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Security Breach: The Real Follies of the Berger Affair

| 104 Comments | 13 TrackBacks

The Blogosphere has heavily covered Sandy Berger's security breach of the National Archives, and the many angles that the mainstream media and particularly the Washington Post and New York Times have avoided. Yet for all that there are no real evaluations of:

  1. How badly the National Archives screwed up the security of code letter secret documents;
  2. How badly the system of notification of security breaches was abused; and
  3. How badly Sandy Berger screwed over American national security. Cell phones are not secure, and Berger's security breach using a cell phone from a secure document vault is the kind of thing that could result in tens of thousands of preventable American civilian deaths if my worst fears bear out.

None of these issues are trivial - and unfortunately, the scenario for #3 isn't a big stretch.

Blogosphere Reactions

Here at Winds of Change Sandy Berger affair has been addressed once already with Celeste Bilby's post: "Sandy Berger: Inadvertent My Foot." She did well to capture the anger felt by of those of us in the federal government or defense & intelligence related industries, about the security abuses Sandy Berger was allowed to perpatrate.

Glenn Reynolds "Flooded the zone" with more then a half dozen posts:

...setting the pace for the Blogosphere.

I think Roger L. Simon understood exactly what Berger was up to in his post The Follies Berger – Clue No. 304 when he made the point that Berger was systematically eliminating drafts of Millennium Terrorist Bomb Plot after action report that had hand written notes from Clinton Administration officials, his own specifically, and that this elimination fatally compromised the record of events. The Pittsburgh Tribune- Review added its own twist on that here.

It gets worse. From the NY Post:

"Urgent complaints that the FBI could not decipher bugged conversations between members of a Brooklyn mosque and Afghan terrorists because it lacked translators were included in the documents former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger removed from the National Archives, The Post has learned."

One of the comments over on Belgravia Dispatch also explained why Berger was given that access to those records for the 9/11 Commission, and noticed something else:

"The Justice Department should have informed the White House Counsel's office ASAP because the matter had to do with documents belonging to the Office of the Presidency, the Executive Branch. The context that the NYT "journalists" failed to convey is that Berger was the Executive Branch's and Bill Clinton's agent in reviewing the former administration's holdings for documents that met the 9/11 Commission's criteria.

Here's what happened. Berger was on a mission for the executive branch – the 9/11 commission wanted papers that may have qualified for executive privilege. The commission contacted either Bill Clinton or his attorney, Bruce Lindsey, who delegated Berger to review the former administration's holdings for documents that met the commission's criteria.

That's why when National Archives employees noticed irregularities in Berger's handling of the documents, they notified Lindsey, as Clinton's lawyer and representative to the NA. The NA's inspector general was probably involved immediately.) When NA IG determined that documents were missing, it notified the Justice Department. Justice should have immediately notified the counsel for the current administration because any crime that may have been committed might be against the office of the president. Justice would properly conduct the investigation, but the executive branch has an interested based on the constitutional separation of powers."

3 Critical Points

There are several points here. In addition to destroying documents, Sandy Berger was acting as an agent of the executive branch for the 9/11 Commission and was screening the information that was to be provided to them. The Bush Administration did not choose Berger to do this. The 9/11 Commission did. Then the Commission saw only what Berger wanted them to see via hiding behind the Executive Privilege implied by constitutional separation of powers. This makes the 9/11 Commission report worthless. The Commission did not see what Berger, Gorleck and Ben Veniste did not wish them to see, with the cooperation of Co-Chairmen's Kean and Hamilton.

Second, the National Archives saw multiple egregious security violation occur and DID NOTHING. They did not call security to stop and search Berger for the classified documents he stuck in his pants, his socks and his leather folder. They did not stop him from taking and keeping notes on those classified documents. Then they let it happen twice. The first time Berger did it and the second time during their "sting."

Third, there were multiple and repeated breakdowns in the reporting of this security breach. "The Kid" already mentioned the one between the Justice Department and the White House Council. There were others. This is from Representative Chris Cox on the breakdown between the 9/11 Commission and Congress's Intelligence Committees over what Berger did:

"Established protocols for informing the congressional intelligence committees of the security breach were not followed. Nor, at Tuesday's briefing to the House Leadership by the Commission, could Chairman Tom Kean and Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton say whether the specific documents destroyed by Mr. Berger had at any prior time been inspected and reviewed by commission staff. Yet the documents involved, written by former National Security Council aide Richard Clarke, have been at the center of the controversy over the adequacy of the Clinton administration's response to the growing al Qaeda threat.

While many are concerned with which laws may have been broken, a more fundamental question is why Mr. Berger, by any objective reckoning a subject of the Commission's investigation, was reviewing sensitive materials in order to determine which Clinton administration documents would be provided to the Commission. The destroyed documents reportedly contained more than two dozen recommendations for action against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network -- a measuring stick for the Clinton administration's response."

So, we have the following happening in relation to Sandy Berger:

  1. The 9/11 Commission used Sandy Berger as its representative of the Executive Branch in the search for counter terrorism documents from the Clinton Administration.

  2. Both it and the National Archives chose not to inform the Congressional intelligence committee's of Sandy Berger's security breach for months most likely in order to protect the credibility of the 9/11 Commission's just published report.

This smells to high heaven and should be the subject of Congressional investigations with all parties involved under oath.

Further, it is plain fact that everyone in the National Archives involved in setting up that vaunted "sting" of Sandy Berger still knowingly let unique code letter secret level classified documents be stolen and destroyed. Every decision maker involved in letting Berger leave the national archived unsearched, twice, should be fired for cause.

Les Folies Berger: The National Security Angle

That is not the least of the National Archive's sins. Mr. Berger was allowed to make cellular telephone calls while alone in the secured document vault and likely during his unmonitored rest room breaks at the Archives. See this article from the New York Daily News:

Guards left Berger alone, sources say Ex-security adviser reportedly told monitors to violate rules as he took breaks, took files.

By James Gordon Meek New York Daily News

Washington — Former national security adviser Sandy Berger repeatedly persuaded monitors assigned to watch him review top-secret documents to break the rules and leave him alone, sources said Wednesday.

Berger, accused of smuggling some of the secret files out of the National Archives, got the monitors out of the high-security room by telling them he had to make sensitive phone calls.

Guards were convinced to violate their own rules by stepping out of the secure room as he looked over documents and allegedly stashed some in his clothing, sources said.

"He was supposed to be monitored at all times but kept asking the monitor to leave so he could make private calls," a senior law enforcement source told the Daily News.

Berger also took "lots of bathroom breaks" that aroused some suspicion, the source added. It is standard procedure to constantly monitor anyone with a security clearance who examines the type of code-word classified files stored in the underground archives vault."

The high level security monitoring of code level secret documents that should have happened did not. Perhaps Berger had a digital camera equipped cell phone. We don't know, because the National Archives so-called security did not examine it, because if they did they would have seized it like they should have seized the documents Berger stuffed into his cloths.

Consider for a moment that he may have taken photos/videos of classified documents and transmitted those over an insecure wireless line. The damage if he did is incalculable.

Washington D.C. is the capitol of the most powerful nation-state on the face of the planet. Every embassy in the D.C. area has a roof filled with antennas that are not there for satellite dish television. They are there to listen to our telephones, computers and other data transmissions. If Democratic operatives can bug then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's cell phone and have one of their House members give their recordings to the media. It is a certainty that hostile foreign powers are monitoring every cell phone call Sandy Berger makes on the off-chance of "striking it rich."

The War on Terrorism has taught us one bitter lesson that both Democrats and the Bush Administration have repeatedly refused to learn, admittedly for different reasons -- OUR ENEMIES COOPERATE. What one terrorist supporting state knows, the whole terrorist network soon learns.

This has horrible implications. My "worst case scenario" is as follows:

  1. Sandy Berger photographs and e-mails Richard Clark's Millennium After Action Report that included a list of America's port security vulnerabilities

  2. The Syrian Embassy's signals intelligence equipment (or that of another unfriendly embassy) intercepts the document or documents.

  3. Clark's list of port vulnerabilities is passed on to al-Qaeda via Iran's Mullahs (or another hostile intermediary).

  4. In the months since Berger's visits to the National Archives, Iranian and Syrian agents under cover of diplomatic immunity have used that document to case vulnerable American ports for al-Qaeda.

  5. al-Qaeda's sleeper cells here in America were passed this detailed targeting information for a terrorist attack before the November Presidential election.

If we do have another mass casualty attack on America before the November election's, it may have happened with Sandy Berger's unwitting assistance.

What Now?

At this point we cannot undo what has been done, but we can take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. First, Republicans need to read every Republican politician or staffer involved in the 9/11 Commission out of any leadership roles in the party and of any future Republican administration. They cannot be trusted not to be fools or back stabbers.

Second, the Republican controlled House Government Reform Committee needs to hold hearings on the Berger security breach to pinpoint the security breakdowns and fill the lives of all concerned with lawyers. Above all, it is clear Sandy Berger's cell phone records from several weeks before this security breach to date needs to be subpoenaed and investigated.

It is clear that the so-called "bi-partisan" House and Senate Intelligence committees cannot be trusted to do this job. Their very "bi-partisan" nature makes it impossible for them to function given the power Democrat's have on those committees and their overwhelming partisan interest in burying the subject in torrents of hate speech and delay.

Last, the Bush Administration needs to start disciplining the Federal bureaucracies when they fail. Bush has steadfastly refused to fire anyone in the Federal bureaucracies for incompetence and by doing so has made their incompetence his own. The retention of Tenet at CIA and the chief of FBI counter-terrorism after 9/11/2001 is proof enough of that. Bush has only fired people when they openly challenged him and displayed disloyalty he could not ignore, as Treasury Secretary O'Neil and US Army Chief of Staff Shinseki demonstrated.

America needs to protect its secrets from its foreign enemies before it is too late, and only Presidential leadership can make it happen.

If Bush doesn't beak his bad leadership habits soon, before the next major domestic attack by al-Qaeda, he will find out that the American people are nowhere near as forgiving of incompetence as he is.

