In the end, the FBI's full-court press only netted one conviction of a government official. Franklin plea-bargained to three counts, including passing classified information to an Israeli government official and two men at pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. (The trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman is slated to begin by the spring.)
According to someone with intimate knowledge of the leaked draft presidential directive, the document contained no sources and no methods. It had no sensitive material of any kind. It was nothing more than a policy paper -- just a few pages that resembled an opinion-editorial -- advocating tougher diplomacy, not war, in dealing with Iran.
Reporters at The Post and the New York Times worked overtime to find new angles in the Franklin case, and that effort yielded considerable ink. On the Berger case, though, the mega newspapers simply reported stories as information came out. There was no digging, no investigative passion. Even the disclosure of the inspector general's report only happened because of a freedom of information request filed by the Associated Press.
The mainstream media's palpable disinterest in the Berger case is hardly justified. Many questions remain unanswered. Of the few explanations Berger and his defenders have actually provided, none passes the laugh test.
Berger claimed in court last year that smuggling classified documents out of the National Archives was about "personal convenience," but the inspector general report states that he walked out of the building and down the street, found a construction site, looked to see if the coast was clear, then slid behind a fence and hid the documents under a trailer.
Which part of that elaborate procedure was "convenient"?
According to the New York Times story last April following Berger's guilty plea, "Associates attributed the episode to fatigue and poor judgment." While lying to authorities is poor judgment, it is also illegal. And how exactly did fatigue drive Berger to use his scissors to shred three versions of the top-secret document?
Despite the report's devastating blow to Berger's excuse machine, it was buried. The Post dumped it on page 7, and the New York Times exiled it to page 36.
Reflecting -- or perhaps because of -- the respective media attention is the justice meted out to each man. President Clinton's national security adviser will not see the inside of a jail cell. His $50,000 fine sounds big, but it's roughly equivalent to a few weeks out of his princely salary. Meanwhile, Franklin has lost half his pension and was given a stiffer sentence than several Islamic terrorists convicted in the very same courthouse.
Just don't expect the Post or the Times to point that out.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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