Sunday, December 24, 2006
Sandy Berger: The Key Facts
In light of the minor dust-up engendered by my recent posting on last week's GOP/Media Complex attempt to revive a two-and-a-half-year-old non-scandal, I thought that the following key facts should be given a bit more emphasis: Namely: -- Sandy Berger did not remove, much less destroy, any originals. The prosecutor said as much. -- Sandy Berger's intent was not to conceal or destroy information. Again, the prosecutor said as much. -- If Berger HAD been shown to have destroyed any originals, the penalties would have been VERY severe, and would have included jail time. -- The Bush Junta's penchant for classifying the most innocuous kinds of documents, even while cheerfully, and for political reasons, leaking other information that should have stayed under wraps, is well known. (And the cavalier treatment of material that might be politically damaging to any Bush Junta, father or son, goes back at least to 1992 if not earlier. But I digress.) As Henry Waxman noted at the time, the American people have been subjected to a double standard on classified information:
"In addition to vastly overclassifying government documents, the Bush administration aggressively attacks leaks of classified information it finds embarrassing, even when those leaks disclose illegal activity. At the same time, the administration ignores leaks from within the White House and even encourages them for political gain."And here's something else: Since even the prosecutor agreed that Berger was using the information on the copies for an allowed purpose as designated in USC 18, Sec. 2339B, paragraph (f), which is the statute covering terrorism-related classified information, there's some question as to whether Berger should have been prosecuted at all. The simple truth is that Berger was being prosecuted back in 2004 for making copies of his own Millenium Plot notes and documents because: a) he'd already made Condi Rice look bad with the news of how she had ignored his and Richard Clarke's warnings about Al-Qaeda, and -- b) Bush was hoping to use this politicially-driven prosecution (a prosecution even the right-wingers on the Wall Street Journal's editorial staff condemned as bogus) to attack John Kerry, who had given Berger a prominent role in his campaign to highlight the difference between the Clinton (largely successful) and Bush (largely UN-succesful) methods of fighting terrorism. UPDATE: Charles just provided some more information that I feel belongs over here as well: Charles cited the Wen Ho Lee case to show that mishandling and even disappearance/destruction of documents and information happens all the time at the national laboratories. To take the most recent example:
The FBI is investigating how what appears to be classified information left the lab and ended up on a computer flash drive in a Los Alamos mobile home last month. No charges have been filed, but agents have questioned a Pojoaque woman who worked as an archivist for a lab contractor, a defense lawyer has said...."This is in no way a discovery of a problem -- this is a problem that was discovered years and years ago," said Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. "And no one has taken it seriously and shown the leadership to fix it."Granted, as Charles notes, LANL has a long record of this kind of thing, but the real problem is that there is way too much classification, much of it is done to avoid political embarrassment, and the general public is as badly informed as you are about what classification is and how it operates. The CIA's John Deutch was not prosecuted for what is arguably a worse violation of classification. John O'Neill committed a similarly dangerous lapse, though through inadvertence. In fact, every leak of classified documents to the newspaper-- which happens on an almost daily basis-- could be prosecuted. Almost every member of the Administration and many senior bureaucrats could go to jail if the law were evenhandedly enforced. And some of those leaks have been genuinely damaging to national security, as Orrin Hatch knows. Sandy Berger committed a crime, but one where there was no victim. He had to be punished, but only to serve as an example. He suffered a personal lapse, but the only scandal here is the use of the case for political purposes. What we are protesting is the politicization of the case by Republican Congressmen, possibly to silence a critic of the Bush Administration.
When John Bolton refuses to be interviewed by anyone other than a demonstrably-loony large-breasted victim of Word Salad Syndrome, when a working male prostitute is allowed full membership for two years in the White House press corps without any sort of background check, and when a top qualification (besides avarice) for members of Paul Bremer's CPA was a strong anti-abortion stance, what else can one think?
You've hit it on the nose.
And this, I think, is the main difference between Bush the Son and Bush the Father. Bush the Father may not possess ethics, but he does possess standards. Of a sort.
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