Sunday, July 25, 2004
A long time ago I worked for the DoD and had a security clearance. The materials I had access to were all "Confidential," which I believe is the lowest level of confidentiality that requires special handling. Those documents were kept in a locked, fireproof file cabinet and had to be signed in and out. They were not to be left unattended, even in the secure area where I worked. If you didn't follow the rules for handling the materials, your life would suddenly become a lot more exciting as all kinds of people questioned you about what you were doing with the documents you'd signed out and not returned. If your failure to follow the rules was severe enough, or happened often enough, you'd lose your security clearance and be fired. I've read a lot of comments on many blogs from people who handled materials higher up in the confidentiality tree, and more recently, and what they say corroborates well what I remember.
That said, it is inconceivable to me that Sandy Berger didn't understand exactly what he was doing when he admittedly smuggled notes and drafts of codename classified materials out of the National Archives. I don't believe "inadvertently" on any level. Nor do I believe "stupid mistake." Berger is much too smart to have been that stupid. Especially if he in fact stuffed items into his drawers and socks to avoid detection. And it appears that he concentrated on drafts of one document. That is definitely not an indicator of "inadvertence". I would hazard that it contraindicates "inadvertence." Others have observed that anyone with a security clearance is required to have training on the care and handling of secrets and as National Security Advisor Berger would not only have known what the rules are, he would have been responsible for enforcing them in one way or another.
I am also appalled that the staff of the National Archives didn't do their jobs. They didn't search Berger when he left the reading room, and apparently on at least one occasion they didn't check his leather briefcase. Someone ought to have his head handed to him for that.
What I and many others would like to know is why Berger took the documents, what he did with the information, who he shared it with, and what happened to the documents that he took but didn't return. I hope we find out.
At the very least, the Berger case is yet another example of a member of the "elite" acting as if the rules that apply to the "little people" don't apply to him. Maybe John Edwards is right about there being "two Americas," but they aren't what he thinks. The two Americas suggested by the Sandy Bergers of the world are the power elite on one hand, who can break rules and laws with impunity, and everyone else on the other hand. If those two Americas really exist, then the situation must be fixed or ahead lies chaos, because you can't have government of law unless the law applies equally to everyone. If it doesn't, you eventually get Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Saddam's Iraq or North Korea. Not the kind of nation where most Americans want to live, I suspect.
It is therefore imperative that the investigation into the Berger affair be done thoroughly and rapidly, that the results of that investigation be made public, and if the investigation indicates that laws were broken (which I believe is the case based on what I have read so far), then Berger should be prosecuted and if convicted, punished severely. Someone who breaks the public trust by abusing his position should, in my view, be punished much more severely than someone who merely forgets to put something away.