December 21, 2006


How an Ex-Aide to President Clinton Stashed Classified Documents (JOSH GERSTEIN, December 21, 2006, NY Sun)

A former national security adviser to President Clinton, Samuel Berger, stashed highly classified documents under a trailer in downtown Washington in order to evade detection by National Archives personnel, a government report released yesterday said.

The report from the inspector-general for the National Archives, Paul Brachfeld, said Mr. Berger executed the cloak-and-dagger maneuver in October 2003 while taking a break from reviewing Clinton-era documents in connection with the work of the so-called September 11 commission.

"Mr. Berger exited the archive onto Pennsylvania Avenue," the report says, recounting the story the former national security chief told investigators. "He did not want to run the risk of bringing the documents back in the building. … He headed toward a construction area on 9th Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the archives and the DOJ, and did not see anyone. He removed the documents from his pockets, folded the notes in a ‘V' shape, and inserted the documents in the center. He walked inside the construction fence and slid the documents under a trailer." [...]

A leading authority on classification policy, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, said Mr. Berger's behavior was reminiscent of a "dead drop," when spies leave records in a park or under a mailbox to be retrieved by a handler.

"It seems deliberate and calculated," Mr. Aftergood said. "It's impossible to maintain the pretense that this was an act of absentmindedness."

All five documents Mr. Berger removed were versions of an after-action report about the foiled "millennium plot" to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport and other sites. The internal review, by a top counterterrorism official, Richard Clarke, reportedly found that luck was the major factor in disrupting the plot and that more attacks were likely.

Mr. Berger has admitted placing classified documents and his notes, which were also presumed classified pending a review, into his suit pockets to carry them out of the archives. However, the inspector general's report resurrects claims that Mr. Berger may have removed some papers by placing them in his socks.

An archives staffer reported that Mr. Berger took frequent bathroom breaks and was seen in a hallway "bent down, fiddling with something white, which could have been paper, around his ankle."

Mr. Berger later told investigators that any fidgeting near his feet was due to difficulties he has keeping his footwear tidy. "He stated his shoes frequently come untied and his socks frequently fall down," the report said.

And to think, the Clintonites call other people trailer trash....

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 21, 2006 9:59 AM

To add insult to injury, his sentence (among other things) included no access to high level documents for something like 3 years. I have stuff in my fridge older than 3 years!

Posted by: pchuck at December 21, 2006 10:25 AM

I just cleaned out my filing cabinet at work abd found documents from the previous owner from six years ago.

Posted by: Bryan at December 21, 2006 11:16 AM

Three years, eh? Just in time to serve in Shrillary's administration - Heaven forbid!

Posted by: obc at December 21, 2006 11:19 AM

That's exactly what'll happen for Sandy Berger. The Clintons will reward him for his services.

Posted by: Lisa at December 21, 2006 11:40 AM

St.Hillary already owes Webb Hubbel an appointment as Sect. of Commerce. (And MacDougall needs to be rewared for all those years spent in jail for contempt, too.) With the same '92 Congress leaders already back in power, a Rodham administration will be just like ol' times ag'in.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 21, 2006 12:39 PM

Did Berger do this on his own, or was he tagged with the job? Obviously, someone knew the "sensitive" documents to steal (and destroy).

I'm surprised Carl Levin, who took such pains to review the Barrett Report (and prevented it from being made public), hasn't shown an interest in Sandy's sartorial stuffing.

Why didn't any GOP Congresscritters go and look through what Berger was 'reviewing'? Doesn't Pat Roberts or Peter Hoekstra have the same clearance?

Was Berger asked about having any 'accomplices'?

What happens to his deal if he lied?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 21, 2006 1:16 PM

All this and they haven't even been sworn in yet.

Posted by: erp at December 21, 2006 1:29 PM

All this and they haven't even been sworn in yet.

Posted by: erp at December 21, 2006 1:38 PM

This story perfectly symbolizes why the Republicans are no longer in the majority. If a Republican did something one tenth as bad as this it would be a major news story for months if not years. It would be all over the place. Tremendous damage would be done to the 'Republican' brand name. On the other hand I'd bet 75% of the country has no idea this ever happened. Berger gets less than a slap on the wrist and will no doubt one day be in a position of real importance.

Posted by: andrew at December 21, 2006 2:52 PM

Webb Hubbel! Jeez that is a terrible blast from the past.

Posted by: pchuck at December 21, 2006 3:03 PM

Scooter Libby lied to FBI investigators and is on trial for perjury. To whom did Sandy Berger lie [Mr. Berger later told investigators...]?

He pleaded out on the actual crime and got a slap on the wrist. I run a security office in the Air Force and have denied individuals access to classified material for much less egregious offenses. I'd never again allow him to touch a classified document.

Posted by: Mike at December 21, 2006 4:05 PM

I was going to comment on this, but my shoes keep coming untied, and I can't tie them, and type at the same time.

Posted by: AllenS at December 21, 2006 5:04 PM

No amount of GOP shrieking will make an insignificant story into a scandal.

Posted by: oj at December 21, 2006 5:44 PM

Only media shrieking can a scandal make.

Posted by: erp at December 22, 2006 7:14 AM

OJ -

You know better than that. If Condi were seen stuffing top-secret papers into her pantyhose (presumably to hide Republican sins of omission), it would be front-page news and the lead on every newscast. Jack Cafferty and Wolf Blitzer would be howling for hours, and guys like Olbermann would be demanding that the hose be produced as evidence. And we haven't even got to the NYT editorial page yet.

The "insignificance" of the story is that the material involved is 6 or 7 years old. But Berger's thievery happened in 2004, no? And other than Forrestal jumping out a window (and Clinton taking Chinese money), when has such a high-ranking American defense official done anything so personally stupid?

Posted by: ratbert at December 22, 2006 9:27 AM

The Administration has hidden far more and no one cares. The lead-up to 9-11 is a non-story.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2006 11:35 AM