“The plans you refer to will soon be back in our pants.”

Regarding last night’s breaking news about former Red China lobbyist, ex-Clinton toady and current Kerry hack Sandy Berger, I won’t spend 500 words here on pants jokes. Instead, I’ll just link to a whole gigantic page of them, and then move on.

Everybody back now? Good. Time to be more serious for a moment.

Unlike Josh Marshall, I do happen to know what the rules are for reading, handling and taking notes from classified materials, and more importantly, what the rule is for removing that information from a secure area without both permission and adequate safeguards.

Here’s the rule: you can’t do it.

It’s a crime.

Everybody who’s ever had a clearance knows that.

If I did what Sandy Berger has already admitted to–smuggling out classified documents in his pants–I could and probably would go to jail. And no, Josh, it doesn’t matter if you remove “copies”; a classified document is a classified document, no matter whether it came from a laser printer, a Xerox machine, or someone’s own handwriting. The media doesn’t matter; the content is everything. There can be 10,000 copies present in the vault, but if you remove one of them surreptitiously, you’re guilty. Period.

That’s a hard thing for “journalists” who bandy about allegedly-leaked classified information to grasp, I’m sure. But it’s still the law.

And one more thing: there is no good reason for Berger to be smuggling out classified information.

None.

If he actually carried either notes or actual documents out of a classified vault, he did so because there was something in those documents he (a) didn’t want anybody else to learn about, and/or (b) was so potentially damaging to himself or his patrons, he felt the need to have a copy of his own for protection (the latter would also prove Berger to be incredibly stupid, as well as venal).

No amount of spin from the left side of the aisle can produce any possible legitimate reason for Sandy Berger to be sneaking out classified paperwork in his pants–or anywhere else. One more time: There is no “good” reason for doing what Berger admits he did.

Those who spent the last year huffing and puffing over the “outing” of Mrs. Joe Wilson are doing their own credibility no favors by making excuses for Berger’s apparent criminal actions. And they certainly aren’t doing their nation any favors if they fail to condemn Berger, or demand that he face justice.

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36 Responses to ““The plans you refer to will soon be back in our pants.””

  1. Steve Says:

    Will,

    I think the brou-ha-ha over the nature of the documens (copies v. originals) was one of “Did he remove original copies of documents that might be damning of the Clinton Administration.” Why he would attempt something so stupid is beyond me, however. Of course there will be other copies of said documents, so what removing the originals would accomplish is unclear. I cannot even begin to fathom what in the hell he thought he was doing. One thing is (at least in my mind) for sure – it wasn’t unintentional. Were these part of the package that Kerry didn;t read before the war vote? Maybe JfK wanted a second chance at a peek…

  2. Silent Running Says:

    Berger nicks classified docs

    Explaination? Whoops, they slipped and fell into my pants! Tell it on the perp walk, pal. Book ’em, Dann-O. ::Update:: Are you with the Kerry Campaign? Well, unofficially Good grief, we haven’t even gotten to the convention and Kerry’s staff…

  3. Ramblings' Journal Says:

    Are those plans in your pants, or are you happy to see me?

    Former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger is now under investigation for swiping documents out of the National Archives. The documents in question related to the investigation of the 9/11 Commission. Berger and his lawyer said Monday night …

  4. A Small Victory Says:

    Sandy “Big Pants” Berger calls Greg Brady to the Stand

    I just wanted to fall asleep. It had been a trying day and I crawled into bed at 10:30 because I just wanted the day to end. I finally drifted off but a surreal dream about Spiderman fighting Superman over…

  5. LeatherPenguin Blog Says:

    More Clinton Pants Problems

    With Bubba, it was keeping them buttoned up. For former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, it’s what he was stuffing inside. The AP reports that Berger is under investigation after…

  6. Mike Says:

    This is tres bizzaro. Mr. Berger knows very well what he can and cannot do with those documents. He walked with them. He did not check them back in. His intent is pretty clear (you are generally presumed to intend the natural consequences of your actions. This presumption is rebuttable, but your explanation better be really credible).

