Ruminations March 17, 2013
An American who should be water boarded
***There are some people who should be water boarded because they hold potentially crucial information to which the nation is ignorant. Of course, presidents and the top echelons of government have always withheld information in the "national interest." Sometimes their perception of the national interest if valid and other times it may be self-serving. Still other times, the missing information could be what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the "unknown unknowns" -- things we don't know that we don't know. The subject of this article fits within the last category -- unknown unknowns.
Once a year, we repost the 2003 story of Sandy Berger walking off from the National Archives with secret documents relating to terrorist attacks on the United States. This story has disappeared from newspapers front pages and indeed from any pages at all. . Berger is aging (he will be 69 this year) and the only one who knows the full details of this story and it is important that we know the details before he dies.
Berger's actions took place in 2003 although the story we need to know took place before 2001 when Berger was President Clinton’s National Security Advisor. In 2003, Berger was preparing for testimony before the September 11 Commission (formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States) and went to the National Archives to reread classified documents to refresh his memory. Nothing wrong there.
Then the fun began. Berger, according to a report from National Archives Inspector-General Paul Brachfeld, left the Archives with the classified documents in his pockets – documents that are not to leave the Archives under any conditions. (There is a report that Berger also stuffed papers into his socks but Berger says that he had cheap shoelaces that kept coming untied and cheap socks that kept falling down and that this explains why he kept bending over and making adjustments. If you believe the Berger explanation, then the white that National Archives personnel observed as Berger adjusted his socks were his pasty white ankles and not archival documents.)
According to the report, after Berger left the Archives, in order to avoid detection, he “headed toward a [Washington, D.C.] construction area on 9th Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ [Department of Justice], and did not see anyone. He removed the documents from his pockets, folded the notes into a ‘V’ shape and inserted the documents into the center [of a chain-link fence]. He walked inside the construction fence and slid the documents under a trailer.” Berger later came back to retrieve the documents.
Wait. It gets better. Berger admits that he then took the documents home and cut up three of them and threw them in the trash. Those cut-up documents were never recovered.
Berger’s lawyer says that this was all a “mistake,” no original information was lost. Berger paid a $50,000 fine. He has called the incident an “honest mistake” and said that he had “unintentionally” destroyed some documents.
Do you believe this? I don’t buy it. It does not at all sound like a mistake, honest or otherwise. It sounds like Berger knew exactly what he was doing. Berger has a B.A. degree from Cornell and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He practiced law for 15 years and served in the upper echelons of government for more than 10 years – he’s no dummy. This is not a “Whoops. What was I ever thinking?” kind of thing.
Why did Berger do it?
1. Did the document contain top-secret information that couldn’t be made public? No, top-secret stuff could have been redacted.
2. Was Berger trying to cover up the Clinton Administration’s involvement in 9/11 attack? Nonsense. Whatever you think of former President Clinton, he was not a traitor.
3. Was it to cover up a mistake made by the Clinton Administration that led to 9/11? No. Everyone knows that both the Clinton and Bush Administrations were not as vigilant as they could have been and both made mistakes.
4. Was it to cover an indiscretion by President Clinton? No. These were official documents and would not contain information of that sort.
5. Was there information regarding Iraq on the documents? President Clinton did consider launching an attack on Iraq and information regarding Iraq could be politically and internationally volatile. This was something the current administration would have the call on and not something that Berger would be afraid of releasing to the Committee.
6. Could it be to cover the contradiction between Berger and Clinton (Clinton said the Sudanese offered to turn Osama bin Laden over to the U.S. government in 1996 and Berger says that they didn’t)? No, Clinton had the final call on all actions by his administration.
Former President Clinton made a hollow attempt at covering for Berger (Oh, good old Sandy is naturally sloppy and loses things all the time – really, Mr. President? Is that why he was selected as National Security Advisor?).
Why Berger absconded with these documents or what he did with them remains a mystery. Did the documents or margin notes contain political maneuvering that backfired? Did Berger destroy documents to conceal an action that would be politically damaging to someone? The worst intentions will be suspected until the truth is known. And I, for one, don’t buy Berger’s innocent and inadvertent bit.
Is the only way we can get the true story of the Sandy Berger caper through water boarding? It seems rather harsh and the final results (assuming Berger knows that water boarding won’t kill him) tenuous. But he is the sole source and, to take the steps he took as subterfuge indicates that it was important information – and information that Berger would rather see die with him.
Quote without comment
Former U.S. representative Tom Davis (R, VA) in a letter to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, January 21, 2007, signed by all Republican members of congress: “It is extraordinarily important that the Justice Department avail itself of its rights under the [Sandy Berger] plea agreement and administer a polygraph examination to Mr. Berger to question him about the extent of his thievery. This may be the only way for anyone to know whether Mr. Berger denied the 9/11 commission and the public the complete account of the Clinton administration’s actions or inactions during the lead up to the terrorist attacks on the United States,”