Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Berger Battle Continues at NARA

In today's Washington Post, R. Jeffrey Smith has an article discussing the ongoing 'discussions' at the National Archives concerning the handling of the Sandy Berger document thefts.

"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 [NARA Inspector General Paul] Brachfeld's concerns [that Berger may have taken/destroyed more documents than he's admitted]..."

Sounds like there's a little bit of circular firing squad action going on here, both inter- and intra-agency (not that there isn't enough blame to go around). But I can't fault Brachfeld for pursuing these questions. It is, after all, his job to protect the documents in NARA's custody and make sure proper procedures are followed (which, in this case, they clearly were not).

What really roiled me about the article was this comment from Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer: "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." Unfairness? Mistake? The former national security advisor destroying original, classified documents? Smuggling them out of the Archives in his socks? Mistake, you bet, but far from accidental; he deserved every punishment he got and then some. And I know on my part this has absolute zero to do with politics - I'd feel exactly the same about this crime no matter who committed it.

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