Secrets in his socks

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 21, 2006

Former Clinton administration national security adviser Sandy Berger Burglar pleaded guilty last year to charges that he stole classified documents from the National Archives. He was fined $50,000 and lost his security clearance for three years (just getting them back in time if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008).

Wednesday, the inspector general's report on the Berger burglary was released.

On the evening of Oct. 2, 2003, former White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger stashed highly classified documents he had taken from the National Archives beneath a construction trailer at the corner of Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW so he could surreptitiously retrieve them later and take them to his office, according to a newly disclosed government investigation.

The documents he took detailed how the Clinton administration had responded to the threat of terrorist attacks at the end of 1999. Berger removed a total of five copies of the same document without authorization and later used scissors to destroy three before placing them in his office trash, the National Archives inspector general concluded in a Nov. 4, 2005, report.

After archives officials accused him of taking the documents, Berger told investigators, he "tried to find the trash collector but had no luck." But instead of admitting he had removed them deliberately -- by stuffing them in his suit pockets on multiple occasions -- Berger initially said he had removed them by mistake.

It's abundantly clear that Berger got off far too easy. You or I would still be cooling our heels alongside Randy "Duke" Cunningham if we'd done what Berger did.

Also far down in the story is this interesting tidbit.

The report states that in 2003, an official whose name was deleted informed the White House that the documents Berger reviewed during his first two visits -- in May and June of that year -- were so poorly organized and tracked that the archives "would never know what if any original documents were missing." Berger has said he removed nothing during those visits, and a source close to him said last night that no one had accused him of doing so.

We'll never know for sure if Berger managed to steal and destroy some embarrassing document to cover up the Clinton administration's failures. Berger's word on just about any issue is immediately suspect.


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December 2006



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