Let the Sandy Berger Jokes Commence!

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One other piece of paper the former national security adviser–memorably and accurately described by Reason's own Tim Cavanaugh as a Gale Gordon manque–finally got around to returning.

As this Washington Post article makes clear, the Bergergate is in every sense an echo of the Clinton scandals: Stupid, petty, not fully provable, mostly irrelevant but a dark window into how power players act, and almost destined to die not from a bang but from a whimper. And, I should add, a good deal of fun, especially in its ability to generate all sorts of demeaning, if apocryphal, details.

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  1. Full accountability for every last classified document? Nice try. In the facilities I have worked in burn bags rip on the way to the furnace and documents get blown away with the wind. In fact, NSA had a furnace explode and scatter half burned “code-word” material all over Ft. Meade. Working Papers of every imaginable classification are created, destroyed, printed out, and improperly marked at a fantastic rate in the huge secure areas of most of our nation’s large agencies. Sure everyone gets training, but in my experience even the security experts couldn’t usually agree how to classify a derivative product. Maybe in your facility, the FBI gets called everytime someone forgets to use a coversheet, but in my experience it gets swept under the rug in favor of “ruining someone’s career”.

    The US’s record at protecting its national secrets is so well known to be abysmal, that the only reason this particular case attracts attention is the political value of the documents or the incident itself. I doubt there is more to it than that, though he will most likely end up pleading guilty to something.

  2. Joe, the first thing Rather (as a sample of the non-FNC coverage) said in the story lead in was the “questionable timing” of this “leak” about the Berger investigation. Any questions?

    Re: Lying under oath and using the executive branch as your own praetorian guard (Which was really the question at hand, pro or con) Begala/Carville/Blumenthal et al were high-fiving when the media ran with the “sex” angle…that was their diversionary strategy from the get-go.

  3. In a time of terror Kerry has no national security team. Remember in 2000 that was one of Bush’s main concerns. Foreign policy and defence credibilty. No campain can succed with out it. Kerry has none.

    The problem is up till now no one has noticed. I can’t imagine Bush allowing that to continue through November.

    Kerry has no credible foreign policy or defence team. Zip. Nada.

    What does that tell you about his chances if only second, third, and fourth raters are flocking to his banner? What does it tell you that Kerry has embraced some of the worst of the lot. Not because of their sound judgement (Schultz was a Bush advisor despite their differences on the drug war), but merely because they were telling stories that he thought could enhance his campaign.

    The Berger deal is the turning point of the campaign. Not many know it yet.

    Rumor has it that Berger gave the purloined letters to Kerry to advance his campaign. If that comes out Kerry is dead meat.

    Interestingly this has come out too soon for the Dems to choose another candidate and too late for it to not influence the tenor of the convention. Interesting times.

  4. If I had done the kind of crap this Berger guy did when I was a lowly radioman in the Navy, I probably would have done serious time in the brig, if not in Leavenworth. I hope the investigators are able to chase down every one who is involved in this, whether it is only Berger involved or others.

    Of course, my personal preference is to see Clinton (either one) connected to this somehow, but if it only brings down Kerry, I’d probably buy a cheap bottle of champagne to celebrate that too.

  5. Since we have some experts here, somebody please let me know why people can take notes of documents but can’t leave with the notes. Why take the notes in the first place?

  6. Bergergate demonstrates once again the arrogance of the Clintoons. They feel they can do anything they want and lie their way out of it if they get caught and (i)in extremis (/i) cry to their captive media that the big bad religious fanatic Republicans are smearing them and everyone does it anyway. He KNEW he was being watched, went back, did it again and kept doing it – FIVE times?
    Of course the major joke is that he didn’t tell Kerry about it, just went to work blithely writing foreign policy stuff based on the stolen materials for the Kerry campaign. Can anyone really say now that BJ and friends aren’t trying to sabotage the Kerry campaign so Hillary can run in ’08?

  7. “Since we have some experts here, somebody please let me know why people can take notes of documents but can’t leave with the notes. Why take the notes in the first place?”

    My understanding is that you can leave with the notes, but that they must be reviewed before you take them.