13 TrackBacks

Tracked: July 30, 2004 3:13 PM
Berger's Breach from The Conjecturer
Excerpt: I've given a great deal of thought to the issue of Sandy Berger's stuffed pants. In fact, a lot of this thought was driven by a discussion I had the other day, comparing Berger's actual crime with George W. Bush's...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 4:17 PM
Sandy Berger, Continued from The Fladen Experience
Excerpt: Winds of Change has an excellent post on the continuing Sandy Berger scandal, which threatans to take momentum away from the Kerry campaign. Sandy Berger was the former National Security Advisor to Clinton, and was to be a high ranking official in Kerr...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 4:31 PM
Security Breach Sandy Berger Affair from BlogX - Observations of Life, Travel and Technology
Excerpt: The corruption of the last Clinton Adminstration still continues. Sandy Berger is caught removing key documents from the National Archives on the 9/11 commission that would be embarrassing for the Clinton administration and/or himself… He was observed ...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 4:48 PM
Excerpt: Please go read the Winds of Change summary of the Berger affair: The Real Follies of the Berger Affair. (hat tip, Instapundit) This is comprehensive and I have to agree whole-heartedly with Jonah Goldberg: If I accept for the sake of argument that Berg...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 5:22 PM
Excerpt: Outstanding article on all the ramifications of Sandy Berger's actions in reviewing the papers that the Clinton Administration would turn over to the 9/11 commission. The question remains when will we see charges against Sandy Berger filed? When will t...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 6:26 PM
Trent Telenko on the Berger Follies from Deinonychus antirrhopus
Excerpt: Trent Telenko has a devastating post on Berger and his breaches of the national security. Scary thought for the day: What if Berger's cell phone was also one of those oh so popular digital cameras, with which Berger took photos of codeword level docume...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 8:01 PM
Berger Affair from porphyrogenitus.net
Excerpt: I'm online briefly at the moment. Should have a post or two this weekend. In the meantime, I want to recommend this post by Trent Telenko on the real meaning of the whole Berger documents thing. On a personal(ish) note,
Tracked: July 30, 2004 9:42 PM
Berger Ramifications from :: Political Musings ::
Excerpt: What is the significance of the Sandy Berger, 9-11, National Archives codeword-documents-in-my-pants-purge? It has some obvious political ramifications relating to Berger's past role as head of the NSA and advisor to the Kerry campaign. But accord...
Tracked: July 30, 2004 10:08 PM
Excerpt: Cole lays it out...Judging from what I've seen, the WSJ report appears to knock down a straw man... Whether Burglar...
Tracked: July 31, 2004 2:22 AM
Excerpt: Winds of Change.NET: Security Breach: The Real Follies of the Berger Affair Via Instapundit, here is a roundup of different views of the Sandy Berger situation and why it is so important that it not be swept under the rug...
Tracked: August 1, 2004 5:22 AM
Once More Into the Breach from Watcher of Weasels
Excerpt: Heard anything about Sandy Berger's security breach of the National Archives lately?  Me neither.  It amazes me that something so serious could just drop off of the media's radar screen completely...  even Fox News seems to have forgotte...
Tracked: August 1, 2004 5:24 AM
Once More Into the Breach from Watcher of Weasels
Excerpt: Heard anything about Sandy Berger's security breach of the National Archives lately?  Me neither.  It amazes me that something so serious could just drop off of the media's radar screen completely...  even Fox News seems to have forgotte...
Tracked: August 1, 2004 5:26 AM
Once More Into the Breach from The Axis of Weasels
Excerpt: Heard anything about Sandy Berger's security breach of the National Archives lately?  Me neither.  It amazes me that something so serious could just drop off of the media's radar screen completely...  even Fox News seems to have forgotte...

104 Comments

Trent: I think this the definitive last word on Berger, and frankly, I'm horrified. And terrified. This behavoir is unimagineable to anyone that's held compartment accesses. The security officers should be fired en masse. What guarantee do we have that this is the only incident? If you see one mouse, you probably have ten.

This, it appears, is mostly the result of the nation being able to pretend that it's not really at war, and represents the primary political and leadership failing. Absent such a "war footing" I don't see how we could possibly take many of the steps you recommend to correct the problems, because the justification isn't sufficient to rise above the political and org-culture thresholds. For instance you couldn't fire and bar from service all those backstabbers in the various commissions, because they have alliances with people who can't be easily gotten rid of unless there's a deep and broad public will.

Moreover, the political and bureaucratic backstabbing is the real explanation for a great deal of what's going on inside the beltway, including Richard Clarke's and Joe Wilson's "tell all" books, which have about as much genuine consideration for national security as a whore does for virtue. (My apologies to the whores.)

This is an enormous leadership and conceptual problem. How do you mobilize the nation when the lives and careers of most Americans, including Americans directly involved in politics, policy, and research, aren't touched by it at all?

One thought occurs to me, and it's a really wild one. Some sort of national, media-intensive, participatory war game, with a lot of props like situation rooms, etc. Any game designers out there interested?

Sorry, that's all I've got. It's a toughie.

Respectfully, if you pile speculation upon speculation upon speculation upon speculation, you still don't wind up with fact, no matter how assertively one declares it. It might be useful to wait until there are actual, you know, charges filed, and perhaps even a trial or plea, before one begins declaring as fact things that are not yet remotely established. (I realize this goes against the spirit of the blogosphere, but, hey.)

You know, if Sandy Berger really wanted Al Qaeda to win, he could have used his office phone back before January 2001. He really didn't need a cell phone. I find his behavior incomprehensible, likely criminal, but maybe we could have some evidence of that the potential compromise of material actually took place before going off the deep end? Who knows, maybe Al Qaeda didn't know about the translator shortage until they read it in Winds of Change. (We might have fooled them by pretending we had so many Arabic translators we could fire the homosexual ones.)

As for your ending any pretense of bipartisanship in supervising national security, there are lots of one-party states already; so move.

AJL: "the potential compromise of material actually took place before going off the deep end" Sorry, that's just not how compromise of classified information works-- You always have to assume worst case scenario and do what damage control you can. Private cell phone calls? That is just friggin' unbelieveable, that the security officers allowed that! Trent is right, the air in DC is sieved for treasure constantly by us and our adversaries-- has it occurred to you our side may have intercepted Sandy's chatter? You wouldn't see a whisper of that in opensource, but that may be what initiated the investigation!

I suspect the Berger incident is really all about situational awareness. Democrats have consistently proven unable (or unwilling) to understand any implications other than political ones. This is particularly so with matters of defence, security, and intelligence.

When you're part of a group that lives by the mental model that apart from your political adversaries people are fundamentally good, and we can all get along if only we talk about things long enough ... you get stuff like this.

Albright said she was "uncomfortable" with the US being the only superpower. Clinton almost never spoke with his CIA chief. A high White House offical told a general "Don't you ever show up here in uniform again." Etc. Etc. ad nauseum.

My take is that Berger was so preoccupied by the political implications of those files that it never even entered his mind that there might be considerations more important than his former team's political comfort.

The contrast with Powell, Rice, et al. is absolutely stunning.

RE: worst case scenarios. This is certainly a solid argument for not allowing any more cell phones in the National Archives, period - but even if Berger did everything in your scenario, Trent, could it produce this result?

What's the resolution on a retail cell phone cam (my experience is that so far, it's pretty low)? Could it really 'do' documents in a legible way? Could a cell phone snapshot be enahnced to make the result legible? How difficult would that be?

Truth is, I don't know the answers to any of those questions. But the answers have the potential to break the chain or rule out the action, and remove Trent's source of worry.

This still leaves Berger as (if his actions in taking the documents are true) a criminal on a scale whose seriousness eclipses Watergate. The mentality behind these actions absolutely beggars belief. If true, Mr. Berger should spend the next decade of his life in a hell of swarming lawyers and finally in jail.

And yeah, a whole bunch of bureaucrats ought to be fired for this.

But the cynical side of me says the press will keep giving Berger him a pass, and he'll slither out somehow, and Democrats in Congress and the Senate will run cover for him (instead of informing him, as the Republicans did Nixon, that he was toast), and nothing much will happen. I hope I'm wrong - but I wouldn't bet that way.

If someone with any connections to a foreign government had done what Berger is alleged to have done, Americans would be fully justified in calling that person a traitor. Such actions - if true, and I stress that qualifier - are criminal, yes. But they are also in a very fundamental sense disloyal.

I'm restraining myself until more evidence is in... but if the investigation is swept under the rug, or Berger really did these things and gets off lightly - let's just say that it would significantly change my view on the possibility of civility and common ground in America's politics.

FYI: Technically, Berger shouldn't have had a cell phone at all. They're generally banned within any secure facility (or one that's supposed to be secure, anyway), let alone in a reading room that's guaranteed to be in a SCIF (Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility). Other computer devices are banned, too, down to MP3 players, which can download information quickly.

Joe, cell phones haven't EVER been allowed in a SCIF. Period. Not carried in, much less used.

Much less used without witnesses.

Trent's scenarios are worst case, but they are neither out of the question nor scare-mongering. There were some egregious security breaches during the 90s, including significant compromise of national security info of the sort that costs lives.

A cell phone camera is one vulnerability, but it is not the most serious issue here and should not divert us from the larger matter: significant and possibly irremdiable destruction / corruption of the historical record regarding decisions in the face of the rising Islamacist terror threat.

That ANYONE who had been entrusted with the security of our country would put minor partisan issues ahead of that security, by withholding or corrupting information that would allow us to make the best possible decisions going forward, is damning. And very very worrisome.

It makes sense to talk about worst-case analysis when assessing the damage done by malicious spies like Aldrich Ames or Robert Hannsen. It makes no sense whatsoever to assume Berger committed all sorts of additional dangerous acts (without evidence) and our enemies were phenomenally lucky (or, more likely, insinuate that Berger was in cahoots with them).

I personally am not assuming compromise of info by Berger.

OTOH it sure looks as if he deliberately corrupted the historical record in order to cover his and Clinton's collective rears. And that tells worlds about his priorities.

This is just one of a series of major security breaches by Clinton appointees, Deutch (Clinton's CIA dirctor) being another. Two of the most senior national security officials with - at best - very very casual attitudes to important information.