    What is unclear in his motivation. I intend to sit back and watch this unfold because I am motivated by curiousity.

  7. gwmoorejr Says:

    One thing is certain — Sandy Berger is a dishonest politician and permanent shill for the discredited Clinton Administration. Had anybody related to Bush Sr. or Reagan performed a similar action, the LSM would be all over it decrying the criminality of the action. The fact that the LSM hasn’t shredded Berger’s lame explanation is proof enough of media’s role in the VLWC working against the American people.

  8. Robert Says:

    All together now, he took classified papers out of a secured area by stuffing them in his pants. That is not an inadvertant picking up some classified papers while gathering up your own notes. Or does Mr. Berger usually carry his notes down his pants? This was intentionally. It’s theft.

  9. erp Says:

    Modern journalism protocols:

    When a Clinton toady is revealed to have done an undeniably illegal, never mind immoral act, like stealing classified documents and then losing them, look for a Republican moral equivalency to be revealed. The rightwing transgression might go back to Nixon, McCarthy — but somewhere a right winger did that was much, much worse, so Berger gets off the hook.

    Watch for it. At this point, they’ve used up all the good recent ones, so they’ll be digging deep for an undisclosed scandal.

  10. PoliBlog Says:

    “Sloppy” Berger?

    At the moment, I am willing to assume that Berger was simply sloppy. However, having said that, I’m with Dean: “, what the hell was Sandy Berger thinking?” As Will Collier points out, Berger should know better….

  11. Rob Says:

    I thought the “Clinton toady / undeniably illegal act” was a subset of the Modern Journalism Protocols.

    For Republicans the rule is “Focus on the Seriousness of the Allegation”.
    For Democrats the rule is called “Focus on the Motivation of the Accuser”.

    Let’s see how this one plays. I suppose it hinges on the identity of the accuser. Either way, the Mental Gymnastics should be incredible.

  12. Bostonian Says:

    The identity of the accuser might be interesting, but Berger has admitted to taking and “losing” the documents.

  13. Dean Says:

    Well, it’s not like they were that careful when they were in office.

    Anybody remember John Deutch? While Director of Central Intelligence, classified information “somehow” wound up on his unclassified computer. More to the point, same said computer was then hooked up to the Internet.

    Result? A slap on the wrist, with no crimes report, and no other actions undertaken for over a year AFTER he’d resigned as DCI.

  14. Lurker Says:

    There’s really only one explanation that makes sense.

    Sandy Berger is a spy for one of our enemies.

    If they were copies, then stealing them wouldn’t keep embarrassing info from the commission. No he took these so he would have copies of our anti-terrorism strategy at the millinium.

    The only question is who was he working for? Is Berger one of those former Exicutive branch employees who found a lucrative job with some Saudi-financed think tank?

  15. El Jefe Says:

    Trust me, I work in a SCIF. If I were to ‘walk away’ with classified documents and get caught, guess what? I’d be making small rocks out of big rocks in no time flat. The same should be true for Mr. Berger. No ifs ands or buts about it.

  16. Mike M Says:

    Hmmm a party operative stealing documents…where have I heard that one before?

    Archivegate, anyone? I’m sure the media will pursue this will all the effort and intensity that was afforded to Nixon and the Republicans. (how sad is it that no believes that’s possibly going to be true?)

  17. David [.net] Says:

    If I were to ‘walk away’ with classified documents and get caught, guess what?

    And stuffing them in your pants is as inconceivable as a bank teller doing it with cash. I wasn’t allowed to take anything I wrote out the SCIF, even if it was just my grocery list. But this will be all too easy for the press to downplay.

  18. albo Says:

    If I would have done that with any document I worked with as an Air Force linguist in Germany, the SPs would have had me spreadeagled on the tarmac.

