Sandy Berger’s tragic fuck-up

Not surprisingly, the Berger scandal is dominating Fox news today, with wild speculation that maybe he was doing it for Kerry, and that maybe when Kerry spoke about terrorism last week he was briefed with the stolen documents. Couldn’t Kerry be just as guilty as Berger? Doesn’t this implicate every Democrat, and didn’t Bill Clinton have to be involved in some way?

The Republicans must be dancing in the streets. Berger handed them the perfect distraction just a few days before the 9/11 commission report is due out. It was very obviously a strategically planned leak (the investigation started six months ago!), and it’s doing exactly what the leakers hoped: the airwaves are jammed with the message, “Kerry’s advisor steals classified information.”

And there’s no one to blame but Berger. Karl Rove is just doing what he’s paid to do, and Sean Hannity will be shrieking about it for the next three months, a perfect smokescreen for what really matters, like Iraq and all the other Bush failures. (Yes, what Berger did is serious and stupid; but it is not of such magnitude that it should dominate the news.)

Just one more headache for Kerry, as Fox pedals hard to find some connection, any connection. If he’s smart, JFK will publicly and firmly distance himself from Berger and make it clear he condemns any tampering with classified documents, especially those related to al Qaeda. Do it now, okay John?

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Talking Points Memo agrees that it’s a malicious leak timed to distract attention from the 9/11 commission report.

(Credit due to The Sideshow.)

July 20, 2004 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

I think Marshall’s spot-on about the timing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mitigate the deed, which is impossible to justify or excuse, no matter how hard you try.

July 20, 2004 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

Oh yeah, this is beyond a gift from God for Karl Rove. Mr. Sandy “we couldn’t get Osama partially because of my legal nit-picking” Berger stealing classified documents about, in part, his performance during that period as National Security Advisor.

There is NO excuse for such behavior. THAT is the man Kerry had by his side on national security issues so far in the campaign? And Donk partisans wonder why independants and the libertarian wing of the GOP (we’ve very upset with Mr. Bush right now!) just can’t take Kerry seriously on security issues.

I think Josh Marshall and company need to get over their projection with the ‘malicious leak timing’ BS: what, you’d rather, oh, COVER IT UP? Would the DNC wait one NANOSECOND on busting out such a story if it were Condi Rice mis-handling such documents?

Come on guys, he was caught red-handed with shit in his pants for gawds sake. Tell the Democratic party to call us when they’re ready to be serious again, ok?

July 20, 2004 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

David, I said this was inexcusable. But you can’t blame Kerry for this. Well, you can, but where’s the evidence?

Berger’s track record of service is outstanding. Even Kondracke on Fox News today said the very idea that Berger stole anything is absurd and that no one has demonstrated greater devotion to America than he. Now, I didn’t say that, I’m just relaying it. My common sense tells me he did “steal” documents and I don’t stand up for him. But there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the timing is strategic, to cause maximum embarrassment and distraction before the commission report. That’s just how things work in Washington, and not even Kerry’s biggest detractors are claiming to be so naive as to believe the timing is coincidental.

July 20, 2004 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

Tragic? Criminal is more lke it. Two unnamed government sources claim he stuffed documents in his socks — his friggin’ socks — and before you get too prissy about sourcing, two unnamed sources were plenty for you to accuse Alawi of seven murders. Testimony also apparently reveals that he took copies of documents on more than one occasion:

Breuer said the Archives staff first raised concerns with Berger during an Oct. 2 review of documents that at least one copy of the post-millennium report he had reviewed earlier was missing. Berger was given a second copy that day, Breuer said.

Officials familiar with the investigation said Archive staff specially marked the documents and when the new copy and others disappeared, Archive officials called Clinton attorney Bruce Lindsey to raise concerns.

And how dare those nasty Republicans raise the trivial issue of a former National Security chief and top Kerry advisor allegedly commiting a felony and stealing classified material. It’s clearly political, otherwise “the mysterious they” wold have waited until a less politically sensative time to expose this, like, say, after the election.

Further, Berger’s story is pure crap. There is simply no way under the sun that the NSA chief thought taking documents marked classified was okay or that taking notes of there contents was permissible. It’s laughable.

Finally. as for tying this to Kerry. Easy. Who was he advising? Where did the missing documents go? If it was a Bush campaign advisor, I’d like you to tell me with a straight fact (be honest now) that you wouldn’t be speculating whether they made their way to the Bush campaign. And even if the Kerry campaign received and knew nothing, this man was Kerry’s security advisor. You guys wanted to crucify Bush on lying Joe Wilson’s unsupported allegation that Karl Rove might have leaked Valery Plame’s name . . . well, this is a hell of a lot more serious.

This is one of the most serious allegaitons of political wrong-doing I have ever heard. ANYONE who isn’toutraged by this and calling for a full and complete criminal investigaton, with the results made public, has exposed themselves as the worst sort of partisan.

BTW, I wonder what was in the conveniently missing orignial documents?

Sorry, Richard, but Trousergate has legs (sorry, but I couldn’t resist).

