Pants in the News


Glenn Reynolds has a nice roundup of Bergergate links. Not all of them are worth reading—complaining about media bias is dull enough, but do we really need to see Hugh Hewitt's preemptive complaining?—but most are useful. And kudos to Reynolds for remembering Fawn Hall.

NEXT: The War on Parody

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. These events took place in October. The investigation began in January. Important?

    Didn’t a CIA chief get pinged a couple years ago for copying secure info onto his laptop? He wanted to go over the stuff at home. Some of the materials were found on Berger’s messy desk. Sounds the same to me.

    Paul Z, if I read this correctly, he inadvertantly took the leather file folder with the documents. He deliberately stuck his notes under his clothing.

    PapyaSF, what is this “destroyed secret memos?” I’ve only seen references to some of the items being lost, while others were found in the piles on his messy desk.

  2. Good thing for Deutsch his infraction was before Clinton’s pardons.

    What’s Sandy’s out? Or was this his sword to fall on?

  3. Joe,

    “Am I supposed to cross my forehead when someone says, “the media is leftist,” or genuflect?”

    you can be “happy” that an overwhelming majority of mainstream media shares your agenda (or outlook or whatever you want to call it).
    or you can be like Alterman and wonder “what media bias”, or you can be like M. Moore and claim that the media is rightwing.

    or you can simply keep quiet.

    When 90% of the ‘journalists’ vote for one party, I wonder how people like you pretend otherwise. you can argue they are doing it for world peace, common good, the children or whatever; but don’t tell us there is no bias.

  4. The events took place in October. Apparently, an initial investigation began almost immediately when National Archive staffers phoned Berger’s attorney. Why were they phoning his attorney? Why weren’t they contacting the FBI first. If I am ever suspected of criminal negligence, I hope my attorney gets a call before the authorites.

    There may be less to this than is suggested by the belated “news” story. The delay in the story being told to the public is notable. As a concerned voter who desires to be informed, I would have rather had knowledge about this prior to Berger’s March testimony.

    Berger was taking notes (which he was supposed to leave behind) on documents containing points he was going to have to deftly recall during his upcoming testimony. That he took origninals from the room thinking they were copies is certainly puzzling. That he seems to recall discarding the most prescient of these (the after-action reports on the thwarted millennium bombings at LAX and Seatle is downright disturbing.

    Paul O’Neill was cleared of any wrongdoing in regards to his handling of classified documents from the White House. Perhaps it is possible that there is no criminal intent in this episode. But I would be willing to bet that when the Commission report is released and damage begins to accrue to the current White House, this administration will go on full-court press to deflect judgement away from its actions. They’re ability to bottle up classified documents pursuant to new investigations are now legendary. Could Berger been trying to purloin certain documents that could exonerate the previous administration at the last available opportunity?

    There is something fishy about the timing of this release in correlation to the abrupt vacancies at the top of the CIA flow chart and the eve of the release of the Commission’s report. There is also something fishy about the Wilson’s affair re-appearance in the news spotlight and Fitzpatrick’s reticense about disclosing where he is at with the leak investigation. My guess is that indictments are forthcoming for Bush and Cheney or, in the least, Cheney. I don’t think Karl Rove likes the idea of The President under indictment and facing criminal prosecution on Election Day. I also don’t think that many people will want to handle the documents in question now considering where they have been.

  5. joe,

    “Am I supposed to cross my forehead when someone says, “the media is leftist,” or genuflect?”

    you can be ‘happy’ that an overwhelming majority of the MSM shares your agenda/opinions/outlook or whatever. Or you can wonder (like Alterman) ‘what media bias’, or you can act like M.Moore and claim that media is rightwing. or you can simply keep quiet.

    when 90% of these ‘journalists’ vote for one party and their personal preferences keep showing up in their news coverage, I wonder what it takes for people like you to pretend otherwise. you can argue they are doing so for a good reason (world peace, the children, environment, etc.) but don’t claim there is no bias.

  6. With reference to the Berger issue, Josh Marshall at points out that there is some question as to whether the allegations involve original documents (suggesting [A] that Berger was trying to purge the historical record), or copies (suggesting either [B] that Berger was trying to abscond with classified material, or [C] that Berger was sloppy in handling classified material).