    You have codeword clearance, you respect codeword material.

  19. PoliBlog Says:

    “Sticking Them” in his Pants

    Exactly what does this mean?Berger and his lawyer said he knowingly removed notes he had made while reading anti-terrorism documents by sticking them in his jacket and pants. Does “sticking them” in his pants mean putting them in his pockets,…

  20. JPS Says:

    Erp:

    Nicely put. I’d just been thinking, “Of course, if Condi had done this, Josh Marshall et al. would be defending her in the same terms, with the same intensity.”

    Dean: I do remember John Deutch. Know him professionally, as it happens. I wouldn’t dare ask him about that (he’s sort of an intimidating fellow), but I am as sure as I can be that that was a piece of absent-minded professorship, nothing more. (We’re all a bunch of flakes.) He’s a good man, period.

  21. JPS Says:

    Grr. Sorry. Marshall didn’t defend Berger’s actions; I was thinking of some who have tried to explain this away, and transposed them. (Already said I was a flake.)

    But I did enjoy the post above Will’s link, where Marshall writes that the timing of this story points to a malicious link to distract from the 9/11 commission report. Priceless.

  22. PoliBlog Says:

    Berg Reaction: Left v. Right

    While the rightish side of the Blogosphere has been talking about the Berger business, the leftish side hasn’t gotten into the act yet. At 11:30am central I checked Kos, Liberal Oasis, Kevin Drum, Hellblazer, Matthew Yglesias, Brett Marston, Crooked Ti…

  23. Brennan Stout Says:

    JPS: I blogged a comparison between Josh Marshall’s POV and, as CNN’s John King reported, the POV of an unamed former Clinton official. Remarkably their conclusions are identical. The “timing” is what you, me and the media should look at.

    On Deutsch, I think it was a general mistake, a stupid one, but one that many people have made in the past. Rules are rules though and the fact that classified information gets out, then plugged into the Internet, is concern enough for me for that person to resign. Deutsch, though, was about to plea to escape a harsher sentence. However, Clinton pardoned him.

    Another person important to the 9/11 dilemna was Special Agent John O’neill. He too took classified documents out of the FBI with him, left them in a briefcase, which then went missing from a conference, and severely hampered his influence within any future meetings. He later retired from the FBI to become head of security at the WTC. He died when the first tower fell.

    His problem was that nobody would trust him anymore because of the briefcase incident. He had vast knowledge of Al Qaida and Bin Laden and arguably was the most serious player in pushing the government to take Bin Laden’s threats seriously.

    Berger’s off the Kerry team. Should happen within in the next few days. He may advise in an unofficial role to Kerry, but a cabinet post is as likely as a North Korean gold medal at the Summer Games.

  24. mercy Says:

    My guess is that Mr. Berger’s age is showing. He was going to be grilled by the committee. It wouldn’t do to tell them he couldn’t recall. He was probably stressed and exhausted and wanted to take a short cut. He probably felt a need to review the documents right up to the day of testifying so that he would come across as competent and on top of things. Lawyers by trade are dependent on their recall, he’s at an age where it doesn’t come up as quickly. If he hems and haws in high-profile testimony, it would kill his ability to pitch himself as an expert in his field.

  25. Dean Says:

    Whereas breaking the law (aren’t lawyers officers of the court?), shoot, what’s the problem?

  26. Pejmanesque Says:

    IS JOSH MARSHALL AUDITIONING FOR PRESS SECRETARY IN A KERRY ADMINISTRATION?

    He might be–it is a logical conclusion to reach after reading this post and this one seeking to provide some kind of excuse for Berger’s actions. Will Collier–understandably and predictably–isn’t buying: If I did what Sandy Berger has already admitt…

  27. andunie.net Says:

    “The plans you refer to will soon be back in our pants.”

