What the f@$# was Sandy Berger thinking?
So Sandy Berger is in a spot of trouble, according to John Solomon’s AP report: Sandy Berger, former President Clinton’s national security adviser, is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department after highly classified terrorism documents disappeared while he was reviewing what should be turned over to the Sept. 11 commission…. Berger and his lawyer ...
So Sandy Berger is in a spot of trouble, according to John Solomon's AP report:
So Sandy Berger is in a spot of trouble, according to John Solomon’s AP report:
Sandy Berger, former President Clinton’s national security adviser, is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department after highly classified terrorism documents disappeared while he was reviewing what should be turned over to the Sept. 11 commission…. Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio. “I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced,” Berger said in a statement to the AP.
The Washington Post has more details. Andrew Sullivan is “gob-smacked.” Josh Marshall finds it “inexplicable,” while Glenn Reynolds says it’s “bizarre.” That’s pretty much my reaction — no, wait, what truly shocks me is Berger’s stupidity. Berger was NSC advisor when John Deutsch got into serious trouble for a similar (though not identical) screw-up while CIA director. It’s not like Berger was unaware of the ramifications of the act. I have no idea why he did it, and like Virginia Postrel am willing to believe that Berger did not have nefarious motives. However, it’s very amusing to read Josh Marshall assert that this story was “the product of a malicious leak.” That’s a definite possibility — just as it’s a possibility that Berger did what he did to assemble ammunition for the Democrats to engage in partisan attacks on the Bush administration’s Al Qaeda policies. One certainly does not excuse the other, but Josh’s “shocked, shocked!” routine about Republican shenanigans — in contrast to his überparsing defenses of similar Democrat shenanigans — is wearing a bit thin. UPDATE: One counterpoint — some are using this story as an example of media bias, implying that if Condi Rice had done this it would have gotten more play. That’s true, but not because of ideology. Berger is now a private citizen (albeit one advising the Kerry campaign); Rice is a government official. This type of behavior will (and should) command more attention from those in power than from those who are now out of power. ANOTHER UPDATE: This blogger posts the following:
I have a reader who is involved with the government’s efforts to fight terror, and he has connections who tell him the big suspicion is that Berger took things he thought would help Kerry in the Presidential campaign.
Even though — as I speculated — this is a possibility, bear in mind that Berger did this back in October 2003 — when John Kerry was not the frontrunner, and Berger was listed as a foreign policy advisor for at least four candidates. Also, David Gergen said the following in the Fox News story:
David Gergen, who was an adviser to Clinton and worked with Berger for a time in the White House, said Tuesday, “I think it’s more innocent than it looks.” “I have known Sandy Berger for a long time,” Gergen said in a television interview. “He would never do anything to compromise the security of the United States.”
LAST UPDATE: Berger has announced he won’t be advising the Kerry campaign. Sounds about right. One final question — does this episode provide empirical support for Jacob Levy’s contention that shadow cabinets are a mistake or my contention that they would be a good idea? LAST UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a lot more . And this Josh Marshall follow-on acknowledges that Berger brought this on himself. Marshall believes that this was a Republican leak, but both Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias postulate that, for various reasons, the leak came from a Democrat (links via InstaPundit).
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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