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February 21, 2007

WaPo: Renewed Interest In Sandy Berger Theft

...coming a tad too late.

[National Archives and Records Administration inspector general Paul] Brachfeld said he was worried that during four visits in 2002 and 2003, Berger had the opportunity to remove more than the five documents he admitted taking. Brachfeld wanted the Justice Department to notify officials of the 9/11 Commission that Berger's actions -- in combination with a bungled Archives response -- might have obstructed the commission's review of Clinton's terrorism policies.

...

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 Brachfeld's concerns, a suggestion that resonated with Philip Zelikow, the commission's former executive director.

Zelikow said in an interview last week that "I think all of my colleagues would have wanted to have all the information at the time that we learned from the congressional report, because that would have triggered some additional questions, including questions we could have posed to Berger under oath."

The commission's former general counsel, Dan Marcus, now an American University law professor, separately expressed surprise at how little the Justice Department told the commission about Berger and said it was "a little unnerving" to learn from the congressional report exactly what Berger reviewed at the Archives and what he admitted to the FBI -- including that he removed and cut up three copies of a classified memo.

"If he took papers out, these were unique records, and highly, highly classified. Had a document not been produced, who would have known?" Brachfeld said in an interview. "I thought [the 9/11 Commission] should know, in current time -- in judging Sandy Berger as a witness . . . that there was a risk they did not get the full production of records."

In an April 1, 2005, press conference and private statements to the commission, the Justice Department stated instead that Berger had access only to copied documents, not originals. They also said the sole documents Berger admitted taking -- five copies of a 2001 terrorism study -- were later provided to the commission.

Those assertions conflicted with a September 2004 statement to Brachfeld by Nancy Kegan Smith, who directs the Archives' presidential documents staff and let Berger view the documents in her office in violation of secrecy rules. Smith said "she would never know what if any original documents were missing," Brachfeld reported in an internal memo.

...

Brachfeld pressed Justice Department officials on six occasions in 2004 to make a fuller statement to the commission about Berger's actions, to no avail. He also contacted Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, who organized an April 2004 meeting between Brachfeld and Justice officials that convinced him that "these issues had to go before the 9/11 Commission," according to two people present.

But in a notification to the commission the following month, the department did not mention that Berger had cut up documents, that he reviewed uncatalogued originals or that Brachfeld worried that Berger's theft was greater.

Blame the Bush Administration's Justice Department. And of course the media, for taking so little interest in an important story and allowing all of this to unfold in the darkness, where dirty deals are easier to conceal.

Thanks to Village Idiot.



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posted by Ace at 02:20 PM

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