    So when last night, Sam and I were watching the news, and I told her “You know, I wouldn’t give the benefit of the doubt to a lot of ex-Clinton staffers, though I’m willing to do so for Sandy Berger”

  28. Croooow Blog Says:

    more Marshall apologia

    And it still doesn’t wash……

  29. Ipse Dixit Says:

    And That’s All I Have To Say About That

    Sandy Berger, of all people, should know better than to “inadvertently” remove classified documents from their secure storage. He used…

  30. Anticipatory Retaliation Says:

    Berger Bust

    Since everyone else is doing it, I’ll shoot forth my two cents worth on the Berger Bust. For those of you who are getting up to speed, I’d recommend Vodkapundit ( here, here, here, here, here, here) for a fairly…

  31. Straying Thoughts Says:

    Trousergate

    Sandy Berger, formerly Clinton’s NSA adviser and cuurently adviser to John Kerry, took “classified documents from the National Archives” , according to the Washington Post. Berger’s lawyer claims the removal was inadvertant and the subsequent disposal …

  32. rosignol Says:

    Berger’s off the Kerry team. Should happen within in the next few days.-brennan stout

    It’s happened.

  33. Average Joe Says:

    JPS, I also know John Deutch a bit, and mostly agree with what you have said. I can only add that I suspect that there may have been a certain element of hubris in his action. Nothing malicious, just the sort of hubris that I have often noted in sucessful academics of his generation. Remember that at the time he went into academia the demand for academics was extraordinary, so that a remarkably talented person like John has become used to being feted for his entire professional life. Someone with such a professional life would have difficulty remembering and understanding rules that inconvenienced him.

    That said, I most definitely agree with you that he is a good man (and very intimidating!) I have enjoyed the very little bit of time that I have spent with him and wish that I could have spent more time with him. When I heard about his problemwith classified documents I felt sorry for him; he always dreamed of becoming the Secretary of Defense, and these problems shattered that dream forever. I am sad to see his name dragged through the mud again by the analogy to the current scandal. In the context of the current scandal, I could not imagine him stuffing classified documents down his pants. He does not deserve the (even implied) abuse.

  34. Scott Says:

    “Someone with such a professional life would have difficulty remembering and understanding rules that inconvenienced him.”

    Jeebus, Average! If this is the only defense that can be mustered for Berger, then he’s in deeper shit than you’d want to believe. For someone who (presumably) has spent the better part of their professional life handling classified documents, it can be safely assumed that Mr. Berger has been briefed, read-on, read-off and debriefed enough times to know instinctively what is expected of him in regards to handling classified material. And if he is incapable of “remembering the rules,” that alone would be grounds for an immediate revocation of his clearances.

    I cannot imagine why anyone would feel compelled to make excuses for this man! His actions were deliberate and illegal. The man should be in a cell next to Aldrich Ames.

  35. Dean Says:

    Not every good man is qualified for every job—not even the jobs that they most want.

    If you can’t handle classified documents and materials, at a fundamental level, there is an incompatibility between who you are, and what job you are suited for.

    Case in point: Robert Hanssen. I’ve now heard, from someone who knew him, that he would have trusted his own life and that of his children to Hanssen (and did). My guess is, that’s the sort of sentiment that allowed a Hanssen to do as much damage as he did: “Hey, there’s this small problem, but I KNOW him, he’s a good guy, it’s probably just a small problem/a temporary thing/a momentary lapse.”

    How did Ames last so long in HIS position? Probably at least some of the same sentiments.

    Not to say Deutch (or Berger for that matter) are spies, but that your or my impression that he’s a good guy is (and should be) irrelevant to whether he can handle classified materials.

  36. Slartibartfast Says:

    And, getting back to the meat of the issue, motivation in compromising classified information is only relevant to the seriousness of the crime, not to whether a crime was committed or not. There’s a separate section to the code that addresses accidental compromise, and yes, there is prison time and/or fines that can go with accidental compromise.

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