Monday, April 04, 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.

Of particular interest to Berger were drafts of an after-action review by anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke of al Qaeda's thwarted attempt to attack America during the turn of the millennium in 1999. The memo reportedly identified national-security weaknesses so "glaring" that only sheer "luck" prevented a 9/11-style attack back then.

Berger had told the 9/11 Commission that the review prompted a strong White House response by the Clinton team. But President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, testified that he'd read the memo, and it indicated that no action was taken by the Clintonites.

That Berger, in other words, lied about the Clinton administration's contempt for national security. (One of his CIA directors, John Deutsch, recall, stored 17,000 pages of top-secret documents and wrote classified memos on a home computer that was also used to surf Internet porn sites.)

Who was right? Well, it wasn't John Ashcroft who stuffed the secret documents down his pants — then claimed he had "accidentally discarded" them.

That in itself would have been a violation of law. What now emerges, by his own admission, is that Sandy Berger was engaged in a clumsy, post-9/11 cover-up of his own third-rate burglary.

Even more disturbing is the cavalier attitude of leading Democrats to this whole sordid affair.

"For all those who know and love him, it's easy to see how this would happen," one former White House colleague told The Washington Post at the time.

As for Bill Clinton himself, he couldn't stop chuckling over the whole thing.

"That's Sandy for you," he said at a Denver book signing last summer. "We were all laughing about it on the way over here."

Who's laughing now, Bill?

Not Sandy Berger.


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