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Sandy Berger's Non-Alibi | Main | The Ace of Spades HQ Guide for Quickly Determining If a Scandal Hurts Liberals or Conservatives
July 22, 2004

Why Did He Do It?

Let us dispense of the claims, "ridiculous on their face" (sic), that Berger stole codeword-classified top secret documents "inadvertantly."

Even Joshua Micah Cougar Mellencamp Marshall admits that Berger's behavior is "inexplicable," which is partisan, defensive way to say "his behavior cannot be explained by anything other than deliberate and premeditated criminal intent, and that his motives for engaging in such willfully, knowing criminal behavoir are frankly too embarassing and damaging for me to even speculate about, so I'll refer to all this top-secret-document-thieving-behavior under the gauzy, vague, and even slightly cute rubric of being 'inexplicable.'"

On Scarborough Country tonight, reliably partisan Democratic strategist/spinner Lawrence O'Donnell admited that Berger's acts could not reasonably be explained away as anything other than deliberate and intentional. (He also strongly made the case that it was the Democrats -- specifically Lanny Davis of Clinton-defending fame-- who leaked this story, along with Berger himself; I'll have that transcript for you the moment it's posted.)

So let us put claims about "inadvertancy" aside as "ridiculous on their face" (sic). We'll leave such childish things to those who have the right childlike mindset for them, such as Eleanor Clift, Chris Lehane, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, and the entire editorial and reportial staff of the New York Times.

Then: Why?

There are five possible motives. This is all speculation, note; unlike Joshua Micah Cougar Mellancamp Marshall, I don't claim that conspiracy theories are fact until, oh, say, the charging of conspiracy counts against named defendants. But these seem to me to be the most likely candidates for motive.

And let me say something up-front: Although I refer to some motives as "innocent," in fact none of this behavior is innocent at all. "Innocent" is used in a relative sense. Berger did not "innocently" stuff documents into his trousers and socks, nor did he "innocently" "discard" a top-secret, codeword-classified memo that he stole from the National Archives.

Berger deliberately -- and criminally; feloniously in fact -- stole these documents. And then, by his own admission, he "inadvertantly discarded" one codeword-classified memo. He not only broke the law deliberately, he then engaged in the very end-result the law is intended to protect against, to wit, moron National Security Advisors taking top-secret documents home with them and then putting them in the trash, froim which anyone could take them.

Unless Berger cops to shredding or burning the document -- and I don't think he will, as that will be pretty hard to explain in court-- that means he stole a top-secret document and then either lost it or "inadvertantly discarded" it in the trash, where any spy or hacker could find it. And yes-- hackers and spies do engage in "dumpster diving" in order to discover documents just like this one.

It may be unlikely that spies went through his trash on the nights that the document resided there, thanks to his "inadvertant" national-security breach; but then, he was both a former NSAdvisor and an "informal advisor" to someone who may the the next President of the United States. This man's trash is just the kind of trash foreign spies are most interested in.

If we're lucky, then no one discovered the document. But the whole point of the restrictions on handling top-secret information is to avoid relying on mere luck to keep our documents secret.

At any rate. Those lengthy caveats aside, here are the Big Four Possible Motives for Berger's Crimes:

1) It's All About the Comfy Couch. This is the motive most favored by Democrats, because it seems to be the most "innocent" (using that word advisedly, note). Sandy Berger deliberately stole top-secret national-security documents from the high-security area they were kept in because he didn't fancy the chair and desk provided for him on-site and wanted to bring his homework, well, home with him, and pour through it at his leisure, perhaps while watching re-runs of Becker.

This is the most innocent, but it is still blazingly criminal activity, especially because, by his own admission, he then "inadvertantly discarded" at least one of these documents, possibly putting it into the hands of foreign enemies. Or at least acting with willful negligence in allowing that possibility.

But at least he merely jeopardized our country's national security for an understandable reason, to wit, the need to sit his fat, fishwhite ass down on a nice fluffy cushion while preparing his 9-11 testimony.

Arrogance? You want to talk about arrogance? This man decided (under this, the most favorable of theories) that national-security laws just didn't apply to him because he craved the comforts of home and hearth.

And this is the most innocent, most forgiveable interpretation. The rest are worse.

As Christopher "Vincent Coccoti" Walken said in True Romance: "That ain't any kind of fun, but what I have to offer you, that's as good as it's gonna get. And it won't ever get that good again."

2) Berger's Big-Advance Book Bonanza. Simple: Berger stole notes and documents in order to make copies of them, so that he would have source material available when writing his memoirs. While direct quotes probably wouldn't make it into the book, he might hint to publishers that he had juicy top-secret stuff to write about, driving up his advance.

This isn't really innocent at all, given that this theory implies that Berger intended to keep his stolen notes and memos, rather than simply reading through them and then sneaking them back into the files; or, perhaps, that he would return everything, but only after photocopying the stolen top-secret material which, I'm guessing, is a crime in and of itself. Those who write laws tend to write the law to make every possible step in the furtherance of a crime a separate crime in and of itself.

3) A Spy in the House of Moore. This one's simple, and obvious, and already well-speculated about. Berger stole secret documents in order to have the best possible evidence in hand when he briefed Kerry. He wanted to tell Kerry -- and perhaps show Kerry -- all the top-secret information that could either be used to hurt Bush, or could be used to hurt Clinton and therefore Kerry.

I don't know about this one. If true, it's quite bad. But I doubt it's true. As a general matter, no one gets this lucky, and I just can't wrap my head around the idea of Bush getting so lucky as to have his opponent knowingly engaging in espionage against the very government he seeks to head.

4) Security-Risk Study Group. This one's also pretty bad, and I think more likely; so I think this possibility is far worse than the last. In this theory, Berger took documents and classified notes home with him because he had to. (Unlike in theory one, which is sort of hard to believe because there was no compelling reason to commit a major federal felony.)

In this theory, he had to steal the notes, because he planned on sharing them with his lawyers and strategists, who would brainstorm with him about how best to refute/rebut the most damaging questions from the 9-11 panel. His lawyers/strategists/spinners/political hacks weren't cleared to see the documents themselves, of course, and therefore he had to bring them home in order to share them with the Security-Risk Study Group.

Now, under this theory, Berger doesn't plan to destroy evidence or the like, and he doesn't plan to give the documents to some hostile foreign power. He does, however, deliberately share the information with unauthorized persons, compounding his original crime, and in fact committing a more serious one.

How likely is this? I don't know. It seems to be taking an awful risk for some outside imput, but then, all possible motives involve taking an enormous risk with a possibility of 10 years of jail-time for some rather minor advantage.

Except for the last theory, that is.

5. He took the documents for the simplest reason, and the only one which seems to make sense, given the risks he was running: He took the documents so that others wouldn't see them.

The Talking Points on this one are that such motives are "ridiculous on their face" (sic), because (it is alleged) copies of all the stolen documents exist.

But this theory isn't ridiculous at all; in fact, it's the defenses that are "ridiculous on their face" (sic).

But more on that later.

When later?

Next post down later. This post is already long enough.


posted by Ace at 02:51 AM