But by this plea agreement, are we not -- in a time of war when national security means everything to the preservation of the republic and protection of American lives -- saying these rules are merely technical and not that important?
Keep in mind we are not talking about some innocent mistake, as Berger deceitfully euphemized his crime when first caught in the act. He has admitted that he took the documents deliberately and surreptitiously.
Even if Berger didn't hide the documents in his socks or underwear, he was, by his own admission, hiding them. Moreover, as others have pointed out, he revealed his criminal intent by meticulously shredding the documents with scissors.
Why is the Justice Department so anxious to believe Berger's motives were not to obstruct the commission, but only to make his preparation for testifying before the commission more convenient?
We now know Berger deliberately took the documents knowing it was against the law to do so. He acted with malice aforethought. He later lied repeatedly in saying he took them by mistake. The documents pertained to the competence of the Clinton administration in responding to the terrorist threat when that question was directly at issue before the commission and part of the fiercely partisan political debate of the day. Berger had every interest in making the Clinton administration look good in the very area addressed by the Clarke memo. Is it just a coincidence that the documents he took and destroyed pertained specifically to these questions and were unfavorable to the administration he served?
Where are the Democrats on this issue? Are they not the ones who have been obsessed with retrospectives and endless self-flagellating investigations into how our intelligence agencies failed, implying that we could have prevented 9/11?
I have no desire to see Berger in jail, but we darn well should be sure that he loses his national security clearance permanently. If not, we are saying these investigations are really just partisan showmanship, that national security document classification and other security laws are much ado about nothing and that if you're important enough, you can violate national security laws with virtual impunity.
Justice is setting a dangerous precedent with the Berger plea agreement.