Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Steal nat'l security docs? Pick up some trash...

Oh my... gotta love this.

Admission of stealing classified docs (at least those admitted to...) doesn't result in much of a penalty. In a time where Congress and gov't officials spend beaucoup time in retrospect for the purposes of improving future national security and intel, evidently there are some events they prefer to ignore... even worse, make light of.

R. Jeffrey Smith's blurb in WaPo today, "Berger Case Still Roils Archives, Justice Dept", Berger's guilty plea bargain penalties strike me as absurdly light.

Judge Deborah A. Robinson imposed a stiffer penalty in the case than the Justice Department sought, fining Berger a total of $56,905, canceling his security clearance, and requiring monthly reporting to a probation officer for two years. Breuer said Berger has also picked up trash in Virginia parks for 100 hours to fulfill a community service requirement, and he criticized the renewed attention to Berger's case.

Woof... Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, is a real hoot.

"It never ceases to amaze me how the most trivial things can be politicized. It is the height of unfairness . . . for this poor guy, who clearly made a mistake," Breuer said.

A "mistake"?? Uh huh. Dang right, and a serious one to boot. The heist was orchestrated to deliberately keep the 911 Commission in the dark as to specifics on Clintonian terrorism studies and memos. Not exactly a noble cause.

And there is at least one commission member who's not pleased that the Judicial Dept was not forthcoming with Berger's actions in time to consider this as part of their investigation.

A report last month by the Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said for the first time that Berger's visits were so badly mishandled that Archives officials had acknowledged not knowing if he removed anything else and destroyed it. The committee further argued that the 9/11 Commission should have been told more about Berger and about Brachfeld's concerns, a suggestion that resonated with Philip Zelikow, the commission's former executive director.

Zelikow said in an interview last week that "I think all of my colleagues would have wanted to have all the information at the time that we learned from the congressional report, because that would have triggered some additional questions, including questions we could have posed to Berger under oath."

The commission's former general counsel, Dan Marcus, now an American University law professor, separately expressed surprise at how little the Justice Department told the commission about Berger and said it was "a little unnerving" to learn from the congressional report exactly what Berger reviewed at the Archives and what he admitted to the FBI -- including that he removed and cut up three copies of a classified memo.

"If he took papers out, these were unique records, and highly, highly classified. Had a document not been produced, who would have known?" Brachfeld said in an interview. "I thought [the 9/11 Commission] should know, in current time -- in judging Sandy Berger as a witness . . . that there was a risk they did not get the full production of records."

Ah, hindsight. This is our national security we're talking about. Something that should be high up on the food chain of crimes with appropriate investigations and sentencing. Yet the punishment is tandamount to a slap on the wrist.

Odd that this wasn't something pursued in depth by the past GOP held oversight committees sooner. And quite predictable that it's unlikely any Dem controlled oversight committee will raise much of a fuss now. Berger has had his slap on the wrist, and they and the media move on to other issues with nary a glance back over their shoulders.

Which only leads me to conclude that such internal espionage transcends political party dissention, and falls into the "good ol' boys" watching each others' backs category.


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