Sandy Berger, former national security adviser to President Clinton, is accused of illegally smuggling classified documents on terrorism out of a secure reading room at the National Archives.
Berger was supposed to be in that reading room preparing for hearings of the 9-11 Commission.
He had permission only to review the documents and leave. Instead, he allegedly took notes and then stuffed the notes in his clothing and slipped some of the original documents into a leather portfolio, which he walked out with. One report indicates a staff archivist saw him stuffing papers in his socks.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, a Republican, naturally jumped on the announcement that Berger is now the subject of a criminal investigation for his removal of the documents. Hastert asked, with justification:
“What could those documents have said that drove Mr. Berger to remove them without authorization from a secure reading room for classified documents?
“What information could be so embarrassing that a man with decades of experience in handling classified documents would risk being caught pilfering our nation's most sensitive secrets?
“Did these documents detail simple negligence or did they contain something more sinister? Was this a bungled attempt to rewrite history and keep critical information from the 9-11 Commission and potentially put their report under a cloud?”
Berger issued a statement saying he regretted his “sloppiness” in taking the documents. His friends strongly denied he stuffed anything into his socks, but they denied little else. Then Berger resigned as an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.
The most troubling aspect of this story is that, when Berger was confronted with the allegations, he returned most of the original classified documents, but not all.
Missing are Clinton administration reports on its handling of the al Qaida threat of attack around New Year’s Day 2000, and on the administration’s evaluation of America’s vulnerabilities to terrorism at seaports and airports.
Why are those reports gone? Which part of the truth is lost?