July 20, 2004 @ 9:29 pm | Comment

A government official with knowledge of the probe said Berger removed from archives files all five or six drafts of a critique of the government’s response to the millennium terrorism threat, which he said was classified “codeword,” the government’s highest level of document security.


I don’t think so.

Dispicable, feloneous, premeditated and imprisonable is more like it.

July 20, 2004 @ 9:34 pm | Comment

Conrad, I said there’s no excuse and it looks like he stole the documents, etc., etc. I also find it tragic, because I admired the guy in the past. It’s always tragic to see someone implode like this, whether he brought it on himself (which he did) or not.

As to tying it to Kerry, I just don’t know, and neither do you. It’s easy to say, “Why else would he have done it?” but that’s speculation. We can speculate all we want. He could have been trying to make Clinton look good, to help Kerry, or he may have been on drugs. Your guess is as good as mine.

I still want to see the outing of Valerie Plame solved; it was a federal crime and its under investigation by the Justice Department. Berger’s case may be a federal crime as well, and I want to see it solved, too.

I never said anything on my blog about Joe Wilson’s veracity or his charges. I never defended his book. But the outing of his wife was a bizarre chapter in the Bush saga, and it was ugly and improper. That’s all I care about, not anything to do with her husband.

If the rumors now flying about Berger pan out (and we’re hearing all sorts of things here) I’ll want to see him held to account, just like whoever outed Valerie. Fair?

July 20, 2004 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

Last thing Conrad: Who were your sources for those quotes?

July 20, 2004 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

IN his pants.

In his socks.

All the drafts.

Honest mistake?

You’re right, Richard, Kerry needs to backpedal at blurring speed.

July 20, 2004 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

Sam, I never said “honest mistake.” Also, I think the “in his socks” is untrue — where did you get that from?

I agree Kerry needs to back away, and fast. No excuse, and fair game for the political sharks. As to what actually happened and what exactly was taken and whether he put anything is his socks — none of us know.

I’ve already declared him political dead meat and fair game. But as to how awful his crime was, I’ll wait until I know what actually happened.

July 20, 2004 @ 10:10 pm | Comment


The Plame disclosure may or may not have been a crime. According to the statute, whether or not it was criminal depends upon (1) Plame’s status at the time (not entirely clear to me) and (2) the knowledge and intent of the person making the disclosure.

It’s impossible to know (2) until you know who did it. The investigation is underway as it should be. If the leaker committed the elements of the crime with the required scienter, then that person should suffer the appropriate punishment.

As for linking it to Kerry, my comment was in response to your observation about “Fox pedalling hard to find some connection, any connection to Kerry.”

No pedalling necessary. The man was a senior national security advisor to Kerry. That is a connection. It would be irresponsible not to investigate whether the theft was connected to his role in the campaign. especially when, as you and I seem to agree, Berger is obviously lying like hell right now.

And even if there’s no connection whatsoever — and I’ve seen no published evidence yet either way — Kerry hired a man as his national security advisor who has stolen classified material. Tell me honestly, that if Condi Rice was found to have walked out of the NSA with classified documents stuffed in her pantyhose, you wouldn’t be claiming that it reflects badly upon Bush (as well as revelling in all the obvious jokes).

July 20, 2004 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

Conrad, this is a very, very strange and inexplicable thing. I’ve always admired Berger and until today I’d have considered him a good choice for a high cabinet post if Kerry were to win. It’s not as though Kerry can be personally blamed for this guy’s fuck-up, or crime or whatever it turns out to be. Based on Berger’s track record of public service he was, until today, seen as one of the best. I never heard anyone — not you or Bush or anyone — warning that he was a potential security risk. Kerry is probably in as much shock as I am. That’s how I see it. How does this speak badly of Kerry?

Again, no excuse and no justification. If it were Condi, I’d go after her. But I wouldn’t say, if Condi were to do this today, that it speaks poorly of Bush. Condi has proven her intellilgence and her competence, as berger has. If she did this, I’d attribute it to mental illness or some strange crime, but I would not blame Bush for it. That would be utterly unfair. If Kerry is indeed to balme for this, it’ll come out. But it sounds as though you’ve already tried him and found him guilty. That’s way too fast. With Plame, I always wanted to see a fair investigation. Same in this case.

July 20, 2004 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

“Sam, I never said “honest mistake.” Also, I think the “in his socks” is untrue — where did you get that from?”

No, Berger said “honest mistake”:
“in his socks” is in several news reports.

July 21, 2004 @ 6:02 am | Comment

Funny thing, Sam; I can only find references to Berger putting documents in his socks on Fox and Newsmax. Where did you read it? It may well be true and it’s a small thing — theft is theft — but I’d love to know your source.

July 21, 2004 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Reports CNN’s Bob Franken: “Three law enforcement sources talking to CNN’s Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena [say] they saw him [Sandy Berger], or that he had been seen, putting documents in his socks.”

July 21, 2004 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

Thanks. I looked all over for it yesterday and couldn’t find the source of the rumor.

July 21, 2004 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

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