How classified material from the National Archives ended up in Clinton Administration National Security Adviser Sandy Berger’s pockets and down his pants inadvertently is difficult to fathom. How such a formerly highly placed person wouldn’t know that he was been watched while placing such documents in such a strange place is even more difficult to fathom.
Additionally, he claims to have discarded some of the “borrowed” documents.
It appears to me that he purposely and knowingly did the deed, got wind that it had been discovered and—along with his legal representation--crafted this incredibly implausible story of incompetence and forgetfulness to cover himself.
Well, it’s a pretty thin cover, if you ask me. In fact, you don’t have to ask me, even though, at one time, I handled many classified documents and, somehow, none of them managed to end up on my person. Ask the thousands of military personnel who have been tasked to handle and protect like documents. Ask them what would have happened to them had classified documents ended up growing legs and walking out under their supervision. Ask them what would have happened to them were they to tell investigators that it was “inadvertent.”
Laughter would be the response and Fort Leavenworth would be their new home. Civilians have more legal leeway, for good or ill.
Will Mr. Berger be prosecuted? I doubt it. Fawn Hall wasn’t and she was just a secretary. (For the record, she was granted immunity from prosecution to pry her information from the cover of the Fifth Amendment. I have mixed feelings about that: immunity is granted to many people for this reason, but the unauthorized destruction of classified material should carry some penalty with it. Ms. Hall deserved incarceration more than Martha Stewart does. To be fair, military personnel have Fifth Amendment rights as well, but I wonder how often they are offered such deals.)
Notice, however, the word “security” in the informal title “National Security Adviser.” That means that Mr. Berger was the go-to guy for national security issues in the Clinton Administration. That a person in such a position could mistakenly treat classified documents in such a cavalier manner boggles the mind. Either he was/is incredibly stupid or incredibly venal. I vote both.