Tuesday, August 03, 2004

You Want Fries With That?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting, via The American Prospect, that former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger may have been, excuse the pun, served. Despite the bombshell allegations that Berger stuffed original documents down his pants and removed them from the National Archives in an attempt to conceal damning information about the Clinton administration's anti-terrorism efforts from the 9/11 Commission, it appears that Berger's transgressions were much more benign.

Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
This fact flies in the face of the baseless speculation by leaders of the GOP, and also further casts a shroud of suspicion over the timing of the Berger revelation, conspicuously coinciding with the release of the release of the 9/11 Commission report.

Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have voiced suspicion that when Mr. Berger was preparing materials for the 9/11 Commission on the Clinton administration's antiterror actions, he may have removed documents that were potentially damaging to the former president's record.
The only basis for those reckless allegations is that the documents were originals. If Berger removed copies this would not have prevented the 9/11 Commission from reviewing the original from which the copies were made, although the removal of copies is unjustifiable in its own right.

Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said officials there "are confident that there aren't any original documents missing in relation to this case." She said in most cases, Mr. Berger was given photocopies to review, and that in any event officials have accounted for all originals to which he had access.

That included all drafts of a so-called after-action report prepared by the White House and federal agencies in 2000 after the investigation into a foiled bombing plot aimed at the Millennium celebrations. That report and earlier drafts are at the center of allegations that Mr. Berger might have permanently removed some records from the archives. Some of the allegations have related to the possibility that drafts with handwritten notes on them may have disappeared, but Ms. Cooper said archives staff are confident those documents aren't missing either.
The 9/11 Commission further corroborates this take on events, and even Ashcroft's Justice Department concedes that no originals were missing.

Daniel Marcus, general counsel of the 9/11 Commission, said the panel had been assured twice by the Justice Department that no originals were missing and that all of the material Mr. Berger had access to had been turned over to the commission. "We are told that the Justice Department is satisfied that we've seen everything that the archives saw," and "nothing was missing," he said.
I assume we can expect apologies from Hastert and Delay in the near future for their premature attacks on the character of a former White House official. Or maybe they'll just let this whopper fade away.

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