Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sandy Berger update

Having now read the redacted Inspector General report, including the summary of the Berger interview, a few more points of contention are cleared up.

Note that my purpose here is not to defend Berger; it's to debunk the conspiracy theories that he was covering something up related to the Millennium plots.

Berger visited the Archives four times. Once in preparation for a thorough document review, and then once for each of three separate document releases.

1. Berger was given preferential treatment, being allowed to review the documents in an Archive employee's office instead of in a secure reading room. He was allowed to bring in his cell phone and a briefcase, and was occasionally left alone with the documents.

2. Berger, who owned a consultancy, received time-sensitive work-related calls at the employee's phone, but never used his cell phone (and never told anyone his cell phone wasn't working) as had been alleged.

3. On his first visit, in May 2002, Berger had access to some original documents. The most sensitive were numbered and would be missed if taken, and he was never left alone with them. Still, the Archive cannot say for sure he didn't take anything, in part because a numbered document might have several pages, and the pages themselves weren't necessarily numbered. However, Archive records indicate Berger was not shown any Millennium Attack After Action Review (MAAAR) documents during his May visit.

4. On his second visit, in July 2003, Berger again had access to some original documents. He said he removed some of his notes but no documents, but there's no way to prove he didn't take something.

5. On his third visit, in September 2003, Berger had access to numbered originals of the most sensitive documents and copies of everything else. He couldn't have taken a unique document even if he wanted to, and the Archive says he didn't. He took a fax copy of what he thought was the final version of the MAAAR, plus some more notes.

6. On his fourth visit, in October 2003, he had access solely to copies, including printouts of e-mails. He found another copy of the MAAAR, this one classified differently from the one he had taken on his previous visit. He didn't know why it was classified differently, and he was told the only difference between the two versions involved money, not anything substantive. Nonetheless, he took it so he could compare the two versions later. Later he found yet a third version of the MAAAR and took that, too.

7. Notably, on this visit an Archive employee told him that he had returned a folder missing a document -- and provided Berger with another copy of it. This demonstrates that the Archive had copies of what Berger was reviewing. Berger, for some reason, took that copy, too -- for a total of four. He also took most of his notes.

8. The four documents Berger took were printouts of e-mails, with the MAAAR as an attachment. He never had access to the original MAAAR.

9. There were not any handwritten notes on the documents Berger is known to have removed.

10. Berger didn't consider the MAAAR very sensitive, despite its classification, which is why he was so cavalier about taking it.

So could Berger have taken original documents? Yes, in his first two visits. But his opportunities were limited, and he had no access to original copies of the MAAAR. All that he is known to have taken is faxes and printed e-mails, the originals of which remain in Archive hands.

The most reasonable explanation remains the simplest: that Berger didn't consider the MAAAR sensitive, and considered himself somewhat above the law, since he had written many of the documents in question. So he took them. And got caught.

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