Simply astounding: Sandy Berger is taken seriously by the mainstream media as a credible source for events in the Clinton administration leading up to September 11, 2001. You must be kidding. Surely this is a joke. Even after Burglar stole classified national security documents hid them in his trousers, and cut up the only copy of the documents, CNN even takes the incredible step of having Wolf Blitzer interview Berger. Certainly the powerful bosses at CNN have forgotten about Berger’s Burglary.
From the New York Post, April 4, 2005:
Sandy Berger, the top Clinton national- security official and erstwhile close adviser to Sen. John Kerry, has finally confessed what he spent nearly a year heatedly denying: that he intentionally smuggled classified documents from the National Archives — and deliberately destroyed them.
In pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count Friday — for which he’ll get a slap-on-the-wrist $10,000 fine and lose his security clearance for three years (but probably not his law license) — Berger admits to secreting the documents in his suit jacket.
Then, once he got them home, he cut them to pieces with a pair of scissors.
So much for the “honest mistake” Berger last year maintained he’d committed.
As we noted last week, Sandy Berger stole some of the nation’s most highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives. He scissored them to pieces in his downtown Washington offices. Then he lied about it. Mr. Berger’s lenient plea bargain with the Justice Department fines him an amount he can shake from the couches at his Stonebridge International LLC offices and promises his security clearances will be restored in time for Election 2008.
It’s hard to underestimate the effect a case like this has on national-security professionals. For cynics, it shows that big players get off easy when they commit the crimes smaller fry lose their careers over. Meanwhile, spies, policy-makers and other handlers of secrets are effectively being told their efforts aren’t taken seriously. It’s a classic Washington double standard.
“This is one of the most dissatisfying and demoralizing legal decisions possible from a national-security standpoint,” former National Security Council staffer John Lenczowski told us. “It sends the signal that the U.S. government is not nearly as serious about the protection of classified information as our laws would indicate.”
In conversations about the case, foreign-affairs veterans use words like “stomach-turning” and “demoralizing” to describe their reaction to the plea agreement. It is not hard to see why. Lives depend upon observing national-security rules. Untold man-hours and billions of dollars are spent acquiring and keeping secrets. All this is risked when the rules and laws are broken. In this case, Mr. Berger’s stolen documents detailed the Clinton administration’s failure to guard adequately against terrorist plots during the 2000 millennial celebrations. These weren’t some low-level briefing papers. They were among the most-sensitive materials anywhere in government.
Far from acknowledging the ill effects of Mr. Berger’s free pass, however, some of his defenders are actually excusing his behavior and sweeping its ill effects under the carpet. We wouldn’t have thought the Wall Street Journal editorial page would number among them, but it does. The Journal praised the agreement for “restraint” and glossed over its morale-wrecking effects, pausing only to note that “lesser officials have received harsher penalties for more minor transgressions.”
With this wink and nod, the Wall Street Journal is telling national-security professionals that double standards should govern the nation’s secrets.
Meanwhile, Mr. Berger seems to be getting away with a novel defense: that he’s ignorant. Mr. Berger “didn’t exactly know how to return the documents once he’d taken them out,” the Wall Street Journal explains credulously. This is laughable. Mr. Berger was the highest-ranking official at the National Security Council and has held national-security jobs since the Carter administration. If a former national security adviser “didn’t exactly know” the rules, who does? From the New York Sun:
According to the commission report Sandy Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al-Qaeda four separate times, spring ’98, June ’99, December ’99, and August 2000, and each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking preemptive action, maybe the 3,000 killed in the September 11th attacks would be alive today. From the CNN Program, The Situation Room: The following is a portion of hte transcript with Mr. Burglar trying to rewrite history on Friday. Mr. Burglar’s desperation to rewrite the history of the days leading up to 9-11 is obvious in even the written form of this interview. Read the whole transcript look here.
SAMUEL BERGER, CHAIRMAN, STONEBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL: I haven’t been told that at all, Wolf. And I’ve not seen the movie. I’ve not seen — been provided with a copy of it. Those who have seen it describe it as misleading, inaccurate, and in some cases, a fabrication. The producers themselves say it’s fictionalized. The events of 9/11 are very real and we don’t need to play fiction with 9/11.
BLITZER: Is it a problem of those scenes? Because in this letter that you wrote, you together with Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, you want ABC to simply pull the entire film. What’s wrong with simply making those last-minute edits, those changes so that the controversy perhaps would go away?
BERGER: I don’t think this is just a question of fixing something around the edges, Wolf. My impression is that this is a misleading film to the core. And it seems to me the only appropriate thing at this point is for ABC to withdraw the series.
BLITZER: I know you’ve had friends, former Clinton officials, who have actually seen it who have said to you that — what have they said to you about the film?
BERGER: They said that some parts of it are fabrications, other parts are misleading and inaccurate, and this is simply a work of fiction, as the producers have said. In some cases, they’ve said the actors improvised on the set. Well, you know, 9/11 is something very powerful to the American people and we shouldn’t be playing fiction with 9/11.
BLITZER: Have you spoken to your former boss, former President Bill Clinton about this?
BERGER: I have.
BLITZER: And what did he say to you?
BERGER: He’s very upset about it as well.
BLITZER: And did he — can’t one of you or both of you pick up the phone and call Bob Iger, the chairman of Disney and complain?
BERGER: I have written to Mr. Iger and said that we believe that the scenes that we’re talking about are complete fabrications. They simply did not happen. They should be fixed. But quite honestly, at this point, I don’t think this is something you can fix. I think you just have to yank it.
BLITZER: Do you have any sense they will do that?
BERGER: I would hope so. I think that’s appropriate. The credibility of this show has been called into question.
BLITZER: Do you know if the former president has called Bob Iger himself and said, you know what, yank this film?
BERGER: I have no idea what the president and Mr. Iger did or did not say. But I can tell you my own view is this is not something that we should be showing to the American people.
BLITZER: What about the bigger picture? Forget about that one specific scene, because the 9/11 Commission, a lot of other people, say it wasn’t you that pulled the trigger on going after Osama bin Laden, it was George Tenet, the CIA director. I wonder if you want to clarify that before we move on.
BERGER: On no situation, Wolf, did we ever refuse authorization to the CIA for an operation against bin Laden. The one time we had good information about bin Laden’s whereabouts was in August of 1998. We fired 50 tomahawk missiles into the camp where we believed he was.
We apparently missed him by a few hours. There was no other occasion while we were in office that we had an opportunity to get bin Laden or eyes on bin Laden. And the fact is, Wolf, five years later, despite the fact that we have thousands of American troops in Afghanistan, we still have not gotten bin Laden.
BLITZER: Because there was one incident. There was some intelligence that he was in a place — Osama bin Laden — called Tarnak Farms. You remember that incident?
BERGER: That incident — I believe in that situation the CIA itself called off the operation because they didn’t believe it was reliable.Is Mr. Berger capable of judging the difference between fact and fiction?
Since Berger stole and destroyed some of the documents related to this precise circumstance, he and Bill Clinton can tell any story that they wish to tell. Burglar’s story doesn’t match up well with the slightly left of center report issued by the 9-11 commission.
Wake-up America! No serious person can give Sandy Burglar any credibility. Talk about needing a disclaimer every time he appears on the television screen…