Prior to 9/11, this is worthy of heavy criticism.

After 9/11 is is more than criminal - it goes to the heart of being serious about our nation's ability to make good decisions in our own defense.

Perhaps it also goes to the question of whether that defense is the top priority for people close to the Kerry campaign, as well. Or to the Democratic party structure.

I say that as a 30-year member of the Democratic party.

Uhhhh, just how do you fire a Federal Civil Service employee. It is one thing to fire appointees in the executive branch but you can't get rid of anybody covered under civil service protection for love or money. How do you punish a bureaucracy if you can't cut their pay, fire them, or anything else. The only way they they go off the job is death, retirement, or if they have to go to jail. Unless Congress can be talked into reforming the reforms of the Civil Service regs, I don't know what a president could do.

How inconvenient that the WSJ publishes this article today:

"Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks."

Speculate all you want and, yeah, Berger should never work again, but you're just speculating.

AJL:

It is irrelevant to the worst-case scenario whether Berger did it deliberately or not, except the extent.

If you recall, a while back, some Senator happened to mention that we were monitoring ObL's satellite phone calls. I'm pretty sure that was inadvertent.

Didn't matter. Within weeks, ObL and his lieutenants stopped using his satellite phone, and an essential form of information dried up.

What does that tell us?

1. The bad guys really ARE listening to what we say, publicly.
2. They respond rapidly.
3. Security breaches have their effect whether done deliberately or accidentally.

"3" is why if you mishandle classified information, whether through malice or stupidity, you are punished. That's true for contractors, for government civilians, for military personnel. That should certainly apply to Sandy Berger, and no, it shouldn't matter whether he did it "accidentally" or not (and the accident thing is simply harder and harder to believe).

Actually, if a federal employee, civil service or not, commits a felony (which I'm pretty sure the security breaches constitute), they can be fired.

RE: Praktike's point - I hope that's true, and that's why I had the big "IF" disclaimers in my comments.

The wider implications if DID remove originals and kept them from the 9/11 Commission are truly horrific, and I'll gladly trade any political/moral capital that may come of that in exchange for sleeping a lot easier.

I've already had one private inquiry regarding what looked like a declaration of my political party in a comment above, so let me clarify:

I grew up in a Democratic home and was registered as a Dem for 30 years. I no longer consider myself affiliated with any political party (and in truth, have not for some time). I'm much more interested in the issues and in our country's futures.

Re: the WSJ article, it doesn't quite square with Berger's earlier statements about inadvertent distruction of materials he removed.

No doubt the Commission's leaders hope that their work will be seen to be uncompromised by partisanship and bias. I hope that was true, and there is at least some evidence for it.

I'm also sure that the Archives personnel must be very relieved to be able to state that no originals were removed permanently.

It would be a Good Thing if we could be confident that the historical record has not be corrupted.

It would also be a Good Thing if none of the removed materials were compromised. Ditto for phone conversations etc.

Let's hope it's so. All of those things are more important than partisan benefit off of this story. OTOH, the issues at stake matter to our future and should not be minimized either. And while Praktike is content that Berger will "never work again", Kerry has made it clear he continues to be a valued advisor. That may or may not be a bad thing, but it is (I think) significant.

What is utterly unclear in this case are the facts. I can't seem to find any official press releases from an investigative agency describing what has actually happened. We have unknown sources saying somewhat unrandom things. We have a bit of Berger's side of it, and not much else.

Trent pretty much goes off on Berger, more or less accusing him of putting tens of thousands of lives at risk. In doing so, he states as fact a number of things that are pretty damn unclear. So I'm asking Trent to clarify a few points; what is his source? "It is well known that..." and "Every knows..." suck as reliable sources. I think the salient points are as follows; we know some of these to be true and others are, well, hard to verify. Some of these are not consistent with each other.

- The documents related to millenium terrorist responses
- Berger destroyed original documents
- Berger destroyed photocopies
- Berger put documents in his socks
- Berger put documents in his briefcase
- Berger returned everything he took
- Berger did not return everything
- Berger was given only photocopies; originals were not supplied to him
- Berger asked the security guards to leave
- Berger used his cell phone while in the secure facility
- Berger shared this information with others

Which of these is true? I'm open to sources.

It's quite important to find out about the photocopies -- was Berger supplied with original documents or was he provided with photocopies only? I've read a couple of press accounts in both directions. If they were photocopies only, then the whole "document destruction" angle is pointless.

Is there any orriginal source saying he used a CELL phone? If not, does anybody know for certain phones are not present in the reading room?

Other than that, this story is still bizarre. How can Berger either be that stupid and/or careless?

Now, some of the reports sound like B.S. (stuffing in socks, the 'sting'), but the ADMITTED actions are themselves unexplainable.

And what the hell is security about in the Archives. Maybe I'm stupid, but if you sign a document out, don't you sign it back in?

And who leaked the news? The Republicans would have waited 'till late Oct., and the Dems would have given Kerry plenty of time to distance himself. Ralph Nader??

My guess is by the time we get to the bottom, the story will be somewhat different, but it's hard to guess what.

Robin: To my knowledge, cell phones are never allowed in SCIFs. As you well know, there are different levels of protection for different levels of data. All the SCIFs I've ever been in were TEMPESTed.

Trent is the "doomsday guy" on this team, his charter is worst case scenario! :) So I'm most worried about any port security information that might have been leaked, even if inadvertantly. The 911 commission report? Feh! It's not like the public is getting insight into the classified briefings. The unclassified portion is valueless anyways, totally corrupted by the political circus and the culture of blame.

ALJ: The classic example of compromise of assets, cell phone monitoring from our embassy in Russia, was not caused by malice, but by a bumbler like Berger.

Joe: You'd be amazed at the current state of IP. Still, I'm less worried about scanned info getting out, than audio intercepts from a cell phone.

From the WSJ article Praktike cites:

Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said officials there "are confident that there aren't any original documents missing in relation to this case." She said in most cases, Mr. Berger was given photocopies to review, and that in any event officials have accounted for all originals to which he had access.

Therefore, the historical record appears not to be compromised if this assertion proves correct (and if no other materials were inserted into the record):

The conclusion by archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the commission.

This leaves open the question of whether Berger returned all photocopies, as the article notes:

officials have said they are still looking into whether some of the photocopies may have been destroyed. It is illegal to remove classified material in any form from the archives.

His earlier statements about them suggest strongly he did not. Which leaves the question of his motives and intent very much open.

It also, at the extreme, leaves open the question of whether the information in those documents he took (either copies or originals that got returned) was compromised to others. Berger at one point was quoted as saying he must have inadvertently "discarded" them. Words like that send a chill down my spine when the content allegedly included a detailed analysis of our security vulnerabilities.

However, I can't quite agree with the thrust of Jinnderella's statement:

What guarantee do we have that this is the only incident? If you see one mouse, you probably have ten.

Ex-National Security Advisors are likely to be treated differently than other people when they are there to review materials for possible executive privilege claims. Doesn't excuse any lapse on the part of the Archive staff, but it also doesn't necessarily suggest regular security breaches there.

Robin: To my knowledge, cell phones are never allowed in SCIFs. As you well know, there are different levels of protection for different levels of data. All the SCIFs I've ever been in were TEMPESTed

Yes ... but I'm not sure why this is addressed to me. ?? I made the same point to Joe earlier in this thread.

I'm not up on "classified" information handling protocols but I can tell you that simple public information at the Federal Archives here in Atlanta is protected with a fairly rigid regime. No cell phones or transmitting devices are allowed, no copies or notes except those made by Archives personnel, no alterations obviously are allowed including disassembly of compiled documents but most importantly, it seems to me, no one is ever to be unsupervised with the materials. This is the detail that puts an inedlibly nefarious stamp on the whole thing for, of course, that is the cardinal rule on which all others sit. Hell, if nobody is watching how do you know what was done? It's just paper after all.

Let's see--no original documents missing. 90% of the Republican spin on this has turned out to be untrue.

Who wants to bet that Glenn Reynolds doesn't mention the Journal story, while continuing to bleat about the press not covering what amounts to a non-story?

So, do we have any indication of a motive yet?

Clearly, "to hide something" doesn't fit, given that he was reviewing photocopies.

Personally, I'm also ruling out "to turn them over to the terrorists" as a motive.

Did anybody have any other theories on motive?

The reason I'm asking is this: without a motive, it's hard to believe it was intentional.

I think that Trent is making very good points about the failure of the SYSTEM that was supposed to secure the documents. It's probably true that his WORST CASE scenario is just that, a worst case; but that doesn't mean that the potential for it should not be considered. There is a reason for classifying documents at high levels --- to prevent worst case scenarios.

Of course, it's also true that numerous bureaucrats, civilian and military, have at times classified materials higher than they really deserved just to avoid political embarassment, BUT that is not a defense for Berger's actions.

The WSJ article is interesting, and somewhat contridictory of other statements. It may represent new facts and therefore be reassuring, or it may just be part of the "fog" that always exists in cases like this. Early statements from Archives personnel stated that they did not know what all was missing. Those statements SUGGESTED that they must not have had a complete inventory of the documents --- which would itself be a violation of procedure for handling SCI documents. IF they did not have such an inventory, then there is no way that the WSJ article can be PROVEN to be correct. Of course, the earlier reports may well have been in error.

In either case it's clear that National Archives was horribly lax in having allowed SCI materials to be removed, and to allow Berger to be alone with SCI materials.

The "copies" issue is another one that is quite unclear. Most of us want to assume that the "copies" were only photocopies, so that while SCI data may have been stolen --- admittedly was
improperly removed --- at least it was not totally removed from the public record.

That may be a naive assumption on our part. There are two reasons for stating this:

1) SCI materials are NOT allowed to be
freely copied. In fact it is a clear
violation of the rules surrounding them
to make copies of them except in
quite restricted circumcatances.

NA may have been lax about that ---
they were obviously lax about other
security issues --- and permitted
more copies to be made, but that
would be a exception to "normal"
rules for handling SCI materials.

2) Other reports have referred to the
"copies" as being different drafts
of the report in question. They
would, therefore, each contain some
unique information. Since this was
an SCI classified document, normally
the "mere drafts" would only be
printed in a single copy that would
be routed for review, so they could
be "copies," but still be unique
documents.

