Category Archive 'Sandy Berger'
05 May 2008
The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library will not make available to the public the documents that former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger illegally took from the National Archives in 2003.
A letter from the library said the total 502 pages from the Millennium Alert After Action Review (MAAR) are “restricted in their entirety,” under federal law and that the documents are “classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy.”
Further, the library stated the documents contain “confidential communications requesting or submitting advice between the president and his advisors, or between such advisors.” …
Berger, who was national security advisor for President Clinton from 1997 to 2001, took five different copies of pages from the classified MAAR out of the archives by stuffing them in his suit and exiting the archives building. Berger did that at a time (September-October 2003) when the 9/11 Commission was beginning to investigate both the Clinton and Bush administrations’ handling of the terror threat in the led up to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Millennium Alert After Action Review was reportedly a 1999 assessment of how the nation was handling terrorist threats. The assessment was distributed to only 15 people in the Clinton administration and contained 29 recommendations, according to published reports.
On Oct. 2, 2003, Berger removed four documents, each of which were versions of MAAR. Berger left the building and later went to a construction area, according to the National Archives Inspector General’s (IG) report. He removed documents from his pockets, folded the documents and slid them under a trailer at the construction site, the report said. That night, the IG reported, Berger went to his office and cut with scissors three of the four pilfered documents into small pieces.
When the National Archives contacted him two days later to say documents were missing, he said he did not take them, according to the IG report. Berger later called the archives to tell them he found two of the documents, but not the other two.
In April 2005, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of removing and retaining classified material. He was fined $50,000, sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours community service, and stripped of his security clearance for three years. He also relinquished his license to practice law.
17 May 2007
In a move calculated to forestall further inquiries into his thefts and destruction of Clinton Administration National Security documents from the National Archives, Sandy Berger has offered to accept voluntary disbarment.
He hasn’t been practicing law recently, it’s true. But it seems unlikely that he would be so willing to relinquish that valuable professional status without serious concern over what might come out under his own cross examination at a bar hearing.
Samuel R. Berger, the Clinton White House national security adviser who was caught taking highly classified documents from the National Archives, has agreed to forfeit his license to practice law.
In a written statement issued by Larry Breuer, Mr. Berger’s attorney, the former national security adviser said he pleaded guilty in the Justice Department investigation, accepted the penalties sought by the department and recognized that his law license would be affected.
“I have decided to voluntarily relinquish my license,” he said. “While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession. I am very sorry for what I did, and I deeply apologize.”
In giving up his license, Mr. Berger avoids being cross-examined by the Board on Bar Counsel, where he risked further disclosure of specific details of his theft. The agreement is expected to be formalized today.
Mr. Berger, national security adviser from 1997 to 2001, was convicted of removing documents from the Archives in 2005 while preparing to testify before the September 11 commission.
Fined $50,000, sentenced to 100 hours of community service and barred from access to classified material for three years, he also was ordered to undergo a polygraph test if asked — although the Justice Department has declined to administer the test despite urging by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform.
31 Mar 2007
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., is charging a cover-up by the Justice Department in connection with the 2003 theft and destruction of top secret documents by Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. Davis also told FOX News that he is not convinced that Berger was not acting under direction from the Clinton Administration.
“I’m not convinced that he was acting alone,” Davis said. “They could have well said, â€˜Sandy, do you remember that document way back â€” that I wrote to you … We can’t get this into the record. This is gonna make us look terrible.’ ”
Davis’ comments came in a FOX News special, “Socks, Scissors, Paper: The Sandy Berger Caper,” to be broadcast on FOX News Channel on Saturday, March 31 at 9 p.m. EDT. The program is hosted by David Asman.
Read the whole thing.
Sounds “fair and balanced” to me.
17 Mar 2007
Michael Barone wrote a column in US News, contrasting the seriousness of the offenses committed by Sandy Berger with the discrepancy between Lewis Libby’s memory and those of Tim Russert and Matt Cooper and noting the irony of Libby facing far more serious penalties than Berger received.
Sandy Berger responded with this defensive email.
“Michael: I screwed up. There was nothing sinister about it. I was under serious pressure to digest the entire Clinton record on terrorism for eight years so that we could testify fully to the 9-11 commission. I spent several arduous days at the Archives looking through the files. This document was interesting to me because I had commissioned it in 2000â€“a look at what we learned from the millennium terror threats that were avoided. Tired, stressed, I made a very stupid decisionâ€“to take the documents home with me so that I could review them in more detail and so that I could compare the apparent differences among versions. Since this document had been widely circulated to all the relevant agencies (State, Defense, CIA, Justice, etc.), I felt certain the commission would get it from one or more of these agencies.
There were no handwritten markings on the documents (which were copies) or anything else unusual. I took no other documentsâ€“originals or copiesâ€“besides the ones specified in my plea agreement.