    It strikes me as unlikely that Berger would think that he could even attempt [A]. It appears that Berger has admitted to [C].

  7. Just for a little perspective, pretend it was Jesse Walker who stole something from the National Archives and then lost it on his messy desk.

    The media coverage wouldn’t be extensive but he would be in frigging jail awaiting trial.

  8. Alkali,

    I buy the sloppiness argument. I mean at work, I?m always getting the U.S. Reporter down my underpants. I can?t help it ? it just slips in there sometimes. Why just last week, 32 Moore?s Federal Practice fell into my thong as I changed after a workout at the firm gym.

    Of course the problem for Berger is that his lawyer admitted that Berger’s walking off with the Docs, at least some of them, was “knowing.” That’s a legal term of art for “he meant to do it.” They were in his socks, underpants, under his shirt, and in his jacket pockets, as well as in his folio.

    Somehow, I don’t think that this is a clever Rove=ian plot to keep Shrubya from getting indicted. It appears to be an actual factual national security crime on Mr. Berger’s part.

  9. Recently a study was done where sources were tallied in various news stories (not opinion pieces) and compared to the sources used in the speaches given by various politicians. The result was that news outlets tend to use sources used by left wing politicians. The most balanced news outlets according to this study were Drudge and Fox.

  10. Stephen Fetchet:

    You big liar. There is no volume 32 of Moore’s.

    In seriousness, two things:

    (1) It’s not clear to me (from John Solomon’s AP article, which is the one I read) that there were documents (or copies of documents) in Berger’s clothing as opposed to handwritten notes (such as on Post-Its). When I empty my pockets at night, there are frequently a bunch of crumpled register receipts and other things. Under these circumstances, putting a used Post-It with notes on it in your pocket may still be illegal — I assume you can’t use a security clearance to go to the National Archives, copy a classified document’s content onto a gum wrapper and take it out of the building — but it’s surely different in some respects than having a briefing memo stuffed down your tighty-whities.

    (2) If you are referring to Solomon’s article, you will see that the word “knowingly” is not in quotes, so that may just be Solomon’s take. Clearly, if Berger did put a crumpled Post-It in his pocket, he did so “knowingly” within one meaning of that word (i.e., it wasn’t an accident; he didn’t throw it in the wastebasket and miss). Under federal law, however, there are two standards for actual intent: one along the lines of “not by accident,” and another which is more like “I did it even though I knew it was against the law.” (To be convicted of tax evasion and most environmental crimes, the government generally has to show the latter kind of intent — just showing that someone screwed up their taxes isn’t enough.) I don’t happen to know what the standard is for mishandling classified documents, but if it is the latter, then Berger could credibly say, “I forgot to follow the special rule about notes when working with classified documents.”

  11. I thought Hewitt made a decent point: how would the media cover this if the parties had been reversed?

    Well, most of the press are Democrats; it goes without saying that non-Democrats will have a tougher time of it, and past experience bears that out. But Hewitt’s hypothetical scenario isn’t really fair — Rice is the *current* national security adviser, and Berger is, at the moment, just a political hack. “National Security Adviser Steals 9/11 documents” is an eye-catching headline; “Some Guy You Vaguely Remember from the ’90s Steals 9/11 Documents” isn’t. It’s important to remember that reporters are ratings whores first, and Democrats second; it isn’t surprising they didn’t rush to push the story.

    Here’s an amusing note, though: As I write this, the Berger scandal is the top story on, with a big honkin’ picture of Berger to get your attention, while the supposedly Republican-biased Fox News is treating the story the same as MSNBC is — there’s a single, unobtrusive, link to the story.

    Anyway — I can see how it might be possible that Berger could have accidentally taken classified documents, and then accidentally discarded them. That would show an alarming degree of carelessness, especially for a man who used to be the President’s security adviser, and I certainly don’t consider it a likely, but it’s within the realm of possibility.

    What I cannot see happening is Berger “accidentally” stuffing his notes into his pockets. He knew he wasn’t allowed to take the notes with him, and it’s not credible that Berger could have forgotten that fact. So the only way he could have accidentally taken those notes with him is if he took down the notes, removed them from the notebook/notepad/whatever they were written in, stuck them in his pockets, and then forgot he’d done so. That’s pretty much unbelievable — for one thing, why the heck would he stick his notes in his pockets when he had a leather document portfolio (the one he “accidentally” stuck the classified documents in) to carry them with?

