Stolen documents point to dirty Dem politics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2004

When Democrats look back on July 2004, they may recall it as the month their party imploded. The irony would be tremendous since this was supposed to be the month when the Bush Administration would be humiliated and discredited before the eyes of the American public by the release of the 9/11 Commission report.

At the inception of the 9/11 Commission, it was widely believed that the Commission’s investigation would result in a report that would seriously damage President Bush by assigning the blame for the terrorist attacks to his Administration. The Democratic Party leadership had hoped that the release of the 9/11 report just prior to their national convention would vault John Kerry and other Democratic candidates to sweeping victories in this fall’s elections.

As one Democratic Party spokesman said back in the spring, “The report will be a perfect introduction to the Democratic convention on July 26.” Not so. Because not only is the report a major dud in that it blames the entire government for a decade of “institutional failures,” but also the release of the report has been overshadowed by an emerging scandal involving former national security advisor to the Clinton Administration, Sandy Berger. Berger is under investigation for stealing documents from the National Archive, and evidently losing or destroying some of them.

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According to the Washington Post, Archive employees first became suspicious that Berger was illegally removing documents when they discovered a document was missing after a September 2003 visit by Berger. Concerned over the matter, Archive officials placed special coding on documents they knew he would want and watched him carefully.

Archive monitors saw Berger putting documents in a leather portfolio and stuffing handwritten notes that were in the files into his jacket, pants and socks. At various times Berger asked Archive monitors to leave the room so that he could place phone calls. A senior law enforcement official told the New York Daily News that Berger “…kept asking the monitor to leave so he could make private calls.”

Archive officials contacted Berger on Saturday, October 4th, about the missing documents. That evening Berger called the Archives to tell them that he did have the classified documents. Several days later, after he had retained the services of an attorney, Berger admitted that he had also taken 40 to 50 pages of notes.

Some observers suspect that Berger took the highly classified documents because they may have contained information that would have shown an embarrassing ineptitude by the Clinton Administration in dealing with terrorist threats. The missing documents were different drafts of “after action” reports, coded at the highest level of secrecy, that included recommendations for a series of actions against al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in Afghanistan that were never implemented nor were recommendations for aggressively tracking down suspected terrorists already in the U.S.

Even though senior administration officials knew al-Qaeda had operatives in the United States, because of concerns about violating the civil liberties of the suspected terrorists no aggressive actions were taken. Furthermore, not only were the so called “war plans” not implemented, the Clinton Administration did not disclose them to the incoming Bush Administration during the transition period.

Obviously the failure to implement an aggressive action plan against a terrorist organization that had already bombed the World Trade Centers, two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the U.S.S. Cole should be highly embarrassing. But would trying to avoid embarrassment for the Clinton Administration be enough motivation for a man so highly regarded as Berger to risk his reputation and career by removing some of the nation’s most secret documents? It is not likely.

Because Berger later became a senior advisor to the Kerry campaign, his actions while handling the documents at the National Archives increases the suspicions that this was more than a lapse of judgment or sloppiness in handling the papers as he claims. It also raises concerns that the documents may have been removed in order to make the 9/11 report more unfavorable to the Bush Administration and thus make it a major political weapon for the Democrats this fall.

There are also rising suspicions that the information in the documents has been used for political purposes to aid the Kerry campaign after Berger became one of his advisors. If any of these concerns prove true it could be a huge problem for Kerry and the Democrats.

As of this writing, it appears that Congress may conduct an investigation into Berger’s actions. The American public deserves the truth about the whole affair. More than that, they deserve leaders that are more committed to protecting the country than they are to winning an election.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.