style="margin-top:40px; BROADSIDES

April 04, 2005

Burglin' Berger
On April Fool's Day, appropriately enough, former Clinton national security advisor and noted slob Sandy Berger stood before a federal magistrate to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of "unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents" from the National Archives last year.

Berger, who was at the Archives to prepare for his 9-11 commission testimony, also admitted to deliberately destroying some of the 9-11-related documents but apparently wasn't charged for this under the plea bargain with federal prosecutors.

Berger must pay a $10,000 fine and surrender his presumably grease-stained security clearance for three years.

When did stealing become "unauthorized removal and retention?" And here I always thought Bonnie and Clyde stole from banks; turns out that all they did was just remove and retain cash from the banks without authorization. Those crazy kids! In light of this, it hardly seems fair that they were shot several hundred times for their ornery hijinx.

And when did pilfering classified documents become a mere misdemeanor punishable by a temporary loss of security clearance? This should come as quite a shock to the likes of John Walker, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and Earl Pitts.

Walker, Ames, Hanssen and Pitts, all of whom had high level security clearances when they stole classified information, are doing hard time--Pitts for 27 years and Walker, Ames and Hanssen are in for life.

These four traitors were motivated by money to steal classified material. Berger's motivation is unknown although he seems to chalk it up to just being an absentminded, sloppy klutz. No one, however, absentmindedly stuffs secret government documents into his pants and later makes copies and then destroys them. But should Berger's motivation really matter? Whether the reason is monetary, political, or ideological the result is the same--American national security is breached.

Let's pretend someone is browsing the National Archives gift shop and is caught shoplifting one of those crunchy, made-to-look-old copies of the Declaration of Independence, a few postcards and a "I Saw The Magna Carta" keychain. Who can doubt that that shoplifter would face jail time?

Yet when Sandy Berger is caught shoplifting classified documents, he's punished by being denied the chance for three years to steal more secrets.

Think about that: in three years' time, someone who pled guilty to stealing classified documents will be allowed access to classified documents.

The mind boggles.

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