    One thing’s for sure — whatever advertising agents handle Bush’s attack ads are seeing dollar signs flash before their eyes.

  12. I can’t believe this. Sherman, set the Way Back Machine for 1999; here we go again. Let’s see, was it intentional or inadvertent? Were they copies or were they originals? Were they in his pants or were they in his pocket? Were they in his leather folio upside down or were they right side up?

    WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? Didn’t a former very senior government official violate important rules that he knew were important and were not to be violated?

    Somewhere, Bill Clinton’s reading all this and laughing his ass off.

  13. To summarize Paul Z:

    Was he malicious, or merely stupid?

    And, does it really matter which?

    I mean, is it really winning press spin for Kerry to come out and say “hey, my national security advisor isn’t malicious, he’s just stupid”?

  14. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? Didn’t a former very senior government official violate important rules that he knew were important and were not to be violated?

    You forgot to mention that he knew that they were not to be violated because they were very important rules and he was a very senior government official.

    Does it matter whether Berger failed to throw away a crumpled piece of scratch paper or whether he sold nuclear secrets to the Chinese? If all you care about is scoring political points, no.

  15. Does it matter whether Berger failed to throw away a crumpled piece of scratch paper or whether he sold nuclear secrets to the Chinese? If all you care about is scoring political points, no

    Talk about non-sequiteurs.

    Berger has admitted taking his handwritten notes with him in his pants pockets, and possibly in his jacket; all that’s in dispute is whether that was accidental.

    Berger has admitted to taking classified documents out of the archives; all that’s in dispute is whether that was accidental.

    Several of the documents that Berger took weren’t returned. Berger says he accidentally discarded them; all that’s in dispute is whether he accidentally discarded them or not.

    Even if you assume that Berger is telling the truth about everything — that he accidentally took the notes, accidentally took the documents, and accidentally threw some of the documents away — that’s still a hell of a lot worse than “failing to throw away a crumpled piece of scratch paper”. Even if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Berger was telling the unvarnished truth, it still wouldn’t be simple “scoring of partisan points” to observe that what he did was pretty serious.

  16. Obelus,
    and what what Bush/Cheney be “indicted” FOR? Oh Lying, no, no no evidence of lying… Of knowing about 9-11 PRIOR to the event? Gee Mr. Moore, no evidence of that either… that he and his Jewish/Neo-Con Cabal PLOTTED 9-11 together with the Mossad? Or isn’t it really that that DAMN Bush won the election and your guy/gal didn’t?

  17. Dan: fair points. Even assuming that these were simple mistakes, I doubt Berger has any shot at future government service after this point.

  18. Thanks for the link about Fawn Hall – I didn’t know her name and didn’t get the reference. Now I do!

    “complaining about media bias is dull enough,”

    it might be dull (just like complaining about most things we usually do), but it is a fact and someone has to do the complaining. since the media is leftist, the righties have that role now.

  19. Am I supposed to cross my forehead when someone says, “the media is leftist,” or genuflect?

    The rituals that surround these statements of faith can be hard to keep straight.

  20. I thought Hewitt made a decent point: how would the media cover this if the parties had been reversed? Of course, the media will give extra attention to the current administration, so let’s design the thought experiment carefully. Imagine that Bush was president ’92-’00, and Clinton president now. Former National Security Advisor Rice is found to have taken from an archive and destroyed secret memos about the Bush administration’s terror response pre-9/11. Yeah, I think that would be presented as a rather bigger story. Don’t you?

  21. He “inadvertently” put notes in his SOCKS?!? Oh, yeah, I do that all the time. Sometimes when I get home at night and take off my shoes, I notice that my socks are just bulging with inadvertently filed memos.


  22. Condi Rice walks out of a secure NSA reading room and you’ll have 50 days of front page articles by the NY Times, LA Times, etc. Berger does this and you have?

    By the way, the media isn’t liberal, just vastly over represented by people that vote Dem.

