these things.” He said he could not recall most of the recommendations, but one that he did remember — having FBI field offices send wiretap material to Washington for translation instead of translating it locally — still has not been accomplished.

Now we have another excuse — that the material isn’t important and shouldn’t be considered a problem. After all, everyone knew what was in the memo, right? Unfortunately, as the article does state elsewhere, there were several versions of the memo during its development, and each had different information and recommendations. It would appear that at least one memo had information and/or recommendations that received no action, and its release might embarrass the Clinton administration’s national-security team. Besides, the NSA or DOD still considered the data to be highly sensitive, and its loss means that the information it contained has either been destroyed, or if you believe Berger, may be lying intact in a Virginia landfill, waiting to be discovered.
I find it highly suspect that the first expert the Post found to speak on this is Richard Clarke. How many of the partisans will come out of the woodwork? Next, we’ll have Joe Wilson come out and claim that the documents never existed in the first place.
Clarke and Berger may spin this all they want, but the truth is that Berger stole classified files that related to the worst act of mass murder/terrorism ever experienced by Americans, and indeed the worst attack on our territory since the Civil War. That theft by a member of the opposition party’s Presidential campaign calls into question the motivations of not only the administration Berger served, but also the administration he proposes to serve.
UPDATE: The New York Times’ Mark Glassman doesn’t just spin the story, he sanitizes it. Here’s the description of the event from Glassman:

Mr. Berger removed at least two versions of a memorandum assessing how the government handled intelligence and security issues before the millennium celebrations in 1999, his lawyer, Lanny A. Breuer, said. He also removed notes he took about classified documents, the lawyer said. …
Mr. Berger returned all of the documents and notes to the archives in October, within a week of his learning they were missing, his lawyers said.

Glassman doesn’t find Berger’s lawyer’s admission (in the Post story) that one or more of the documents were lost (see above) to be at all newsworthy, for some reason.