Sandy Berger stashed classified documents under a construction trailer

Posted by: ST on December 21, 2006 at 2:18 pm

The inspector-general for the National Archives has just released a report detailing what former National Security Advisor under President Clinton Sandy Berger did with those highly classified documents he was caught taking from the National Archives. Josh Gerstein at the NY Sun reports:

A former national security adviser to President Clinton, Samuel Berger, stashed highly classified documents under a trailer in downtown Washington in order to evade detection by National Archives personnel, a government report released yesterday said.

The report from the inspector-general for the National Archives, Paul Brachfeld, said Mr. Berger executed the cloak-and-dagger maneuver in October 2003 while taking a break from reviewing Clinton-era documents in connection with the work of the so-called September 11 commission.

” Mr. Berger exited the archive onto Pennsylvania Avenue,” the report says, recounting the story the former national security chief told investigators. “He did not want to run the risk of bringing the documents back in the building. … He headed toward a construction area on 9th Street. Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the archives and the DOJ, and did not see anyone. He removed the documents from his pockets, folded the notes in a ‘V’ shape, and inserted the documents in the center. He walked inside the construction fence and slid the documents under a trailer.”

According to the report, Mr. Berger said he retrieved the documents after leaving the archives complex for the evening and took the papers to his office. It is not clear how long the documents were unattended at the construction site, but the report suggests it was a few hours, at most.

The former national security chief said he cut three documents up in his office and discarded them in the trash. Mr. Berger returned two other documents after archivists notified him that some records were missing, but his efforts to retrieve the others from the trash collector were unsuccessful.


All five documents Mr. Berger removed were versions of an after-action report about the foiled “millennium plot” to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport and other sites. The internal review, by a top counterterrorism official, Richard Clarke, reportedly found that luck was the major factor in disrupting the plot and that more attacks were likely.

Mr. Berger has admitted placing classified documents and his notes, which were also presumed classified pending a review, into his suit pockets to carry them out of the archives. However, the inspector general’s report resurrects claims that Mr. Berger may have removed some papers by placing them in his socks.

An archives staffer reported that Mr. Berger took frequent bathroom breaks and was seen in a hallway “bent down, fiddling with something white, which could have been paper, around his ankle.”

The revelation of all these details makes Berger’s slap on the wrist last year all the more appalling:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was sentenced Thursday to community service and probation and fined $50,000 for illegally removing highly classified documents from the National Archives and intentionally destroying some of them.

Berger must perform 100 hours of community service and pay the fine as well as $6,905 for the administrative costs of his two-year probation, a district court judge ruled.

NR Managing Editor Jay Nordingler writes:

Call me a right-wing paranoid – it’s been done before! – but I think that, if Sandy Berger were a conservative Republican, the story of his criminality would be a really, really big deal.

Indeed, it would. Can you imagine if Condi Rice had been caught walking out of the National Archives with highly classified documents? There would be blood-curdling screams of “JUSTICE NOW!!!” from the usual suspects demanding to know what “secrets” the oh so secretive Bush admin were trying to hide. As it stands, this story barely even gets a mention from the NYT, as they use the AP wire service’s report on it instead of writing their own (as Scott Johnson notes).

Almost everytime I blog about something related to Bill Clinton or his administration I get emails from liberals telling me to “get over” my “obsession” with Bill Clinton – “he’s not president!” they say. No, he’s not, but the fact that he’s not president anymore doesn’t make what he and/or anyone in his administration say or do now off limits for discussion. Sandy Berger stole highly classified documents from the National Archives by stuffing them in his pants and socks and hiding them under a construction trailer. Whether they were copies or not doesn’t matter (again, via Nordlinger):

It could be that Berger performed a real service in stealing and deep-sixing documents – that is, a service to the Clinton administration. (I warned you this would be a paranoid item.) Berger’s lawyer – remember Lanny Breuer, of Lewinsky fame? – says there’s no need to fret: The 9/11 Commission received all the documents it should have; Berger deprived the commission, and therefore the nation, of nothing.

Tom Davis, the Republican congressman – and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee – isn’t so sure. Here’s what he says: “There is absolutely no way to determine if Berger swiped [certain] original documents. Consequently, there is no way to ever know if the 9/11 Commission received all required materials.”

Where’s the outrage?

I will never forget Bill Clinton’s response when he found out what Berger had done:

In an interview with the Denver Post, Clinton stuck to the most “innocent explanation,” that Berger’s just a slob. “We were all laughing about it on the way over here,” he told the paper. “People who don’t know him might find it hard to believe. But … all of us who’ve been in his office have always found him buried beneath papers.”

Yeah, I find it very hard to believe. In fact, impossible to believe. You don’t take and then hide classified national security documents in your pants and under a construction trailer for no reason.