Of course, NA MIGHT have made photo-
copies of the "original copies" for
use in the Reading Room, but that is
starting to a very cavalier treatment
of SCI material.

A major problem here is that we all use the term, "copies" in multiple senses and it's by no means clear that there is any consistency in its usage among the various reports.

The WSJ article also raises another question:

How can anyone say that " . . . nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the 9/11 Commission" when Berger's purpose was to review what could be released to them? Based on the level of detailed reocrd keeping evident in the early statements on this story that appears to be bit of "hopeful optimism," rather than a demonstrable fact. As many people have suggested above, we lack the FACTS to know the answers to many of these questions, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be trying to define the questions as well as we can.

GREAT DISCUSSION

Geek, it's certainly true that there was a lot of spinning.

It's also true, and important in my opinion, that Berger was at best sloppy -- and at worse, very irresponsible -- with critical information that also had partisan implications.

That does not go away, especially in an election year in which the will and ability of either party to do what is best for the country's security is in question.

I wish it weren't the case that there is a strong pattern among Clinton top appointees, but unfortunately there is.

  • Deutch - pardoned by Clinton in the last hours of his administration
  • Hazel Leary - Secty of Energy, who famously was said to refuse briefings from Los Alamos etc. on the grounds that she "didn't need to hear about nuclear weapons from white males". Many consider her official policies and unofficial pressure to have significantly degraded security at the labs, resulting in the continual breaches we read about today.
  • Berger

What bothered me most about the Berger affair was the way in which Clinton laughed it off. And the fact that no Democratic leader has distanced him/herself from that casual attitude, so far as I can tell, except perhaps for Joe Lieberman and Zeb Miller.

I don't think it's good for our country to have only one party dominate the national security debate, but so far as I can tell, the Dems have all gone to Canada (or wherever) on this ... if we must have Vietnam analogies ....

Robin: Sorry, just agreeing-- what I meant was, would cell phones even work in TEMPESTed areas?

I don't know if the secure facility within the Archives is TEMPESTed (i.e. designed to prevent the leak of electronic signals from within).

This is a great thread, folks. I appreciate the tone of civility here. I'm opting out of any further responses, at least for a while -- it's one of my rare days off and I have GOT to get some other work done!

Berger was sloppy, yes. This sort of thing makes him seem like a bumbler and not a worthy candidate for a Kerry administration.

But, compare his bumbling to the staggering corruption and grotesque mismanagement in Iraq


A comprehensive examination of the U.S.-led agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars' worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority's inspector general.

The report is the most sweeping indication yet that some U.S. officials and private contractors repeatedly violated the law in the free-wheeling atmosphere that pervaded the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild the war-torn country.

More than $600 million in cash from Iraqi oil money was spent with insufficient controls. Senior U.S. officials manipulated or misspent contract money. Millions of dollars' worth of equipment could not be located, the report said.

Photocopies and no criminal wrongdoing vs. $1 Billion unaccounted for and 27 criminal investigations. We report, you decide.

I think it's also telling that most of the hyped coverage came from Rupert Murdoch and Scaife.

Robin: "What bothered me most about the Berger affair was the way in which Clinton laughed it off. "
Me too. The whole culture of the Clinton adminstration had that lassiez faire attitude towards security. From what I saw as a defens con, our customers loathed Clinton to a man (or woman). :)

Josh: From my experience, I don't understand Berger attempting to destroy copies in order to get all of one [potentially embarassing] document-- it is just not possible, even with very lax security. All the copies are controlled. What scares me a lot more (and seems a lot more plausible) is that Berger was attempting to curry favour with Kerry by feeding him classified data for speech manterial.

In case no one noticed The Washington Post reported -

Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National
Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no
original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from
the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have voiced suspicion that when Mr. Berger was
preparing materials for the 9/11 Commission on the Clinton administration's
antiterror actions, he may have removed documents that were potentially damaging
to the former president's record.

The conclusion by archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the
issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the
commission.

Link here

So everyone can stop hyperventilating over this nonevent. No documents were cleansed. You people have to get over the Clintons. Our country is in the midst of a war from which we have lost our focus. Our enemy is stronger now than he has ever been and is preparing to attack us again. We need to get our collective head back in the game. We can start by ridding ourselves of this miserable failure of an administration and force the next one to defeat al qa'ida and kill Osama Bin Laden.

> What scares me a lot more (and seems a lot more plausible) is that Berger was attempting to curry favour with Kerry by feeding him classified data for speech manterial.

I was under the impression that Kerry had access to these materials without Berger's help?

What a mess.

Why wasn't that SCIF TEMPESTed (i.e. electromagnetically shielded/suppressed to a classified standard)? If it was, a cell phone would not have worked there. If not, and there's a computer in there (likely), it is possible to read the computer screen remotely. The rest room probably wasn't TEMPEST.

Although DC airwaves are heavily monitored, it is unlikely that Berger's side of any call was monitored (unless plucked off a microwave trunk, and in big cities those are being replaced by effectively untappable fiber). Cell phones have quite a short range, especially from inside a building. Only if there was a bad guy collection point nearby would Berger's side of the calls be heard. It is more likely that the other side of the calls was monitored.

Photographs from a cell phone are low resolution and low quality. Hence I doubt he would have used them.

The sting should have been operated by the FBI, not amateur counterspies in the NA.

Unless Berger was a spy (i.e. a recruited agent by a foreign intelligence service), it is unlikely that SCI information got into the wrong hands as a result of his actions, because his motives would not have been to disseminate the information (although it could pop up in a newspaper, which would be damaging).

Berger belongs in jail. He violated serious laws. That it was routine to be sloppy with security under Clinton is no excuse.

The WSJ article says that no documents ARE missing--it doesn't say that Berger did not remove originals. It implies that after he was caught, the originals he had were not among the documents that he had destroyed.

We also do not know if Berger was aware that the documents were copies.

And a side note about large document depositories: if you are the main person who knows what to look for, destroying the most easily accessible copies is almost as good as destroying originals. It may be years, if ever, before someone cross references back to the orignals and notices that something is missing.

> Berger should go to jail

I notice that nobody here is cutting Berger any slack for human nature. When I look at any administration, Bush's included, I see mistakes - including leaked intel, quite a bit of it during this administration. I'm not blaming the administration - it happens during all of them, I don't know, realistically, if that's avoidable. When you work with classified documents 40 hours a week, for years, I can imagine it would be hard to keep yourself "on your toes" at all times - especially if you're one of those people like me whose desk is always a mess. The simple reality is that human beings are sloppy, and sometimes, sloppy people need to be given security clearance. Albert Einstein couldn't remember to put on his pants in the morning, but he was given access to Los Alamos.

Now, if what you were saying was "this is much sloppier than usual, he should be fired before he leaks something," then I would agree. But if we had to jail everybody who's ever been sloppy, most of our leaders would be in prison.

Ray,

I agree that the full text of the statements by Archieves personnel now make it appear that no data was lost.

I do not agree however that this is "nonevent." A former NSA admittedly removed SCI material illegally. He has admitted that he intentionally concealed his notes. Those notes themselves were SCI classified and could not be legally removed without being reviewed and declassifield. That, in and of itself, is a major issue. You or I would do jail time for such an offense.

I'm particulary worried about the "amateur sting" --- why didn't they just have Berger stopped and searched? No one is supposed to be above the law.

The fact that the damage appears to be minor does not change my concern for holes in a system that allow particular individuals to be part of a "privileged class." It reminds me of the problems that the Brits had in the early stages of WWII when they "knew he couldn't be a bad chap since he belongs to me club."

The military has for years gone to great lengths to insure that security rules are taken seriously. There were more than a few cases in Hawaii of Marine Generals trying to get through secured gates without proper identification. God help the guard that let one in.

We're in the midst of a war, and security classifications need to "mean something." Personally I'm much more concerned about the failure of the Archives people to hold Berger to the rules than I am about the particular material he removed. I'd be just as concerned had it been Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, or George Bush. It's not, or shouldn't be, a partisan issue.

All the Best.

If he had a cell phone... clearly he wasn't searched well enough.

IOW if you're going to take pictures, and you're hoping you won't be searched... and planning the 'oops, forgot about that' defense for if you are...

Why wouldn't you just take a decent pocket cam?

And... the TEMPEST shielding won't prevent the camera from working. Just from transmitting. IOW "Shoo so I can use the phone" doesn't mean he USED_THE_PHONE, just that he got rid of the watchers.

Josh, if this were truly "inadvertent," this is far beyond sloppiness. (If a guy were actually this sloppy, then NSA is the last job he should have ever had. Would you give the job of surgeon to a guy with the jitters? No.)

It stretches credulity to think that someone could systematically but "inadvertently" remove and lose all variations of a specific document, over the course of several visits.

*****
But I'd bet a dollar that the archives staff photocopied at least some of the documents before letting Berger handle them. They knew what he was interested in, after all. The truth will come out here.

> Josh, if this were truly "inadvertent"

I agree with you that if it's intentional, it's more serious. But again, I find it hard to believe it's intentional without a motive, and most of the potential motives I've seen don't make sense.

these documents taken by Sandy Berger and which are now "missing" and which contain information about our vulnerabilities at seaports and airports are definately destroyed and absolutely cannot fall into the hands of our enemies? Says who? --Sandy Berger? And just what is it about all this that exprez Clinton thinks is so funny? I find it really depressing that these people admit to having a good laugh about it and no one is outraged.

Oh well another right wing lunacy shown for what it is.

Too bad. Such a long post for nothing.

John Moore - There are different types of tempest equipment, and levels of tempest protection. The equipment in the room could have been shielded without the room itself having been so - namely because it's a lot cheaper to buy shielded equipment.

Josh - the reason folks aren't cutting Berger any slack for 'human nature' is because they've worked with classified documents for years as well, and they don't slip up like this. Honestly, for folks who've held clearances, the idea that you can just 'accidentally' take home a bunch of TS SCI data, and report with a straight face that you might have thrown it away, is just inconceivable.

