Friday, January 26, 2007

Truth or dare

Republican Rep. Tom Davis released a report (pdf) a couple of weeks ago slamming the Justice Department's handling of the Sandy Berger case.

"My staff’s investigation reveals that President Clinton’s former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger compromised national security much more than originally disclosed," Davis said. "It is now also clear that Mr. Berger was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience."

Well, he doesn't really come up with much new information. And at least he doesn't accuse Berger of attempting a cover-up, though he intimates such might have occurred.

His major action point (signed by every Congressional Republican): Make Berger take the polygraph test he agreed to as part of his 2005 plea bargain.

That's a fairly pointless requirement, since polygraphs are unreliable. And the failing here is the Justice Department's, not Berger's. But okay: if Berger agreed to take such a test, he must. Obviously.

The issue here is not holding Berger to the terms of the agreement; it's what will be done with the polygraph results if they are made public.

At best, such tests are only 70 percent or 80 percent reliable, and that's when administered by a skilled technician to a relatively normal subject. Knowledgable subjects can lie and get away with it; anxious subjects will generate lots of false positives. And if the technician isn't top-notch, all bets are off.

So let's say Berger flunks the test. Does that mean he stole other documents or is guilty of a cover-up? Maybe. He could just be part of the unlucky 20 percent. Or it could mean he was nervous.

If he passes the test does that mean he's innocent? No. Maybe he was a cool villain and spoofed the test. Maybe he just got lucky. Maybe the technician was incompetent.

Polygraphs can be useful tools for helping focus an investigation: if a subject routinely fails on certain topics, then those topics might be worthy of further investigative scrutiny. But a polygraph test in and of itself is too unreliable to tell us anything useful about guilt or innocence. In partisan discourse, though, such nuances will be lost. No matter what the result of the test, Berger is screwed.

He gets limited sympathy from me on that score: he stole classified documents, after all. But let's not see this particular move for more than what it is: a partisan attempt to keep a Democratic scandal alive.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love how it's passed off as a "partisan attempt to keep a Democrat scandal alive." This was about the circumstances of 9/11 and the events that led up to it. Berger was sent there as former President Clinton's representative to explain to the Senate their administration's actions on terrorism and al Qaeda.

And what we now know that we didn't know before is that Berger DID have access to materials that were not copies. We also know now that he went to great lengths to get the Archives staff out of the room as he stole the documents and made "private" phone calls. We also now know that he hid the documents outside by a construction trailer where he later retreaved them, took them to his office and destroyed them. On some of the copies he took, he apparently tried to get all the copies.

And because of his position, he was able to get away with it. Plus, the liberal media let it go as if it was nothing. No such kid-glove treatment for Libby, Delay or any other Republicans.

It's shameful. And there is NO WAY that Dems would have let a Republican get away with it. I cannot even imagine where Condi Rice would be had she done this. Probably sitting in jail in an orange jumpsuit.


1/26/2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Berger pled guilty; he now has a criminal record. How does that indicate he "got away with it"? And the "liberal media" covered it heavily.

All your other points have been addressed before.

1/26/2007 3:00 PM  

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