  23. A quick scan of the news websites this morning confirmed some kind of bias: Fox had this story as it’s lead, CNN and MSNBC had it as a secondary item, but in the top queue. ABC had it well down the page below the top stories, as did CBS. This confirms my general impression: the Fox is on the right, ABC and CBS the left, the others in the middle.

    This of course says nothing about which services gave the story the correct priority, that’s a matter of interpretation. But clearly each news service has a general slant of some sort. And since Fox is the only one that can clearly be labeled right wing, it doesn’t seem so controverial to me to say that there is a general, though spotty, left tilt in the news media as a whole.

  24. Paul Z: I’m familiar with “Secure Rooms”. They have signs as you walk out that say “You Must be this tall to remove classified documents”.

    The signs are manufactured by the same people that make the “You must pay this amount to meet with the Senator” posted in various places in Dirksen building.

  25. Joe,

    I kind of agree with your post about Repub’s obsession with Clinton, and that Sandy Berger should have the benefit of doubt until his “crime” is proven. It is only an allegation (he has substantiated a portion of that) at this point.

    Now, what do you have to say about Joe Wilson’s lies? There is no doubt that he lied; can we acknowledge that? Or, are we still in “Bush lied!” mode?

  26. They crank up the Clinton Conspiracy Machine. It MUST have been an attempt to purge the historical record

    Ah — the mysterious, unidentified “they”.

    Few people, if any (and none that I’ve heard or read) have said that that MUST be the explanation for Berger’s actions. Various people have said it *might* have been an attempt to purge the record, and some even think that that’s the likely explanation. But that’s because they’re trying to figure out why Berger would have been stupid enough risk years in prison in order to steal documents or smuggle out his notes. After all, we know he did it; he’s admitted to it. What we don’t know is why.

    by – er – making copies of documents that were available to the commission, then destroying (or not!) those documents

    If he made copies of classified documents, that’s illegal too. They have ID numbers for a reason.

    We don’t know exactly what documents he stole, and which of those documents he then “discarded”. If, as some reports have indicated, he took all of the documents containing certain rough drafts of the report, and then “discarded” them, that would indicate a desire to “disappear” those rough drafts. Otherwise we need to look for another explanation for why he chose to break the law; there’s no chance it was accidental.

  27. It appears that the Republicans are poised to repeat their Lewinsky mistake. There they were, with a story that could have humiliated the president and turned public opinion against him, rendering him politically neutered. But by their overreaching and complete lack of perspective in trying to “sell up” the scandal, they end up driving Clinton’s approval ratings up!

    Here they have Berger, obviously breaking some security rules so he could bone up for the big test, and leaving some important stuff lying around because he’s sloppy. That looks bad for him, and it looks bad for Kerry that he’s had him on his staff. But what do Dennis Hastert and Fox do with this? They crank up the Clinton Conspiracy Machine. It MUST have been an attempt to purge the historical record by – er – making copies of documents that were available to the commission, then destroying (or not!) those documents. See, Berger was on a secret mission from Bill Clinton…

    This unhealthy obsession with fantastical Clinton conspiracies is a real weakness for conservatives. I love to see the man’s name in the news, because every time it appears, a number of prominent Republicans feel the need to remind the country that they spent the late 90s acting like X-files fanboys.

  28. “They crank up the Clinton Conspiracy Machine. It MUST have been an attempt to purge the historical record by – er – making copies of documents that were available to the commission, then destroying (or not!) those documents.”

    He only took one document–but he appears to have taken multiple copies of it. He “lost” some of the copies. Some of these appear to have been earlier drafts–drafts the commission didn’t see.

  29. I keep hearing different assertions, Don. I’ve seen a quote from a commission member saying they still have access to everything.

    If he were trying to keep a document secret, wouldn’t he have “lost” all the copies?

  30. Using the logic of some on this board I hereby proclaim Fox News biased! As of 11:45 pm Central on 7/20 they are running the smallest Berger related headline. CNN has his mug as the lead, MSNBC has the 9/11 commision report, and the liberal Fox is leading with an a possiable abduction in Utah.

  31. zorel, I’ve given the recent Joe Wilson stories little attention, as there are so many more important thigs to follow. However, the “revelations of lies” seem to be less than meets the eye. E.g., he said his wife didn’t recommend him for the job. The shocking new information on this – she answered some questions when she was called into a superior’s office and asked them.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.