The cell phone story just dosn't hold water.

The ONLY reason people are saying he had one was the comment that he used the need for privacy to make a call as an excuse to be alone. Nobody has said it was a cell phone.

First, how would a cell phone get through security? The building certainly had a standard security arangement, and he would have had to place his cell phone in a bowl, and the guard wouldn't return it.

Second, even if he had snuck it in, he couldn't use this as part the "I need to make a call story". The guard would say "Uhm, your not supposed to have that cell phone sir".

For this to happen multiple times is beyond belief. Combined with the fact that nobody has ever stated he had a cell phone, Oscars razor wins out on this one.

No cell phone.

BTW, is removing the files illegal (if he didn't show them or derived material to anybody), or just a rules vioaltion?

Regardless, Berger is still a friggin idiot.

The cell phone story just dosn't hold water.

The ONLY reason people are saying he had one was the comment that he used the need for privacy to make a call as an excuse to be alone. Nobody has said it was a cell phone.

First, how would a cell phone get through security? The building certainly had a standard security arangement, and he would have had to place his cell phone in a bowl, and the guard wouldn't return it.

Second, even if he had snuck it in, he couldn't use this as part the "I need to make a call story". The guard would say "Uhm, your not supposed to have that cell phone sir".

For this to happen multiple times is beyond belief. Combined with the fact that nobody has ever stated he had a cell phone, Oscars razor wins out on this one.

No cell phone.

BTW, is removing the files illegal (if he didn't show them or derived material to anybody), or just a rules vioaltion?

Regardless, Berger is still a friggin idiot.

Toad,

I work for Federal Civil Service. It's a myth that Civil Service workers can't be fired. It's not easy to fire one. In fact, the waste of time and loss of productivity involved in the process often make keeping an incompetent employee the better option. But if you've got a supervisor who's willing to put in the time and see the process through, it can be done.

Toad,

I work for Federal Civil Service. It's a myth that Civil Service workers can't be fired. It's not easy to fire one. In fact, the waste of time and loss of productivity involved in the process often make keeping an incompetent employee the better option. But if you've got a supervisor who's willing to put in the time and see the process through, it can be done.

A camera phone does indeed have enough resolution to copy documents quite legibly. Just tried it with my Nokia 3650 -- it will cover a standard page of typing paper from a distance of just over a foot. Of course, it can be used closer in as well.

The cell phone story just dosn't hold water.

The ONLY reason people are saying he had one was the comment that he used the need for privacy to make a call as an excuse to be alone. Nobody has said it was a cell phone.

First, how would a cell phone get through security? The building certainly had a standard security arangement, and he would have had to place his cell phone in a bowl, and the guard wouldn't return it.

Second, even if he had snuck it in, he couldn't use this as part the "I need to make a call story". The guard would say "Uhm, your not supposed to have that cell phone sir".

For this to happen multiple times is beyond belief. Combined with the fact that nobody has ever stated he had a cell phone, Oscars razor wins out on this one.

No cell phone.

BTW, is removing the files illegal (if he didn't show them or derived material to anybody), or just a rules vioaltion?

Regardless, Berger is still a friggin idiot.

Robin Burk,

I note that you make a distinction between original and copy of the document. If the document is SCI then there is no distinction. Both are classified the same. Copy makes no difference. If Berger stole a copy or Berger stole an original, he stole the same document with the same classification in either case and the penalty should be the same. This is not some historical goldmine with the original being worth more than the copy or the copy having no value at all. Both have the same value.

If Berger gets away with this then the people who were locked up/lost their jobs/lost their clearances during the time when I was working with this type of document should be able to sue to get all this back. I could care less what his position was legally as the law should be blind on this point. I do care what his position was because someone who held that position should on these matters be as Caesar's wife and he has already demolished that possibility.

Just my luck a really good thread happens on a rare day off when I should be doing other things LOL.

I agree that, from a classification point of view, the copies and the original are the same.

My purpose in citing the WSJ re: originals is that if originals were missing then the historical record would have been corrupted irremediably, a very very serious situation.

Based only on the conflicting accounts in the press (and that is all any of us here has to work from), it appears he may have taken and returned some original documents (possibly, one or more of the drafts done on Clarke's after-action report). I'm glad to read that no originals appears to be missing. However, that does not necessarily let Berger (and his motives) off the hook as he may have thought he had taken originals.

Re: sloppy and inadvertent. Published documents of this type would have been bound in bright colored coversheets, making it very very difficult to just slip into a pile of papers unnoticed. However, a box of working drafts might not have been so bound.

That notwithstanding, however, Berger was well aware of the high profile of this investigation and of the stakes surrounding the info that would be released. Was he simply stressed? Maybe ... but you know, he admits intentionally taking notes and smuggling them out, which is a serious offense all its own.

Good point, DaveK. People here were certainly pretty incredulous over the whole cell-phone concept.

Trent, anyone, do we know this was a cell phone call? I suppose a serious investigation would find out PDQ, but maybe there's something in print already?

Joe, the story about his request for privacy to make phone calls appears here. Cell phone per se was not mentioned, but I would be extremely surprised if a reading room cleared for that level document has a standard outside phone line.

One possibility here is that Archives senior staff cut Berger a lot of security slack that angered the lower-level staff, especially when he misused it. This account, assuming it accurately represents statements by one or more guards, suggests they were not happen at the exceptions he asked for or that were made for him, whereas the senior Archives officials are at pains to say no significant damage was done. Moreover, it's not clear what level within the staff made the decision to secretly mark the copies he got.

Robin,

Unless there was an unusual situation, there would be no "box of drafts" not bound in security covers for SCI material. I'll risk a partisan jibe and admit that since they were done in the Clinton Administration, that MIGHT have been the case, but I've never seen even a partisan "attack" that suggested that Clintion and his people were THAT cavalier with classifications. Remember that many of the staff people actually preparing and handling the documents would be long-service employees very familiar with the handling of such documents, and they'd have put the proper covers on them just from habit. Had anyone pushed through a change in that procedure, I'd have expected some whistleblower to have highlighted that fact.

Of course, the covers MIGHT have been removed when the doucments were archived, but I've no reason to believe that.

Even Berger's possession of his leather case represents a violation of the rules of any SCI handling facility I've ever heard about. He should not have had that, or a phone (if, as people have pointed out, he really did have a phone.) Cases are prohibited precisely to make it difficult to smuggle materials in and out.

Since he had the case, why it wasn't searched is another viable question that should be asked. By all the accounts I've seen --- and I recognize that I, like everyone else, am dealing with only the news reports, not primary data --- the documents that he "inadvertently" removed, on at least TWO separate occasions, were something like 15 pages in length. That both makes it difficult to understand how he might have accidently placed them back in his case (why was he putting anything in his case when he admits to having intentionally concealed his notes on his person?), and to understand how they could have been missed in any reasonably thorough search of his case. The NA people really were falling down on the job on this one.

Great discussion by all.

This is interesting

Yes, I know, it's an admittedly conservative source, but I've never seen them accused of inaccurately reporting an attributed quote.

The fact that Mrs. Cooper is quoted as saying words to the effect of "we don't comment during an ongoing ivestigation" makes it appear more credible to me, at least. That's very much standard practice among government agencies, and most corporations.

More food for thought.

All the Best

Ralph, the Wall Street Journal is also a fairly acurate, and conservative, source.

Either NewsMax, WSJ, or Mrs Cooper screwed up bad. If Vegas is taking bets, I'm droping a dime on the National Archives chief talking head being the fool.

Now, regardless of anything else, can we have all classified material removed from that facility, like yesterday?

I don't know how to fully address the amount of hyperventilating here.

Gosh, if Sandy Berger were simply a National Security Advisor who was sloppy in making notes, what would anyone make of that?

I guess that's inconceivable, given the way many folks declare assertions as facts.

Traitors!, to be sure.

Assertations are facts. Also, Clinton is guilty of rape, drug dealing, and murder.

Repetition makes it true.

Clinton murdered her lesbian lover.

I read it a bunch of times. It must be true.

Also, Sandy Berger: not even an official target of an investigation. But, yes, spawn of the devil.

"What is utterly unclear in this case are the facts. I can't seem to find any official press releases from an investigative agency describing what has actually happened"

Yes, but let's not let that interfere with our absolute conclusions. We want to make our points, and let's not let the absence of facts interfere.

Josh, so you believe that someone could inadvertently take notes and inadvertently stuff them in his clothes, as Berger has admitted he did?

One does wonder why Berger didn't just stick the notes in his leather porfolio, since it obviously wasn't searched as he left.

Such insanity.

Guys - as Gary Farber says - "not even an official target of an investigation". Please, please focus on things that matter!

I noticed that Robin Burke did not respond back to Geek, regarding 1 billion dollars missing in Iraq, and 27 criminal investigations.

So Mr. Burke, to repeat the question: Which do YOU think is the more outrageous story? Which deserves the highest priority on the "issue" meter?

I noticed that Reynolds put up a link, finally, to the Journal report that there are no charges filed against Berger. Nothing to the Washington Post though. But he contradicts this with a link to Newsmax stating the Journal story is not true. As if the two sources are of equal value. And then he finishes it off with, as always, a reader comment validating the suspicion.

Yes. We can tell that Reynolds is objectively interested in the truth here.

Josh: LOL! Do you think Kerry would do his own research? Jamais de ma vie!!

Robin: I thought were going to do stuff in the carbon based realm today! But really, I could have smuggled a cell phone into work in the SCIF if I wanted to. The oath you swear is supposed to prevent you doing stuff like that. One time I accidentally took my Progammers model HP calculator in with me. It had to live there from then on. :(

Gary Farber: You seriously don't want to get me started on Clinton, especially with two NK threads going on. You Clintonites always throw up that irrelevant chaff when someone from his admistration gets in trouble. I have had clearances and I am shocked and outraged that the former NSA would implement even a tiny portion of what he is accused of. Are you saying all the news stories are false?

I have been finishing up a class at the School for Military Packaging Technology at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, so I an following this thread from a public computer at my hotel when I can get access.

