Surely it was an innocent mistake, former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger's stuffing classified documents into his pants, jacket and perhaps even his socks before leaving the National Archives building last fall. After all, what could he possibly have been trying to hide? Berger had been asked by President Clinton to review documents that had been requested by the 9/11 Commission relating to the Clinton administration's handling of terrorism during its eight-year tenure. And we know from no less an authority than former Clinton terrorism czar Richard Clarke, not to mention Berger himself, that the Clinton administration viewed fighting terrorism as its No. 1 priority.
Of course, neither Clinton nor Berger publicly declared terrorism enemy No. 1 when they were in office -- citing such things as Haiti, environmental degradation and, surprisingly, containment of Saddam Hussein as their priorities at the time -- but I'm sure that's simply because they didn't want to clue Osama bin Laden in on how committed they were to catching him before he could kill innocent Americans.
Now I know there will be some conservatives who think I'm being na?. How is it possible, they'll ask, that Berger went back to the Archives on two separate occasions, according to Archives' staff, asking for copies of the same document he had inadvertently taken from the building on previous trips? First, let's look at the document in question. Why, it was just a draft of what's known as an "after-action report" from the foiled Millennium plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the New Year's Eve 2000 celebrations.
Apparently, there were at least a couple of versions of this report, and I'm sure Berger just didn't want anyone bewildered by reading earlier versions that might have been unduly critical of the administration's efforts. So, he was probably just cleaning up the sloppiness of others who hadn't bothered to cull the files to remove such confusing material before they left the White House when Clinton left office.
Or maybe he thought they were duplicates and so no one would miss them if he stuck one in his pocket -- or his shoe. You know, maybe he wanted to keep it as a memento, and the government is so sticky about not taking any original documents with you when you leave, especially if they're marked Top Secret, or worse, SCI (for special compartmented intelligence) with some silly code name. The Clinton appointees never had much patience for such cloak and dagger stuff.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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