The Berger Affair, Again

NewsMax.com reported yesterday that the National Archives denies a report that Sandy Berger is in the clear. Blogospheric lefties have been touting a report to the contrary by the Wall Street Journal. Here’s the NewsMax.com story:

“In spite of what the Wall Street Journal said, the National Archives really isn’t commenting on this case because it’s under investigation,” Susan Cooper, chief spokeswoman for the Archives, told NewsMax.com.

The Journal reported in Friday editions:

“Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Advisor 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. … The conclusion by Archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the commission.”

The Journal report was picked up by ABC Radio network news, which further misreported the story by saying that the Justice Department had cleared Sandy Berger of all charges.

But Ms. Cooper disputed the claim that she or any other Archives official had said any such thing.

“We really have had nothing to say and will continue to have nothing to say about the particulars of the [Berger] case,” Cooper told NewsMax. “I gather that there’s somebody else in the food chain that has been talking about the case but it’s not at the Archives.”

In keeping with her no-comment policy, the Archives chief spokeswoman declined to confirm an earlier Washington Post report that Berger had destroyed four of the six copies of the Millennium Plot After Action Review stored in Archives files.

Cooper also declined to say whether draft copies of the document with original notes in the margins were among the papers Berger’s lawyer Lanny Breuer said his client had “discarded.”

Seems fair and balanced to me.

I’ve posted twice before about l’affaire Berger, here and here. In the first post I drew on 30 years’ experience in dealing with classified information to question the veracity of Berger’s claim that he “inadvertently” removed classified notes and documents from the National Archives. The second post was just for fun, comprising quips of the sort you might hear on late-night TV.

I won’t guess at what Berger really did or why he did it. That’s for the FBI and, possibly, the courts to resolve. Whatever Berger did at the National Archives may or may not be an indictable offense. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. Here’s why: Suppose that Berger was trying to cover up his failure, while he was Clinton’s national security adviser, to authorize strikes on Osama bin Laden. How would reconstructing Berger’s failure be of help in preventing future terrorist attacks? Hindsight in such matters is unlikely to produce useful foresight. It isn’t enough to know that bin Laden is in your crosshairs, you must be willing to pull the trigger. Berger, apparently, wasn’t willing to pull the trigger. Would a future Berger be willing to pull the trigger? There’s no way of knowing, no way of ensuring that it would happen.