Point of reference for this discussion:

Deutch's security violation with top secret documents consisted of web surfing porn sites on his AOL account with highly classified -- the reports don't make clear if it was SCI level -- documents resident on that same computer. (It brings a whole new meaning to the term "spyware," doesn't it.)

That is why Deutch need a pardon from Clinton.

That Berger did what he did isn't out of character for top level Clinton era senior national security officials in terms of an attitude of "I'm superior and don't need to follow the rules the proles do."

Second point of reference from up thread by Cronaca:

A camera phone does indeed have enough resolution to copy documents quite legibly. Just tried it with my Nokia 3650 -- it will cover a standard page of typing paper from a distance of just over a foot. Of course, it can be used closer in as well.

The third point of reference from the Daily News article I quoted:

Berger, accused of smuggling some of the secret files out of the National Archives, got the monitors out of the high-security room by telling them he had to make sensitive phone calls.

Guards were convinced to violate their own rules by stepping out of the secure room as he looked over documents and allegedly stashed some in his clothing, sources said.

"He was supposed to be monitored at all times but kept asking the monitor to leave so he could make private calls," a senior law enforcement source told the Daily News.

The New York Daily News is not a "Republican" source like NewsMax or the WSJ Op-Ed page. It reports that
a) Berger made calls from this secured room;
b) the rules for SCI security rooms do not permit telephones in them so the only way for Berger to make calls is with a wireless phone he brought in; and
c) the article is quoting a "senior law enforcement offical" which is usually reporter speak for an FBI counter intelligence in these kind of cases. (This is the M.O. of how the FBI works high profile security cases.)

Given the above, there is no getting around my worse case scenario as the starting point for the intelligence damage investigation.

"I noticed that Robin Burke did not respond back to Geek, regarding 1 billion dollars missing in Iraq, and 27 criminal investigations."

I read the article and at a loss to where he gets the "1 billion dollars missing" from.

Opps.. I didn't make it clear the data Deutch mishandled was on his unsecured home computer.

Josh Yelon: GRRR! I can't believe you said this: "I notice that nobody here is cutting Berger any slack for human nature. When I look at any administration, Bush's included, I see mistakes"
How can I make this any clearer? He...took...an...oath! What anyone, anywhere else is did is completely and totally irrelevent! Classified data is protected for a reason!

Gary: Both FOX and CNN announced that Berger was the target of a criminal investigation-- I'll see if I can find you a link.

Trent: "b) the rules for SCI security rooms do not permit telephones in them so the only way for Berger to make calls is with a wireless phone he brought in;"
Well, he could have had a STU (secure telephone unit, an encrypted line) but any call on that would have been logged. And only the security officer would have the key. And it could only call another STU, in another SCIF :)
You know, there is atwo man rule for this stuff, and the safes usually all have to be audited once a week. I really don't like all this rule bending and breaking, and then the Left EXCUSES IT because everybody does it?

And I also heard on the news channels, "FBI criminal investigation."

A couple of points here.

First, in response to Ralph. I'm pretty well aware of the standard procedures for handling compartmentalized classified papers. It is indeed often the case that working drafts of documents which have not yet been released are stored in a box or container which itself is brightly colored ... but not each paper inside. The pages would of course have been marked, but the value of the colored covers put on published documents is that they catch the eye.

It's been a while since I supported the National Command and Control Center from the 2nd basement, E ring of the Pentagon, so I checked this with several people who are actively familiar with current SCI data handling disciplines. I stand by my description as a possible scenario, especially with regard to the early drafts of Clark's memo. Those drafts, as working papers, were not published / released in this sense and may well not have been individually bound. The version that was distributed to the small number of need-to-know readers in the NSC would indeed have been so covered, but not necessarily the drafts.

Okay, will the Dems note I'm giving Berger the benefit of the doubt here? Thanks.

Now, with regard to "which situation is more serious". JC, I'm not impressed by the assertions being made re: Iraq. Maybe that's because I know a bunch of people personally who are working on those efforts and have been in touch with them throughout the last year and a half.

By "working on these efforts" I mean:
* tactical officers involved in firefights (including reservists who are in no career danger from speaking up privately
* civil affairs officers negotiating directly with Iraqi leaders and involved in rebuilding efforts (and ditto)
* a senior advisor to the Iraqi national government (and the CPA before that) on rebuilding the country's financial infrastructure, including its laws

I also have direct experience in defense contract award process, both as an advisor to government agencies and as a bidder. I'm pretty familiar with the opportunities for waste ... and also how things can be blown out of proportion.

None of which will impress you one bit, I suspect LOL ... but the reason I didn't engage that point is that a) I consider the allegations too vague to judge and b) that's not the issue at question here.

But if I had to choose, I would say this: money matters to us all as taxpayers. But inevitably in a chaotic situation some money will be badly spent or will not be spent when it should have been (in hindsight).

For that matter, people of good will in both parties should be cut some slack regarding the judgements they make on the basis of imperfect information. Monday quarterbacking is, perhaps, inevitable ... but if it turns into a witchhunt, you will find that the most capable and conscientious people will refuse those jobs. We're in this for a generation, I suspect: 20-35 years of likely lowlevel conflict and terror networks, no matter who is elected. I want people held accountable, but I don't want their jobs made impossible to do.

Berger may not have actually compromised the highly sensitive info re: security vulnerabilities in our ports and infrastructure. Let's hope he did not, and any documents he took and failed to return were burned thoroughly without anyone else seeing them. That's the most pro-Berger scenario we can identify, I think, with regard to compromised info.

The larger issue remains. In part due to the small numbers of people who serve in our all-professional military now, there are a lot of people in our electorate who have no real familiarity with information and other security disciplines. These are people who laugh the Berger incidents off.

If we don't take seriously the need to protect some of the most sensitive information, information that really could aid and abet a serious terror attack on US soil again, then I'm hard put to know what we should care about at all.

And Gary, your black and white approach to this issue and e.g. the Jacobsen story strikes me as a) naive about how security discipline work and b) tendentious. Just my opinion, team mate, but one I feel strongly enough about to say out loud.

And the reason I do feel so strongly is that we are all going to have to live and deal in an ambiguous world for a good long while. Hyperventilating over Berger does not advance the cause, folks. But neither does a tendentious word game at a time of real but uncertain and hard-to-measure danger.

PS: a small point, but it's Mrs. or Ms. Burk, not Mr.

A couple of points here.

First, in response to Ralph. I'm pretty well aware of the standard procedures for handling compartmentalized classified papers. It is indeed often the case that working drafts of documents which have not yet been released are stored in a box or container which itself is brightly colored ... but not each paper inside. The pages would of course have been marked, but the value of the colored covers put on published documents is that they catch the eye.

It's been a while since I supported the National Command and Control Center from the 2nd basement, E ring of the Pentagon, so I checked this with several people who are actively familiar with current SCI data handling disciplines. I stand by my description as a possible scenario, especially with regard to the early drafts of Clark's memo. Those drafts, as working papers, were not published / released in this sense and may well not have been individually bound. The version that was distributed to the small number of need-to-know readers in the NSC would indeed have been so covered, but not necessarily the drafts.

Okay, will the Dems note I'm giving Berger the benefit of the doubt here? Thanks.

Now, with regard to "which situation is more serious". JC, I'm not impressed by the assertions being made re: Iraq. Maybe that's because I know a bunch of people personally who are working on those efforts and have been in touch with them throughout the last year and a half.

By "working on these efforts" I mean:
* tactical officers involved in firefights (including reservists who are in no career danger from speaking up privately
* civil affairs officers negotiating directly with Iraqi leaders and involved in rebuilding efforts (and ditto)
* a senior advisor to the Iraqi national government (and the CPA before that) on rebuilding the country's financial infrastructure, including its laws

I also have direct experience in defense contract award process, both as an advisor to government agencies and as a bidder. I'm pretty familiar with the opportunities for waste ... and also how things can be blown out of proportion.

None of which will impress you one bit, I suspect LOL ... but the reason I didn't engage that point is that a) I consider the allegations too vague to judge and b) that's not the issue at question here.

But if I had to choose, I would say this: money matters to us all as taxpayers. But inevitably in a chaotic situation some money will be badly spent or will not be spent when it should have been (in hindsight).

For that matter, people of good will in both parties should be cut some slack regarding the judgements they make on the basis of imperfect information. Monday quarterbacking is, perhaps, inevitable ... but if it turns into a witchhunt, you will find that the most capable and conscientious people will refuse those jobs. We're in this for a generation, I suspect: 20-35 years of likely lowlevel conflict and terror networks, no matter who is elected. I want people held accountable, but I don't want their jobs made impossible to do.

Berger may not have actually compromised the highly sensitive info re: security vulnerabilities in our ports and infrastructure. Let's hope he did not, and any documents he took and failed to return were burned thoroughly without anyone else seeing them. That's the most pro-Berger scenario we can identify, I think, with regard to compromised info.

The larger issue remains. In part due to the small numbers of people who serve in our all-professional military now, there are a lot of people in our electorate who have no real familiarity with information and other security disciplines. These are people who laugh the Berger incidents off.

If we don't take seriously the need to protect some of the most sensitive information, information that really could aid and abet a serious terror attack on US soil again, then I'm hard put to know what we should care about at all.

And Gary, your black and white approach to this issue and e.g. the Jacobsen story strikes me as a) naive about how security discipline work and b) tendentious. Just my opinion, team mate, but one I feel strongly enough about to say out loud.

And the reason I do feel so strongly is that we are all going to have to live and deal in an ambiguous world for a good long while. Hyperventilating over Berger does not advance the cause, folks. But neither does a tendentious word game at a time of real but uncertain and hard-to-measure danger.

PS: a small point, but it's Mrs. or Ms. Burk, not Mr.

Apologies for the network hiccup and 2 copies of that long comment. Trent, could you delete 1 copy please?

Jinn,

The encryption on the STUIII phones was cracked a few years ago. It was in one of the security messages I saw.

AFAIK, it has not been upgraded.

Robin,

It is up to Joe Katzman to play that level of editor. I don't have that level of access to the Winds site at the moment.

Interesting thread. A couple points:

The WSJ article referenced was news reported by Scott Paltrow on p. A6, not opinion page.

