I pride myself on my sense of humor. I can find the absurd in most any situation, and often have to explain why I’m laughing to people. And there are very few subjects I find simply not funny. It’s an odd thing about me, but I rather like it.
Yeah, they’re clever and witty. One might even say inspired and insightful. But I just can’t bring myself to laugh at Sandy Berger’s crimes.
Yeah. Crimes. High crimes. The kind that most people would spend many years turning big ones into small ones.
Let’s take a good, hard look at just what he did. The Wall Street Journal did an exceptional job last week, but let’s add a few more elements of context.
Berger’s stated purpose for visiting the National Archives was to prepare for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. He was supposed to be reviewing documents from his tenure as President Clinton’s National Security Advisor to refresh his memory of events leading up to the single greatest attack on American soil. And instead of that, he abused and violated his security clearance — the written statement of trust in his honesty, fidelity, loyalty, honor, and discretion given to him by our government — to steal countless documents, many of them not properly inventoried so we may never know what he took.
And this was done while he was “preparing” his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. He deprived that Commission of access to many documents that might have been critical to their analysis of just what happened that Tuesday morning, and what led up to it. Who knows what was in those papers? We never will.
And let us not forget that one of the major planks that the Democrats ran on when they retook both Houses of Congress was a full implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. Would those recommendations have been different, had they had access to the documents that Berger stole and destroyed? We will never know.
The more I learn about Sandy Berger, the more my loathing of this despicable human being increases. For example, I did not know about his fining for potential conflict of interest in a stock deal. Nor did I know that he was informed that the Chinese had stolen top-secret designs for nuclear weapons from us, but sat on the information for 15 months.
(The satirist in me at this point wants to concoct a long, satirical piece likening Berger’s pants to the Bermuda Triangle, where papers disappear — be they stock certificates, reports on Chinese nuclear espionage, or reports on terrorist attacks — but I’m suppressing that part.)
The Constitution has a very, very high standard for the charge of treason. From Article III, Section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
That’s a hell of a tough standard. Not many would argue that Berger’s actions met that standard. Hell, I myself argued back in October that it didn’t.
But I find myself reconsidering. By hampering the investigation of the 9/11 Committee, it can be argued that Berger did, indeed, indirectly give “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy by weakening our ability to fight back. The “two Witnesses” are readily available from the National Archives, and I’m quite certain that finding a 9/11 Commissioner or two to testify to the importance of their having been given all the documents they sought.
Right now Scooter Libby is facing trial for his role in the Valerie Plame affair. If convicted of all charges (all related to “lying about how he told the truth about a liar”), he could face a maximum of $1,250,000 in fines and 30 years in jail.
In contrast, Sandy Berger was fined $50,000, sentenced to 100 hours of community service 2 years of probation, and his security clearance was revoked for three years. He can re-apply for it after September 8, 2008. The timing of that amazes me — it’s highly unlikely the Bush administration would offer him any job, and it expires just in time to hold yet another top position in a potential Democratic presidency.
I have no idea why Berger was treated with such kid gloves. I am a firm believer in the law, and in its rigorous enforcement. I bring up Libby’s case merely as a point of contrast, not to be taken as a call for leniency in his behalf. (Although his attorney very well could make such a case based on Berger, and it could work.) I am disgusted and appalled with the way his high crimes were handled.
Under another part of our Constitution (The Fifth Amendment), Berger is immune from being tried again on these charges. It is a closed matter, not subject to any further review or legal action. But as I pointed out, he will be free to seek his security clearance and high office after September 8, 2008, when all the penalties for his conviction will have been fulfilled.
We must not allow ourselves to forget just what he did, and never again should this nation place any faith and trust in this despicable traitor. The only court left where we can seek justice against him is that of public opinion, and that is one fight we can not yield.