I’ll never forget this picture, either:

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, do nothing about evil
The Clinton approach to terrorism: Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil, do nothing about evil

IMO, the real explanation is that Berger knew it was Clinton adminstration legacy time (in front of the 9-11 Commission), and he had to do what he needed to to preserve it. Berger, Richard Clarke, and Clinton all want Americans to believe that the millenium terrorist threat against LAX was thwarted because of Clinton admin counterterrorism policies. But we know otherwise.

Others blogging about this: Atlas Shrugs, Decision ’08, Greg Tinti, Dan Riehl, BCB, Leaning Straight Up, PCD blogging at Iowa Voice, Macsmind, USS Neverdock

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  • Doug Ross @ Journal trackbacked with The Sandy Berger Thought Experiment
  • 18 Responses to “Sandy Berger stashed classified documents under a construction trailer


    1. Steve Skubinna says:

      Oh come on, this is nothing compared to Laura bush having a melanoma removed without the media being present! Talk about secrecy, talk about stonewalling, talke about arrogant contempt for the Public’s Right to Know!!!

      Also it occurs to me that we’ve heard very little concerning the Bush’s bathroom visits – what are they hiding? Get Helen Thomas embedded in the White House potty ASAP!

    2. Steve Skubinna says:

      And when I say “embedded,” I mean head first.

    3. PCD says:

      If the damned Democrats want to investigate something, well, they should start right here! What did Berger hide, alter, and destroy? What did Hillary know and when did she know it?

      I put things a little more bluntly over at Iowa Voice. I’m guest blogging there to help Brian out.

    4. Bachbone says:

      It’s common knowledge now that at least half the Clinton administration was crooked and/or sociopathic. But the fact that President Bush decided, soon after he was elected, not to punish lawbreakers (e.g., those who trashed government office equipment, Sandy ‘Berglar’, those who leaked classified documents) is also sickening to me. It furthers my belief that politicians see themselves as an elite class of people separate and distinct from the rest of us. And that they will circle the wagons and cover each others’ butts when they can’t pin blame totally on the other party. Some Bush policies are just as reprehensible as most Clinton policies.

    5. Tom says:

      Bachbone said: And that they will circle the wagons and cover each others’ butts when they can’t pin blame totally on the other party. Some Bush policies are just as reprehensible as most Clinton policies.

      I agree. I would like to see justice done regardless of political affiliation. It makes me sad when folks start pointing fingers at ‘the other guy’, rather than admit someone needs to be punished. Unless Berger did this under orders from Clinton, why are we dragging Clinton’s name into this? Am I wrong that Berger did this himself – for his own reasons? Or is he hiding facts or documents harmfull to Clinton?

    6. daveinboca says:

      Berger removed these documents because they had personal notations that he and other senior Clintoon types had scribbled in the margins or by underlining.

      Like his boss Billy Jeff, Berger is a liar through and through, and guilty of a felony that should bar him from classified documents for life. He is a criminal. Actually, a traitor who should be put in jail for life for criminal malfeasance.

      Of course, the NYT won’t cover this. It isn’t news unless it hurts Bush and Repubs.

    7. TedintheShed says:

      “It furthers my belief that politicians see themselves as an elite class of people separate and distinct from the rest of us. And that they will circle the wagons and cover each others’ butts when they can’t pin blame totally on the other party.”


      Can you say “Able Danger”?

    8. Mwalimu Daidi says:

      Gotta remember to ask Lowry over at NRO – by hiding the Berger story is the MSM exhibiting bias, or have conservatives “lost touch with reality” again? Perhaps the latter – after all, since when have Democrats obeyed the law if it was not in their interests? And since Lowry seems to have lost interest in exposing inaccurate and dishonest reporting by the MSM, should we do so as well?

      On a side note:

      Get Helen Thomas embedded in the White House potty ASAP! (Skubinna)

      Someone make sure to flush and put the lid down. And switch off the light.

    9. MD, I really don’t think that was Lowry’s point, nor has he lost interest in exposing media bias.

      Lowry’s been a guy who has been on our side of the war from the word go, and what he was saying is that we shouldn’t automatically assume that everything the media says about Iraq is a lie, and another point he made is that even though there is good news there (like the rebuilding of schools, etc) it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Iraq is almost in a state of chaos right now. Without stability and security Iraq desperately needs, those rebuilt schools will continue to be blown up.

      Just because he’s cautioning conservatives against automatically thinking the media’s lying when it reports bad news in Iraq doesn’t mean he’s all of a sudden this staunch defender of the media and insulter of conservatives. When even the president is now saying that we’re not winning (but not losing, either) you know there are problems in Iraq, and Lowry was saying that even though the media has gotten some things wrong or incomplete, the fact that things are descending into an ‘insurgent war’ over there can’t be blamed on media bias, because in fact, things are very close to just that and the media has been reporting that for months.

