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Berger as Inspector

How does somebody bumble around and make this type of mistake?
Former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger speaks on NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday, July 4, 2004, during a taping of the show in Washington. Alex Wong / AP

Former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger is in hot water after news that the FBI had launched an investigation into top secret documents that Berger allegedly smuggled out of a National Archives room. 

Berger first visited the National Archives on July 18, 2003, to review secret documents involving the Clinton administration's flawed response to terror plots.

Berger returned on September 2 of that same year and then returned to the National Archives on October 2.  But on Berger's October 2 visit, he was told that the documents he was requesting were now missing. These were of course the same documents that Berger had seen before, but had improperly removed by allegedly stuffing them in his pants, his jackets and his socks.

Later that month, the FBI launched an investigation into the missing documents and eventually searched Berger's own home and the office for missing documents.  The documents contained information about the security of America's infrastructure, its ports and its airports. 

And on February 27, Berger, now a John Kerry adviser, briefed the media on Kerry's new plans for fighting terror. 

On May 27, 2004, John Kerry launched into an 11-day national security tour focusing on the security of America's infrastructure, its ports and its airports, the very same issues that Berger's documents reportedly touched upon. 

On Tuesday, Berger took the bullet for John Kerry and Bill Clinton, resigning his campaign post a week before the Democratic convention. 

Berger released a statement earlier Tuesday saying: “In the course of reviewing over several days thousands of pages of documents, I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives.  When I was informed by the Archives that there were documents missing, I immediately returned everything I had, except for a few documents that I apparently had accidentally discarded.”

But we’re talking about Sandy Berger — we're not talking about a first-term congressman on the House Armed Services Committee.  We're talking about a gentleman that was entrusted with the most top secret and classified information while he was in the Clinton administration.  How does somebody bumble around and make this type of mistake, like they're Inspector Clouseau? 

I spoke with former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. Buchanan went as far as to question if anybody else was aware of Berger's actions. “”He risked his reputation and career,” says Buchanan.  “Berger has a sterling reputation.  There are a number of questions immediately raised. Were these just embarrassing or were they incriminating documents that he's lost or destroyed? Secondly, since President Clinton was one who asked him to go down and review these documents, did he talk to President Clinton about them?  Has he talked to President Clinton that he had them out of there? Frankly, down the road, Mr. Berger is going to have to be put under oath.”

Myers defended Berger and said that this is much ado about nothing in an election year.

“It's being turned into a partisan football,” she says. “It has nothing to do with the Kerry campaign. Sandy should have handled the documents more carefully. But absolutely to suggest that this is somehow a conspiracy involving either Sen. Kerry or President Clinton, that Sandy is doing something nefarious when the information he's accused of taking was available to all the people who needed to see it, this blows my mind.” 

“I think we owe Sandy Berger the benefit of the doubt,” she adds. “As Pat said, Sandy has a sterling reputation as a great patriot, a great American, and who has done this country tremendous service over the years.  He went into the Archives three times because he was asked on behalf of the Clinton administration to review tens of thousands of pages pursuant to the 9/11 Commission request.  Second of all, Sandy was himself testifying, so it was incumbent on him to be prepared to refresh his memory and to understand the chronology.”

She also adds that the allegation that Berger put them in his socks is false. “I know that's been reported, but Sandy has denied it. There is no person on record saying that they saw him put them in his sock.  That's ludicrous,” she says.

Former Clintonistas are streaming out all across America's vast news wasteland defending one of their own from the serious charge that can possibly wreck John Kerry's convention week and possibly further tarnish Bill Clinton's legacy.

Is it much ado about nothing?  In this age of terror, I think there are few crimes that are more serious. I suspect that's a lesson that Sandy Berger and all of his allies may soon learn.