    More interesting to me is that Sandy walked off with multiple “copies” of the same document, then apparently lost several of the “copies”. Some were the originals in some reports I’ve heard, and earlier drafts than what was presented to the commission. This clearly leads to the speculation that Sandy wanted to destroy the originals since they may have contained information not kind to himslef, or Bill, etc., but that this information was edited out in later drafts.

  8. Snake, I’ll grant you Rather. Also, the media’s decision to “run with sex” probably had more to do with 1) six years of Clinton’s opponents trying to gin up sex scandals and sell them to the mainstream media and 2) it’s SEX, and sex sells. Blumenthal and Carville tried to squash the sex scandal, not feed it.

    Simon, Kerry by himself, without notes, is a more credible foreign policy and defense team than the entire Bush cabinet. But please, by all means, write as many letters as you can to the RNC, urging them to put their resources into challenging Kerry’s defense and foreign policy credentials.

  9. **Kerry by himself, without notes, is a more credible foreign policy and defense team than the entire Bush cabinet**

    hey dude, can you tell us what it looks like in there?
    (since you seem to have your head way up in Kerry’s ass)

  10. Keep it up. Especially in the two weeks prior to each debate, keep hammering on Kerry’s lack of credibility on foreign policy, intel, and defense issues.

    Thanks,

    joe

  11. Heck Joe MUST be right, Kerry can’t find the time for security/intell briefings, he MUST be up to speed. he don’t need’em, he knows so much!!!!

    Come on Joe, we Joe’s gots to stand by one another, but that claim about Kerry!!! Joe Lieberman’s WIFE, Hadassa knows more than Kerry, much less Lieberman…

    Kerry is a pretty face, and not much else. Certainly no intell/national security expert.

  12. “Kerry is a pretty face…”

    Maybe if you look at it through a funhouse mirror.

  13. Finally, a Clinton administration scandal that involves someone putting something in their pants.
    Somebody had to say it, don’t get mad at me.

  14. Classified materials get lost all the time, usually there is a minimal investigation, and no one is ever prosecuted. Many places have safe inventories that are years out of date – I have fixed plenty in my time. Shocking, but true. These documents were politically sensitive to one side or the other, or I’m a monkey’s uncle. I doubt we’ll find out much more about this unless the “unnamed sources” who observed the pants-stuffing turn out to be legit.

    BTW, I’m sure the reason why this looks like a “sting operation” is because the low level guys who administrate the archives on a daily basis wanted to make sure they were correct before dropping the dime on a former NSA.

  15. I dunno about the not fully provable. According to some media accounts, the Archives apparently had a half dozen employees who thought something was fishy and then watched Berger pilfering. His own attorney admitted publicly that Berger’s mindset was inadvertant (negligent) with respect to some things, knowing (a criminally culpable mindset) with respect to others.

    Negligent violations of security regulations with respect to top secret documents are a crime; knowing (i.e. intentional) violation are more of a crime, and theft of documents from the National Archives is a federal felony, and, oh, whoopsie, Lanny Breuer already indicated his client’s mens rea.

    I guess maybe the Post story does make it look apocryphal and silly, but that may have more to do with the Post’s coverage; the fact remains that servicemembers get courtmartialled for this type of stuff. And I guess it’s not provable either, in the sense that if I watch you rob a bank and shoot the guard, and then you are captured over the body with a smoking gun, it’s still your word against mine – i.e. not provable in the Clintonian sense, as in “you haven’t proven it yet in court, and you wont get a chance to if I can help it.”

  16. The Archives members – ALL of them – are Rove agents! Yeah that’s the ticket…

  17. The Archives workers – ALL of them – are Rove agents! Yeah that’s the ticket…

  18. Sandy is funny but the joke is on U.S.

  19. Nick Gillespie, shame on you!

    According to you, the Washington Post article portrays the Berger scandal as “[s]tupid, petty, not fully provable, [and] mostly irrelevant”.

    The article does nothing of the kind. Mr. Berger, through his lawyer, Lanny Breuer, has already stipulated as true that he took the various preliminary drafts of the millennium report on counter-terrorism from the National Archives. He has further stipulated that at least two versions are still gone, misplaced indefinitely.

    These drafts contained criticism by Richard Clarke of our government’s counter-terrorism tactics and strategies. They also outlined Mr. Clarke’s recommendations for improving our defenses against terrorism, including changes in airport security.