    10. Great White Rat says:

      So let me get this straight…Sandy Burglar stole classified documents, deliberately tried to prevent detecting his acts, destroyed some of them, and then lied under oath about it.

      Well, then, I guess there oughta be a media outcry for immediate indictment in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

      Hmmmm…wonder why the silence? Didn’t Scooter Libby get indicted for allegedly lying under oath? And wasn’t that the top new story for a couple of weeks??

    11. Great White Rat says:

      Tom asks:

      Unless Berger did this under orders from Clinton, why are we dragging Clinton’s name into this? Am I wrong that Berger did this himself – for his own reasons? Or is he hiding facts or documents harmfull to Clinton?

      Tom, the documents dealt with the Clinton administration’s handling of terrorism issues. If Berger was stealing, altering, or destroying them, it’s not unreasonable to assume there’s something in them that puts the Clintonistas in a very bad light. He’s hiding facts or documents harmful to either himself or Clinton, or both.

      Add to this the fact that the Clinton Library is also refusing to release similar documents dealing with the same timeframe (link here), and there’s good prima facie reason to suspect Clinton’s behind this. Remember, Clinton’s own track record includes stealing documents such as FBI files on political opponents and lying under oath, so this looks like his modus operandi.

    12. Mwalimu Daudi says:

      MD, I really don’t think that was Lowry’s point, nor has he lost interest in exposing media bias.

      First, I should thank you ST for giving me (and others) a forum to discuss issues. This post of mine is drifting way off-topic (not to mention longer than a bad novel), but he it comes anyway:

      I think we will have to agree to disagree a little bit on this, ST. I believe that Lowry is just flat-out wrong: The dishonest and biased reporting out of Iraq by the MSM far outweighs the accurate. That we need an accurate picture about Iraq is true, but good news is part of an accurate picture.

      While I don’t believe Lowry has become an MSM shill, I do think he blew it big time on three counts in his article:

      1. We need the whole picture out of Iraq, not just the bad news that the MSM gives us thinking it helps Democrats. And the bad news is all the MSM dishes out. It’s well past time to lay the rest of the facts on the table: WMDs were found and confiscated, a budding Saddam-al Qaeda friendship was broken up, a genocidal dictator has faced trial for his crimes (something Hitler never did), and there have been three free and fair elections in Iraq that have Arab tryants quaking in their boots. War critics must face the truth, no matter how pleasant it may be. And if the case against the war is so good (as the MSM claims it is), they why the omissions and lies?

      2. Perhaps I am wrong, but I seriously doubt that it was conservatives who caused Bush to stay his hand in changing strategy in Iraq, as Lowry suggests. Many conservatives (such as Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard) have long advised more troops to defeat the terrorists. Other people, such as some military generals who were critical of Rumsfeld, have advised a similar strategy. Rather, I think it was war critics that made Bush hesitate about increasing troop strength (which they would seize upon as “proof” that Iraq was another Vietnam). Conservatives have not been overly optimistic about Iraq; rather, war critics have been overly pessimistic to the point of distortion and outright fabrication.

      3. Lowry seems to have forgotten that this is not the first time the MSM has taken sides against humanity. Forget the Iraq war for a moment – the MSM was arguably the #1 bootlicker of the Soviet Union and the blood-thirsty Communist thugs they supported. Even today the MSM still swoon over Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez like they were rock stars instead of mass murderers. They flaked for the Communists in Vietnam and lied about the genocide that took place in Southeast Asia after the US left. The amount of blood on the hands of the MSM was considerable even before they began to make common cause with Islamic terrorists.

      I cannot bring myself to give the MSM any credit, as Lowry suggests in his article. The evil the MSM has done is too great for me to give them anything except contempt. A free society may not be able to get rid of the MSM any more that it can entirely eliminate the Nazi Party or the KKK, but it should also not hesitate to exclude all three of these groups from public debate and governmental power where legally possible. A free society would do well to protect itself from the MSM as far as possible as long as it was within the law.

      That is why I am super-wary of giving any credit to MSM – even if it is on occasion factually accurate. With the MSM, the messenger is the problem.

    13. PCD says:


      Tom tried his obfuscation over at Iowa Voice, too. He doesn’t answer the main point that if the incoming Democrats are so eager to investigate, that there is plenty of muck to mine in Democrat offices.

    14. MD, I can agree with a lot of your points (as I can Lorica’s in the other thread where this discussion is taking place) but as you said I think we’ll have to agree and disagree a bit on this one.

      Merry Christmas :)

    15. Phil says:

      Steve Skubinna Wrote: And when I say “embedded” I mean head first.

      Kind of like how you always go headfirst right into the outhouse hole.

    16. G Monster says:

      Sandy Burglar…the guy should be in jail. Any credibility this man had with anyone was lost when he stole documents from the national archives.

      What could have been in those documents? That’s what I’d like to know. It must have been something pretty damaging to either him, or the Clinton administration. I want to know.