The DOJ has stated unequivocally that there is no evidence that I took other documents and that the commission received everything.
That’s the long and short of it. I made a very stupid mistake. I deeply regret it. Top-level career Justice Department prosecutors investigated it aggressively for two years. We reached a plea agreement that they believed was fair. That was two years ago. Now I wish this thing would go away.
John Hinderaker expresses some very appropriate skepticism of Berger’s veracity.
I don’t buy it. Berger didn’t make an impulsive decision–“tired, stressed”–to smuggle documents out of the National Archives. He stole documents on multiple occasions. On one occasion, he sneaked them out of the archives, went to a nearby construction site and hid the documents under a construction trailer, so he could come back later and pick them up. I simply don’t believe that Berger engaged in this kind of cloak and dagger behavior just because he found the documents “interesting” and wanted to study them at home.
Most of all, I don’t see how Berger’s explanation can be reconciled with his own admission that he didn’t just take the documents home; he cut some of them to pieces with a pair of scissors. Why did he destroy the documents if he wasn’t trying to prevent them from coming to light?
Nor am I impressed by Berger’s claim that the Department of Justice “has stated unequivocally that there is no evidence that I took other documents and that the commission received everything.” There is no evidence as to what documents Berger took because the Archives staff let him walk off with them and didn’t try to monitor what he was doing until it was too late. That being the case, the only evidence as to what documents were taken is Berger’s own confession.
22 Feb 2007
The Washington Post reports that House Republican inquiries have revealed that Sandy Berger’s removal of Clinton Administration secret memos from the National Archives was treated with surprising incuriosity by certain elements in the Justice Department.
A report last month by the Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said for the first time that Berger’s visits were so badly mishandled that Archives officials had acknowledged not knowing if he removed anything else and destroyed it. The committee further argued that the 9/11 Commission should have been told more about Berger and about Brachfeld’s concerns, a suggestion that resonated with Philip Zelikow, the commission’s former executive director.
Zelikow said in an interview last week that “I think all of my colleagues would have wanted to have all the information at the time that we learned from the congressional report, because that would have triggered some additional questions, including questions we could have posed to Berger under oath.”
The commission’s former general counsel, Dan Marcus, now an American University law professor, separately expressed surprise at how little the Justice Department told the commission about Berger and said it was “a little unnerving” to learn from the congressional report exactly what Berger reviewed at the Archives and what he admitted to the FBI — including that he removed and cut up three copies of a classified memo.
“If he took papers out, these were unique records, and highly, highly classified. Had a document not been produced, who would have known?” Brachfeld said in an interview. “I thought [the 9/11 Commission] should know, in current time — in judging Sandy Berger as a witness . . . that there was a risk they did not get the full production of records.”
In an April 1, 2005, press conference and private statements to the commission, the Justice Department stated instead that Berger had access only to copied documents, not originals. They also said the sole documents Berger admitted taking — five copies of a 2001 terrorism study — were later provided to the commission.
Those assertions conflicted with a September 2004 statement to Brachfeld by Nancy Kegan Smith, who directs the Archives’ presidential documents staff and let Berger view the documents in her office in violation of secrecy rules. Smith said “she would never know what if any original documents were missing,” Brachfeld reported in an internal memo.
In a letter to House lawmakers last week, Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Hertling did not address the issue of why the department told the commission so little. But Hertling wrote that in numerous interviews, “neither Mr. Berger nor any other witness provided the Department with evidence that Mr. Berger had taken any documents beyond the five.”
There must have been something very damaging in there. Possibly some very conspicuous failure to deal with Osama bin Laden during the late 1990s, well before 9/11, which was sufficiently embarassing to William Jefferson Clinton that Sandy Berger was willing to take some serious risks to remove from the record.
The Clintons apparently have dodged another bullet. You almost have to admire their adroitness at doing exactly as they please, and then baffling their opponents with brilliant and brazen maneuvers when in danger of being called to account. Remember the missing Rose Law Firm records which turned up in the White House finally, very shortly after the Statute of Limitations had expired?
18 Jan 2007
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.
15 Jan 2007
Ronald A. Cass, Chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law and Dean Emeritus of Boston University School of Law, explains why the press has a responsibility to get to the bottom of Sandy Berger’s thefts from the National Archives.
Mr. Berger’s willingness to risk everything to suppress the information goes well beyond ordinary concerns against excessive disclosure.
Bill Clinton obviously has great sensitivity to his place in history and to accusations that he did too little to respond to al-Qaeda, that he is to some degree responsible for failing to prevent 9/11’s tragedy. That is why he and his lieutenants made reckless and baseless accusations against the current Bush administration, attempting to portray them as having dropped the baton handed off by ever-vigilant Clintonistas (who, according to John Ashcroft’s testimony, withheld the MAAAR and its warnings about al-Qaeda’s operations in the US from the Bush transition team).
