Vultures Row: We Want to Know Why

We Want to Know Why

The buried news from yesterday reports that Samuel “Sandy” Berger pleaded guilty to taking classified documents from the National Archives and cutting them up with scissors. The first reports were that he had stuffed them down his pants and smuggled them out of the archive, however it appears now that he just put them in his pockets. Either way the man is guilty of a very serious offence.

I was in the Navy for 10 years on active duty and I have seen many people have careers ruined for less, such as leaving documents on a desk in a locked office instead of putting them in a safe. It is very curious that Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson (Reagan Era Appointment, 1988) didn’t even probe him on why he committed this crime, but then again, she was there to sentence him, not to interview him.

The charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material is a misdemeanor offence that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to a $100,000. Berger punishment for taking three of five copies of a document has been set as no jail time, a $10,000 fine and he will have to surrender his security clearance for a three year period. Under his plea agreement he will also cooperate with investigators.

The three missing documents are copies of an after action report on the Millennium Bomb Plot. The other copies are still there. SO what would the motivation be for taking the three copies? It has to be the notes and annotations that the Administration officials had written on the copies. What ever that information was it was so damming that Berger thought it worth the risk of breaking the law and face jail time. We can only hope that in giving such a generous plea bargain to Berger that the government will be getting something greater in return.

If this is the end of this story it will set a bad example for all of the people in the military and in the government that handle classified information. It is detrimental to moral when the everyday people get prosecuted and permanently loose their clearances while the political hierarchy gets a slap on the wrist.

We should hope this is not the end, not for political one-upmanship, but for Responsibility and for security.


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