John Fund

Washington scandals are curious things. Sometimes special prosecutors are appointed and the media provide saturation coverage of their doings. An example would be the Valerie Plame episode, which led to this month's perjury trial of Scooter Libby, the former White House aide accused of lying about who first told him Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Then there are the barely noticed scandals, which prosecutors pursue quietly and professionally. Take the case of Donald Keyser, a former State Department official who last week was sentenced to just over a year in jail for keeping classified documents at his home and for lying about his personal relationship with a Taiwanese diplomat.

Then there is Sandy Berger, the former Clinton national security adviser who pleaded guilty last year to knowingly taking and destroying classified documents from the National Archives while preparing for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. When archives officials caught Mr. Berger, they bizarrely first asked a friend of his, former Clinton White House counsel Bruce Lindsey, for an explanation, rather than contact the Justice Department. After initially lying to investigators, Mr. Berger finally admitted that he took the documents, but only for "personal convenience."

Prosecutors accepted Mr. Berger's assurance that he had taken only five documents from the archives, even though on three of his four visits there he had access to original working papers of the National Security Council for which no adequate inventory exists. Nancy Smith, the archives official who provided the materials to Mr. Berger, said that she would "never know what if any original documents were missing." We have only Mr. Berger's word that he didn't take anything else. The Justice Department secured his agreement to take a polygraph on the matter, but never followed through and administered it.

The issue is still relevant. Officials of the 9/11 Commission are now on record expressing "grave concern" about the materials to which Mr. Berger had access. A report from the National Archives Inspector General last month found he took extraordinary measures to spirit them out of the archives, including hiding them in his pockets and socks. He also went outside without an escort and put some documents under a construction trailer, from where he could later retrieve them.


John Fund

John Fund writes the weekly "On the Trail" column, reprinted here with permission from the Wall Street Journal and OpinionJournal.com. He is author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy" (Encounter, 2004).

Be the first to read John Fund's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.