Kaus' "faster news cycle" seems to be at work in this story. It's easy to get too caught up in the breathless rumors. I liked Ross Judson's 5:16pm working list of "what we know about the Folies Bergeres."

On the other hand "If it hasn't been proven in court, we mustn't speculate" strikes me as a formula that only a lawyer could love. "What's proven in court" is meant to determine whether and how much Berger gets punished. There is plenty of information on this case to allow us to make provisional judgements. Joe Wilson won't be hauled before a judge anytime soon; that hardly mitigates the shame and disgrace he should feel.

What's lacking from Berger is any plausible story. There's a reason he and his lawyer are getting savaged, and it's that there's no conceivable narrative that employs the word "inadvertent"--the only explanation he's offered in public to date. Yah, Berger can't tell his entire story because he has criminal sanctions to worry about--that's supposed to a point in his favor?!

The Free Republic seems to have picked up my article here:

Text to display"

They say I am wrong in saying that Berger was selected review those executive branch files by the 9/11 Commission. Instead Berger was chosen to review those papers by Former President Bill Clinton.

I don't think that it materially effects my point that Berger was not the choice of the Bush Administration nor the problems that it presents in terms of Berger's and the Democrat's conflicts of interest. However, in interests of accuracy, the point should be acknowledged if that is the case.

From the Washington Post, 20 July:

The FBI is investigating Clinton administration national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger's removal of classified documents from the National Archives, attorneys for Berger confirmed last night.

Berger inadvertently took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall, said his attorney Lanny Breuer. The lawyer said one or more of the copies were then inadvertently discarded.

The inspector general of the Archives began an investigation last October and turned it over to the FBI in January. FBI agents searched Berger's office and home safe, and the probe is continuing, Breuer said.

Which addresses some of the questions above: per his own lawyer, documents were discarded and he is under investigation.

Berger spent three days at the Archives, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, last summer and fall examining documents to provide the Clinton administration's responses to inquiries from the presidential commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The commission's final report is slated for release Thursday.

"There was huge pressure to review the documents quickly for claims of executive privilege and responsiveness," Breuer said. ....

One or more missing versions of the 15-page memo could not be located among Berger's possessions, and he thinks he probably discarded the papers, Breuer said.

Greg F:

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/2709580

"WASHINGTON - U.S. civilian authorities in Baghdad failed to keep good track of nearly $1 billion in Iraqi money spent for reconstruction projects and can't produce records to show whether they got some services and products they paid for, an audit concludes. "

To recap, in terms of criminal investigations:

CPA: 27, Sandy Berger: 0

This pads the Bush administration's lead in overall criminal investigations, including the Plame investigation and the Chalabi investigation.

Re: motive, I can think of several that neither damn Berger nor exonerate him.

He may simply have wanted to master all the details re: what the various drafts of the Clark report recommended and what handwritten or other notes / responses might be in the record, hoping to return them when he was done and to burn the notes he took.

He might indeed have taken them inadvertently, although that is chilling to me in light of the idea that he then unknowingly discarded them (rather than, say, burning them). Wonderful - they may be out in the trash somewhere.

He may have wanted to try to come up with some benign explanation for some comment / position of his which, after 9/11, looks particularly bad.

Only he knows. And again, it's worth stressing that if the info is not compromised, that is a Good Thing we should all celebrate.

If. If it didn't end up on a garbage heap somewhere.

Sigh.

One other possiblity:

Berger simply panicked and did something very very stupid and dangerous.

I saw this comment in a thread over at the Free Republic. Make of it what you will:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1181556/posts?page=32#32

I read that interviews for a new head of the NA began in September, just after it was confirmed (after a tip from a lower level employee, I imagine) that Berger was taking docs. The resignation of the former head was "accepted" by Bush in December. I assume one of the conditions of his being allowed to resign and not, at that time, face prosecution was his cooperation in the sting that eventually got Berger. The old NA head must have been the one who gave the order from the top to let Berger do whatever he wanted in the Archives.

The former director was a Clinton political appointee, a former CO governor who had lost his reelection, and who had never done anything but be a politician. The current candidate is a non-political appointee with a long history in non-profit management.

Oh, and guess what: the Dems are holding up his confirmation. Otherwise, we'd already have a new head of the NA. Anybody surprised?

This quiet resignation route is pure Bush Administration all the way. You always have to watch what the Bushies do and not what they say.

Everything else, other than information on the last National Archives director political career, seems to be partisan speculation.

I do predict that the next Republican Presidential Administration after Bush is going to be very thorough in purging previous Administration's appointees -- Democratic or Republican -- from the Federal bureaucracy at all levels in a way that the Dubya Administration isn't.

Those who go read the article re: the audit of the CPA will note a few things:

  • The auditors did what auditors do: they looked for unambiguous and uninterrupted paper trails re: money spent and goods procured.
  • In the middle of an unstable situation, with regular mortar attacks on the Green Zone itself, there are missing papers.
  • In a country where trucks are under attack regularly, 20 can't be found.
  • Some idiot gambled away some money he shouldn't. He will get nailed for this.
  • In a report to Congress released Friday, CPA Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said his teams have found several management problems which are not surprising given the dangers of work in Iraq and other challenges.

I'm neither surprised by all this nor particularly worried or shocked. Auditors are not supposed to be reasonable, authorities are supposed to be as careful as possible with paperwork, and in reality things get muddled when guns are firing and bombs are going off. The IG found no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing other than that idiot gambler.

In the case of Berger, on the other hand, we know that, at a minimum, he deliberately and knowingly smuggled out classified notes.

I have just come back to this thread. Again, Geek Esq, pithy comment, encapsulates so much. Wish I had said that. 27 to 0, indeed.

First off, my apologies Ms. Burke, for the misidentification.

I'm glad you agree with me that of the two issues - the possible wrongdoing of Sandy Berger, or the corruption, and the ACTUAL criminal investigations around Iraq - if you had to choose, the actual criminal investigations are the greater priority.

I take your point about process at the National Archive. From what I have read, all processes, not to mention the technology, of accounting for documents at the National Archive should be changed. Very very old school setup - I'm sure this will be improved in the near future.

But again, I urge all to keep fundamental priorities in place. Especially given the importance of the mission in Iraq, a cavalier dismissal of significant charges, is less than useful.

I'm glad you agree with me

Actually, I didn't. At all.

Robin,

Point taken about the possiblity of it having been a "box of drafts." I have, YEARS ago, seen a "similar box" but of lower rated ("SECRET" I believe, but it's FAR too long ago to be able to swear to that, and my experience is NOT current) drafts/revisions which were still in their original covers. So I freely admit that I don't
KNOW what the case might actually be.

I'll still stick by my point that, even if not in security covers, it would be hard to "inadvertently" put them into your briefcase when you were intentionally concealing your own notes on your person --- what other papers would you have to put into your briefcase (which you weren't supposed to have with you in the first place.)

Of course the "inadvertent" issue is almost a sidelight to the admit intentional concealment of his own notes.

Thanks for your insights.

All the Best

Geek,

Your points about potential irregularities/crimes in the handling of funds by the CPA are interesting, but irrelevant to the primary discussion in this thread. Just because a serial killer is being investigated in one locale does not mean that the murderer of "only one victime" should not be brought to trial, nor that the latter's crime is not heinous.

Problems with the actions of the CPA should, indeed, be investigated and dealt with appropriately, but that has no bearing on the present discussion.

All the Best

Davek,

I agree with your evaluation of the Wall Street Journal as a generally reliable (indeed, in my opinion probably the most reliable) of newspaper sources; though I don't agree with the assemsment of its news pages as being conservative --- that's a distinction that applies to the editorial pages. Nonetheless, even the Wall Street Journal can make mistakes.

NewsMax is, admittedly, a conservative source, and if both stories were using unnamed sources, I'd give more weight to the WSJ story; however, the WSJ story is not using named sources which makes it inherently less reliable. The NewsMax story is quoting a properly placed, named source, Susan Cooper. NewsMax while conservative in its INTERPRETATION of the news has never been fairly accused of being a Michael Moore and fabricating data. So, in this case, I'm willing to bet that there's is the correct story and we'll be seeing a retraction by the WSJ.

Of course, I could be wrong, and if I am, I'll be glad to buy you beer the next time you're in Wyoming!

In many ways the WSJ story seems a "tad" far-fetched since I'd not expect criminal investigators truly in the position to KNOW the facts that we've all admitted we lack to make such a comment before the investigation is closed.

Give it a few days, and we may know the whole story.

All the Best.

A few points, just to clarify / focus, from my recent comments.

  • Gary, Geek and others have said Berger is not under investigation. His own lawyers say he is and have said so from the time the story broke.
  • Per his lawyer, he may have "discarded" some of the documents he took. If we accept that it was done inadvertently, then this material is God-knows-where. The alternate explanation is that he destroyed or hid them. Neither of these is a Good Thing. Ironically, if he is lying about the inadvertence of this, it is better for the country than if he is telling the truth. Sigh. I am loathe even to consider the 3rd alternative, i.e. that he might have given them to another party, until/unless credible assertions are made that back up so serious a charge. I did not like the Clinton administration's security and defense policy, but that does not mean that top officials were actively treasonous.
  • JC refers to criminal investigations in the same breath as a reference to the first audit of the CPA. There is nothing in that audit to suggest that criminal investigations are underway as a result of the audit, and no other references have been put forward for the claimed 27 investigations.

We could have a discussion about the last point, but in this thread it seems designed mainly to move attention away from the topic of Berger's security lapse and related lapses in the Clinton administration.

Having said that, I'm not particularly thrilled by either the right or the left wrt how this story has been handled, or the Jacobsen article either, for that matter.

Sorry, that should read "nothing in that article to suggest ...."

To recap, in terms of criminal investigations:
CPA: 27, Sandy Berger: 0"

Bzzt!

It was reported Monday that Berger, who was national security adviser during President Clinton's second term, has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over the allegations since October.