But maybe there is more to the story. Maybe there is something far worse than we can imagine that is worth having his chief security aide risk his reputation, his career, and his liberty to cover up…
Clinton’s excessive reaction – complete with hyperbole, finger-wagging, and scolding – to a simple question from Fox News’ Chris Wallace about his response to al-Qaeda is in the same vein. Something here touches a nerve.
That nerve is exposed in the Sandy Berger saga. This story at bottom is about the security of our nation, about what was – or was not – done to protect us from the most shocking and deadly attack on American citizens by foreign agents in our nation’s history. This story is critical not only to understanding our past but also to securing our future. It can help us understand what it is reasonable to expect can be done to keep us and our loved ones safe from harm. It is, in short, as important a story as there is.
It is a story the news media should be desperate to explore, not desperate to avoid.
07 Jan 2007
Alan Nathan compares the MSM’s coverage of Sandy Berger’s theft and destruction of documents from the National Archives to the media’s treatment of Watergate (which brought down a sitting president) and asks (not unreasonably):
Why is robbing national security documents less important than robbing campaign documents?
22 Dec 2006
Clarice Feldman points out that the Department of Justice went out of its way to let Sandy Berger off easily for the document theft, and she think she knows why.
A particularly telling detail was the bit in the news reports of Berger’s treatment to the effect that DOJ sources insisted that “no original information” had been lost. That, of course, is simply the negative way of saying: All annotations to the original documents have been lost; we will never know for sure what the reactions of responsible members of the Clinton administration were to the contents of these highly important national security documents. Of course DOJ has always known this, as well as the significance of Berger’s conduct So, what interest did the prosecutors have in minimizing the seriousness of Berger’s crime–for crime it was, whatever the plea deal ultimately was? Or am I forgetting that the DOJ officials–the same ones who oversaw the start of Plamegate–have close ties to certain Democratic senators?
She is probably right, but an even more interesting question is what did the Clinton Administration papers in the National Archives reveal about that administration’s knowledge of terrorist threats and response that was so damaging that Sandy Berger was willing to undertake the risky task of trying to remove and destroy the evidence. The DOJ isn’t the only one giving Sandy Berger a pass. The MSM is curiously uninterested.
PJM has a link to the Inspector General’s Office report.
10 Sep 2006
In her own inimitably acidic fashion, Ann Althouse dead centers the Clinton camp: It’s too late to decide to attack Bin Laden, so let’s attack this TV show.
09 Sep 2006
Krempasky at RedState has clips of the scene from ABC’s Path to 9/11 that Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, and the democrat Congressional leadership rreeally don’t want you to see.
“Are there any men left in Washington, or are they all cowards?” snarls the disappointed Afghani guide, when the attack on Bin Laden is aborted.
There’s a lot of traffic today, but I recommend that you keep trying or come back later.
Hat tip to LGF.
08 Sep 2006
There have been loud denunciations of the forthcoming ABC docudrama for falsifying history from a variety of officials of the Clinton Administration, including, in particular, former Clinton Administration National Security Advisor and convicted National Archives records purloiner/destroyer Sandy Berger. A Republican in San Francisco compares Berger’s current statements to the 9/11 Commission Report.
In no instance did President Clinton or I ever fail to support a request from the CIA or US military to authorize an operation against bin Laden or al Qaeda.
The 9/11 Commission says (Chapter 4 – footnote numbers are left below to assist locating quotation):
On May 20, (CIA) Director Tenet discussed the high risk of the operation with Berger and his deputies, warning that people might be killed, including Bin Ladin. Success was to be defined as the exfiltration of Bin Ladin out of Afghanistan.28 A meeting of principals was scheduled for May 29 to decide whether the operation should go ahead.
The principals did not meet. On May 29, “Jeff” (chief of the Counterterrorist Center) informed “Mike” (chief of the Bin Ladin station) that he had just met with Tenet, Pavitt, and the chief of the Directorate’s Near Eastern Division. The decision was made not to go ahead with the operation. “Mike” cabled the field that he had been directed to “stand down on the operation for the time being.” He had been told, he wrote, that cabinet-level officials thought the risk of civilian casualties-“collateral damage”-was too high. They were concerned about the tribals’ safety, and had worried that “the purpose and nature of the operation would be subject to unavoidable misinterpretation and misrepresentation-and probably recriminations-in the event that Bin Ladin, despite our best intentions and efforts, did not survive.”29
Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. Clarke told us that the CSG (Richard Clarke’s interagency Counterterrorism Security Group) saw the plan as flawed. He was said to have described it to a colleague on the NSC (National Security Council ) staff as “half-assed” and predicted that the principals would not approve it. “Jeff ” thought the decision had been made at the cabinet level. Pavitt thought that it was Berger’s doing, though perhaps on Tenet’s advice. Tenet told us that given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to “turn off” the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger’s recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.30
Hat tip to LGF.
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