Huzzah! Samuel “Sandy” Berger has plea-bargained his way out of his sticky wicket with the National Archives. Berger, after clearly denying any such involvement last year, has admitted to lifting and destroying classified documents associated with the Clinton Administration’s war on terror, or failure thereof.
The former National Security Advisor’s sentence could have been a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. Instead, he receives a fine of $10,000 and the loss of his security clearance for three years.
The long arm of the law in the nation’s capital apparently isn’t — especially when it comes to former Clinton officials.
Let’s face it. $10,000 is chump change for Berger and friends. The loss of his security clearance for only three years is an affront to all of us who’ve ever had one and had to protect it. More distressing, the plea agreement allows Berger’s clearance to be subject to review and restoration prior to three years, should he be appointed to a position requiring it. Ergo, he gets it back when he needs it.
Not only is he not in jail, he still has a future career in government?
Not only is the punishment weak and disproportionate to the crime committed but what kind of message does it send to countless military and government employees who are browbeat constantly on the need for protection of classified documents? What do we tell those employees who mistakenly compromise or lose classified documents and are held to a much higher standard of justice?
Berger called the situation an “honest mistake” and denied criminal wrongdoing. Clinton Justice 101: “plausible deniability.”
Berger isn’t a rube. From my time at the White House it was obvious to me that Berger quite clearly understood the sensitivity and importance of classified documents. He handled the nation’s most sensitive documents on a daily basis. Indeed, the Situation Room in the White House, Berger’s office and workplace during his tenure as Clinton’s National Security Advisor, is behind a vaulted door for the protection of said documents.
Berger’s theft came just prior to the 9-11 Commission and his (and boss Clinton’s testimony) as to what he knew and when he knew it. The documents in question detailed administration thoughts and recommendations on the December 1999 al Qaeda millennium plot.
Berger says the documents he shredded were essentially the copies of the same. Then why shred them?
He also admitted to removing handwritten notes. As I discussed here this past fall, the handwritten notes are the truly insightful and telling documents of all. They would connect the dots between Clinton, Berger, Richard Clarke and anybody else who might have been an accomplice to the administration’s failures in regard to terrorism and national security.
My experience suggests they knew a lot more than they wanted to reveal.
The 9-11 Commission has since said they had access to all the documents they needed to complete their investigation. How would they know if by the time they convened the documents had been destroyed, didn’t even exist?
Sandy Berger knowingly and deliberately removed national secrets from the Archives and then shredded them. He testified in front of the Commission chartered with investigating his country’s failures leading up to 9-11. When caught, he denied having done anything wrong. He interfered with the investigation of a congressionally-appointed commission. Now, he admits and gets off with a feckless hand slap.
Berger was the senior advisor to a president for five years and the policy advisor for John Kerry’s campaign last year. This is yet one more glaring example of justice or lack thereof, involving the former Clinton administration
How many more incidents is it going to take? Where is the outrage?