Thanx, Trent!
I can neither confirm or deny. :)
But, my point was, two man rule should still apply, shouldn't it?
BTW, Charles linked you too, at LGF. :)

Robin: That was a really good post. And I agree with this-- "I did not like the Clinton administration's security and defense policy, but that does not mean that top officials were actively treasonous. " No, but I think they may have been deliberately casual if they thought the classified data would give them some advantage. IMHO, they were not serious about security (witness Clinton laughing and joking about Berger). I never saw ethics as a huge part of the Clinton administration policy.

I really don't understand this 27:0 stuff, or the idea that one is more important than the other.

At best, the two are unrelated.

But think about the following:

TS-SCI information is often so classified because it relates to "sources and methods." That's because how the information is collected is often more secret than the information itself. What are sources and methods? Broadly, one might include satellites and agents.

So, if somebody reveals the capabilities of a set of satellites, what level scandal is that? Well, considering that a satellite could easily cost $500M, and there's usually more than one, this "little incident" might cost, conservatively, several billion dollars, in terms of satellites that just lost a lot of utility. (Not to mention spoofing by bad guys, but that's hard to put a dollar amount on.)

Or, it could be an agent or two or five or ten. Wanna bet their lifespan? So, you'd be talking the deaths of quite a few people (Aldrich Ames is believed to have cost the lives of at least ten agents.) How much is THAT worth?

And, as Ms. Burk notes, the biggest problem right now is what we don't know. Which means that, pending further information, you have to assume your source(s) are compromised.

Still sure that $1B (which is under investigation, not all disappearing off in a satchel) in Iraq is the bigger problem?

Let's see. The wanton mismanagement of the occupation/reconstruction in Iraq has been a complete and total disgrace. Money wasted, corruption rampant, no bid contracts to politically-connected corporations. Dough Feith's law partners working with Chalabi's nephews to hand out contracts. No coherent plan to deal with post-war Iraq, despite the fact that these guys have had a jones for this war for years.

These ideologically driven nincompoops appointed a window blinds salesman who had NEVER SET FOOT IN A PRISON as warden at ABU GHRAIB.

So, yes, the complete, utter, and tragic incompetence and at times lawlessness with which this administration has conducted itself in Iraq is a much bigger story than Sandy Berger stuffing a few pieces of paper in his pockets. Dear lord, from the comments here, you'd think Usama bin Laden was the guy's roommate.

I would also posit that the neocon ideologues who outed a CIA agent (and by extension her contacts around the globe) and fed Chalabi vital intelligence that he could pass on to his Iranian patrons--I would posit that those bastards did a lot more harm.

Geek, you fail to provide backup for your claims here, again.

All viewpoints are welcome - but you need to be prepared to defend your assertions, not just state them.

The Plume situation is another thread we could do here. As someone who knows people in the intel community, I will say this, however: you have badly overstated your case.

  • She was not an agent, she was a case officer
  • She was compromised to the Soviets years prior, which is one reason she was no longer working as a case officer

I dislike having to defend one side in this thread, because my own beliefs are more centrist. However, the sort of wild, unsubstantiated claims you make here do not advance serious dialogue until / unless you make them with more care and substance.

Geek,

The Berger story is about a security breach with the potential to result in the death of thousands of American civilians here at home.

The CPA story is about civilian auditors not finding a SEC approved auditing paper trail in a of a military occupation government war zone.

Orders of magnitude mean things and your inability to see that in this particular case marks you as either a partisan fool or a troll.

Greg F. and Geek, Esq. have had little to say about Sandy Berger's actions at the National Archives, which is the topic of this thread. Each has brought Iraqi accounting irregularities into the discussion. That topic would seem to be irrelevant, and even a distraction.

Even the estimable (Ms.) Robin Burke was conned (on her day off!) into spending time discussing the accounting irregularities. However knowledgeable and eloquent she may be, insights in this area won't advance the Berger discussion.

Greg F. and Geek, Esq.: Is that a bug or a feature? I hope I am wrong to suggest that your actions were not inadvertent. If CPA oversight is truly where your interests lie, perhaps you should consider asking WoC webmaster Joe Kauffman for "Guest-Blog" spots. He might well consider them, if they are well-written, logical, and topical.

I’ll promise not to mention Sandy Berger’s troubles even once in those comment threads.

Geek, once again you fail to provide any backup to support your strong claims.

Partisan rhetoric is all to easy to throw around, but the facts are, shall we say, more nuanced.

Two basic points to keep in mind when evaluating the issues re: Valerie Plume:

  • She was a case officer, not a field agent. The roles are different.
  • She was compromised to the Soviets years before this incident, which is why she has not served as a case officer for years and would never have done so again even if her husband had not begun his partisan TV talk show circuit nor Novak his column.

As for the other charges, you still haven't responded with any citation whatsoever regarding the claim of "27 criminal investigations" earlier. Less unsubstantiated rhetoric, please, and more engagement with whatever facts or assertions we can glean from public sources on thse matters.

Re: no-bid contracts, I've talked about the issues involved here and in the prior articles linked from that post. If you have more information or analysis to add to that, please do so -- but the wild language without any backup is ... less than convincing.

Geek,

Here is the Coalition Provisional Authority official web site. It includes all the audits as well as reports to Congress. Please document the alleged $1 billion in "wanton mismanagement" you keep ranting about. Provide document name and page numbers to support your accusations.

AMac,

I apologize for getting sucked into the thread drift. As far as Berger is concerned I am reluctant to commit to anything with so few verifiable facts. There is one thing that does bother me with the “inadvertent” argument. A few years back I was driving back to work from lunch when a woman “inadvertently” ran a stop sign and broadsided me on the passenger side. She hit me so hard I ended up on the lawn of a house on the corner of the intersection (actually it was a little more complicated then that, but it did pull 2 tires off the rims and her car stopped in the middle of the intersection). Although there is no doubt this accident was unintentional, the consequences of her “inadvertent” action were none the less very real. The consequence of totaling two cars has likely made this woman a more attentive driver. I don’t believe we learn from our mistakes, rather we learn from the consequences of our mistakes, as I am sure this lady has. To allow Berger off scott free, even if the action was inadvertent (best case), is to deny the consequences and risk more serious damage in the future.

AMac has a point - one I would have made way earlier if technical difficulties had not interefered. We have a comments policy here, part of which is that that in respect for the time our authors take, comments must be topical.

This article is about Sandy Berger, period. Not Iraq. The tactic is dishonest, and has served to derail an intelligent and informative discussion.

Comments posted henceforth that do not address the article's topic will be deleted. Continued attempts to post off-topic comments will get people banned.

Thank you, Joe. I wait and wait for a Trent Trelenko thread and then we have this idiot thread hijacking-- that geek is not the only one, but the most persistant one. It is very rude.

Greg F.,

Interesting and relevant point re. inadvertence. The driver who broadsided you must have used "inadvertent" to mean, "yeah, I learned about the red octagonal signs to get my license, and I stop when I see a cop around, but since other people follow these rules, no bad if I don't on occasion. Colliding with your car, now that was inadvertent!"

The most generous plausible interpretation I can construct for Berger is along the same lines. Document-handling regs are for other (lesser) people, and violating them had become a matter of routine for him. Getting caught with memos in his pants, now that was inadvertent!

Years ago, Tom Wolfe wrote "Bonfire of the Vanities" to savage this "Masters of the Universe" mentality.

It strikes me that the real problem with this whole incident is that people at the national archives were not following established security procedures. If they were ordered not to by someone higher up than they were, then that someone should be fired, and the folks who went along with such boneheaded orders should be disciplined as well. Based on the news that the former director of the national archives was forced to resign last december, maybe the first part is taking place.

There will always be arrogant officials who feel they don't have to follow the rules (I remember a very senior-level woman at the CIA who refused to wear her badge around the halls and would have a temper tantrum if anyone dared challenge her presence there), the breaches occur when other people aid them in their violations. Berger would never have made it out of the archives with classified data if someone at the archives hadn't decided the established rules shouldn't apply to him. This in no way excuses Berger's behavior, but on further consideration, I'd like to see anyone who willingly went along with Berger's violation of procedures disciplined as well.

Let's see. The wanton mismanagement of the occupation/reconstruction in Iraq has been a complete and total disgrace...

Red herring. Back to square one with you.

The two situations are completely unrelated. Are you saying that Berger can't be prosecuted until all complaints having to do with the CPA are resolved? Are you under the impression that our system of justice works in this way?

Look. If Berger took original documents plus all existing copies, only then is anything resembling a sinister motive implied. If Berger merely took copies and left the original, he's still in violation of the law, and can face up to ten years (or more, if there's anything else going on) of prison, should he be prosecuted.

Gary, if you disagree, you're going to have to bring some evidence to the table. No, he's not been found guilty, nor even been charged. But as I've noted elsewhere, he's admitted to what is in fact a crime. It's worth noting also that Deutch was in jeopardy of doing prison time, which is why Clinton pardoned him.

Deutch's crime was this: computers are classified as a unit at the highest level of data that's processed on them. Typically, to declassify a computer the HD needs to be removed and destroyed (or kept in secure storage) and possibly other things need to be done as well. Deutch took a laptop which was classified at the TS-codeword level, and used it to dial up to his AOL account at home. This is a major, major lapse in procedure. One I'd have certainly gone to prison for committing.

Following that, he attempted to erase portions of the HD, and was the beneficiary of impediments to investigations put in place by some co-workers. Fas.org has some notes on this case; I've posted them in enough other places that I'm not going to bother, here.

Best thread ever. This blog just made my bookmark list.

First time visitor, like your blog.

(Everyone should drop the "inadvertent" thing though. Clearly this wasn't inadvertent. We all know and should be able to agree on that.)

Celeste,

There is a lot more going on here than people are willing to admit.

The refusal of several parties in this case to properly follow their legally binding duty to inform Congress and other parts of the executive branch is a felony. That is a "Nixon Offense" that sent not a few Nixon Administration officials to prison.

Further, if any of the information Berger knowingly removed from the National Archives winds up in unfriendly foreign hands, he will have fulfilled the legal requirements under the United States Code for a conviction on the charge of espionage.

The penalty for espionage in wartime is death by hanging.

That is why Berger looked so shook up on TV talking about this. Berger's lawyer had to have explained the legal Sword of Damocles Berger now has hanging over his head due to his abuse of national security.

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