Jack Cashill does an awfully good Mel Gibson-in-Conspiracy-Theory impression feverishly linking the Berger document removal job with a cover-up of Clinton Administration knowledge of Operation Bojinka, along with an assumed cover-up by that Administration of the shooting down of TWA Flight 800 by a terrorist missile.
Interesting reading, at least.
If not the most skillful of embezzlers, Samuel “Sandy” Berger is a far more formidable character than the media would have us believe. When he made his now storied sorties into the National Archives, he risked his career and his reputation in so doing, and he knew it. Rest assured, he would not have done so were the secrets to be preserved not worth the risk of pilfering them.
True to form, the major media refuse to even ask the most fundamental question: just what secrets would justify so much personal exposure. Having read the report on Berger by the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, I am more confident than ever that I know the answer.
As the House Report makes clear, Berger did not exactly welcome this assignment. This confirms my suspicions. The archivists told the House Committee, in fact, that Berger “indicated some disgust with the burden and responsibility of conducting the document review.”
Apparently, he did not have much choice in the matter. Former President Bill Clinton had, according to the report, “designated Berger as his representative to review NSC documents.” Berger was Clinton’s go-to inside guy.
In his first term, Clinton had hired this millionaire trade lawyer and lobbyist to be deputy national security advisor, not because of Berger’s foreign policy experience, which was negligible, but because of his political instincts, which were keen and reliable. Clinton entrusted Berger with some very sensitive assignments, particularly in relationship to China, and rewarded him for his trust with the job of National Security Advisor in his second term. This job does not require Senate confirmation. It is unlikely that Berger could have gotten any job that did.
As we now know, Berger made four trips to the National Archives. He did so presumably to refresh his memory before testifying first to the Graham-Goss Commission and then to the 9/11 Commission. Berger made his first visit in May 2002, his last in October 2003.
As we now know too, he stole and destroyed an incalculable number of documents during these four visits. “The full extent of Berger’s document removal,” reports the House Committee, “is not known and never can be known.”
To understand what that “smoking gun” might have been and how it involved Clarke and Berger, let us turn to the fateful summer of 1996. At that time Col. Buzz Patterson carried the “nuclear football” for President Clinton. Given his security clearance, Patterson was entrusted with any number of high security assignments. One morning in “late-summer,” Patterson was returning a daily intelligence update from the Oval Office to the National Security Council when he noticed the heading “Operation Bojinka.”
As Patterson relates, “I keyed on a reference to a plot to use commercial airliners as weapons.” As a pilot, he had a keen interest in the same. “I can state for a fact that this information was circulated within the U.S. intelligence community,” Patterson writes, “and that in late 1996 the president was aware of it.” The President’s hand written comments on the documents verified the same.
The Philippine police had uncovered plans for aerial assaults as early as January 1995 and shared those plans with the FBI almost immediately. The man responsible for those plans was Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing and very possibly an Iraqi contract agent. His accomplice was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9-11 and allegedly Yousef’s uncle.
Understandably, the 9-11 Commission was very concerned about who knew what when in regards to the use of planes as bombs. Bush National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was asked on her first real question: “Did you ever see or hear from the FBI, from the CIA, from any other intelligence agency, any memos or discussions or anything else between the time you got into office and 9-11 that talked about using planes as bombs?”
Rice said no. She was likely telling the truth. Clarke had acknowledged as much during his earlier testimony. He admitted that the “knowledge about al-Qaeda having thought of using aircraft as weapons” was relatively old, “five-years, six-years old.” He asked that intelligence analysts “be forgiven for not thinking about it given the fact that they hadn’t seen a lot in the five or six years intervening about it.”
Before the summer Olympics of 1996, in fact, Clarke had warned security planners about the possibility of Islamic terrorists hijacking a 747 and flying it into Olympic Stadium. Two days before the start of those Olympics, on July 17, Saddam’s National Liberation day, with the U.S Navy on the highest state of alert since the Cuban missile crisis, TWA Flight 800 blew up inexplicably off the coast of Long Island.
The fact that the President was reviewing Bojinka plans soon after the destruction of TWA Flight 800 makes the versions of those plans with his hand written notes on them all the more critical. If found and revealed, they would, at the very least, acknowledge that the Clinton administration had a keen interest in the possible use of planes as bombs five years before September 11.
That interest obviously died, and Clarke served as chief assassin. Among other roles, it fell upon this Clinton sycophant to devise the “exit strategy” that transformed a seeming aeronautical assault on TWA Flight 800 into a “mechanical failure.” In his book Against All Enemies, he takes full credit for this bit of aviation alchemy.
Clarke was likely also responsible for getting the CIA and FBI to breach the storied “wall” and work together on the creation of the notorious “zoom-climb” animation. This animation showed a nose-less 747 rocketing vertically 3200 feet into space and confusing onlookers. The FBI used it to discredit all 270 of its eyewitnesses to an apparent missile strike.
The media swallowed the zoom-climb as uncritically as they had the “mechanical failure.” The New York Times did not bother to interview any of the 270 relevant eyewitnesses. Say what you will about former Timesman Jayson Blair, but he at least would have made one up.
Berger played a key role in the TWA Flight 800 sleight-of-mind as well. On the night of July 17, 1996, Berger was among the scores of staff summoned to the White House for an emergency meeting—a first for a domestic airplane crash. Col. Patterson was there as well but was kept fully out of the loop. When I asked Patterson if anyone was holed up in the family quarters with the president, he could tentatively identify only one person. And that person was Sandy Berger, then just the deputy national security advisor. Berger’s boss, the less “reliable” Tony Lake, was relegated to his own office.
A logical deduction from existing evidence is that Clarke put the “planes-as-bombs” talk on hold for the five or six years after the TWA Flight 800 disaster lest such talk evoke unanswered questions about that fateful crash. Berger’s task, I surmise, was to make sure all references to Bojinka, planes-as-bombs, and/or TWA Flight 800 were rooted from the Archives, especially any documents with hand-written notes that led back to co-conspirators Berger, Clarke, and Clinton.