    Mr. Berger stole these documents, and destroyed two of them. That is a crime and an outrage. Mr. Berger’s malfeasance should be harshly punished, and not dismissed or condoned with verdicts of “stupid” or “petty” or “irrelevant”. And everything possible should be done to figure out what other documents Mr. Berger may have taken, and why he took them.

  20. It appears Nick left out the most salient descriptor of Clintonian scandals – their propensity to generate hysterical flights of fancy among conservatives.

    Like Travelgate, Whitewater, and Lewinsky, if you’re in the mood to do so, you can easily blow this up into a capital crime.

  21. I thought this is where the jokes commence.

    Q: What did Sandy Berger put into his socks?
    A: Footnotes.

    This was as “accidental” as Uncle Leo stealing books from the bookstore (Seinfeld episode).

  22. This may not be a innocent matter. According to some reports, some of the papers removed may have been unique documents bearing the handwritten notations Clinton administration members.

    If Berger removed and “lost” the only extant copies of these documents then it looks far more sinister than someone with a studied disregard for security protocols.

  23. Here’s what happens when you blend:
    1) joe’s hysterical conservatives
    2) A primarily liberal D.C. press corps
    3) Ultra slick, Houdini wordsmiths from the senior levels of the WJC admin.

    Mix together, and you get:
    An event is uncovered that has the potential to be a mjor scandal. Conservative pundits and members of congress rush in to increase the “outrage.” Then a well-oiled campaign begins to muffle/stifle/misdirect the “outrage,” and a winking media lets the whole thing wither after 72 hours of light-to moderate coverage.

    Results: conservatives have “overplayed their hand.” Dead issue.

  24. Of course if it had been Uncle George’s Condoleeza RICE that dun it, the flamethrowers would lining the Potomac and the gallows would already be under construction on the mall.

    We lefties don’t LIVE by the double standard, we INVENTED the got dam thing…..

  25. Ah yes, like when the winking media stopped paying attention to Monical Lewinsky, after only light to moderate coverage.

    Leno still makes Clinton pants jokes.

  26. Maybe we get a different version of NBC than where joe lives, but on my TV, Jay Leno is a comedian, not the news media.

  27. And where I come from, Josh, the water comes from a faucet, not some reservoir.

  28. Having handled classified documents for almost 20 years, I feel fairly justified in saying Sandy is lying through his teeth. Secondly, the ones that made it to the garbage at his house, did he miss the big red stamp? And as for putting documents even in his coat, what a crock of bull.

    To view classified documents, you actually recieve training and that training is documented and you sign your name saying you understand the legal responsiblities you are undertaking. There are actually written procedures on how to transfer classified documents. There is a written procedure on obtaining copies of classified materials and approvals are required of specific document caretakers. You are required to sign that you have read these procedures. They keep a record of this as well. In other words, they record that you know how to handle documents.

    As far as MrIntel up there saying they lose classified documents and its no big deal, I don’t buy that. We secure our facility and search the facility and all individuals when we lose one. We always find it.

    If we don’t find it, someone is in deep trouble. They bring in the FBI to investigate it and you get to take a lie detector test along with everyone else at the facility who was key carded in at the time. There is a procedure that is followed if one dissappears.

    So being sloppy is probably true. Like a thief who gets caught. He was sloppy, and he didn’t do it accidently.

  29. Joe L, I think you mixed up your talking points for Kerry with those for Edwards. No Team Leader points for you!

  30. What the heck was Sandy Berger thinking?
    As a DOD contractor for 25 plus years I would never even think of removing classified documents from their proper area. These documents did not inadvertently fall out of a burn bag, or off the back of a burn truck, Mr. Berger removed them: A completely willful, and improper, act.
    I don?t know what he did with those documents, or why he wanted to look at them somewhere other than the Archive room set up for that purpose, but he darn sure knew better than to remove them for any reason. (Many document are classified ?Secret? by the Gov. as a CYA measure, but that is another subject entirely.)
    They need to get to the bottom of this and find out what he did with the document(s) he allegedly destroyed, and what said document(s) pertained to. What he did was unacceptable, unethical, and inexcusable. Even if his intentions turn out to be benign, I still think he should be subjected to the appropriate legal action.

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