Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sandy Berger, dope

I'm a little late getting to this because I had to take care of some matters for which I actually get paid. Links to detailed stories will be included below, but first, my two cents.

Sandy Berger is the former National Security Adviser under Bill Clinton. He is also an adviser to John Kerry's campaign. The FBI is investigating Berger because he "took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall" from the National Archives, according to the Washington Post. Berger claims this was inadvertent. But he lost at least one of the documents.

What did Berger take? An After Action Review memo, and seemingly more than one version of it (it went through several versions total), on the millenium bombing plot. The memo was supposed to outline US responses and protective measures to counter such an attack in the future. The millenium bombing plot was an attempt by Islamists to infiltrate the US and set off explosives at LAX on New Year's Eve 1999. The plot was diffused when one of the bombers was arrested near Seattle because he was acting suspiciously while trying to clear customs from a ferry that had embarked in Vancouver. See Mark Levin's analysis of Clinton Justice Department procedures here for some details.

Why is the After Action Review important? Here is AG Ashcroft's testimony to the 9-11 Commission, as quoted in Levin's piece:

The NSC's Millennium After Action Review declares that the United States barely missed major terrorist attacks in 1999 — with luck playing a major role. Among the many vulnerabilities in homeland defenses identified, the Justice Department's surveillance and FISA operations were specifically criticized for their glaring weaknesses. It is clear from the review that actions taken in the Millennium Period should not be the operating model for the U.S. government.

In March 2000, the review warn[ed] the prior Administration of a substantial al Qaeda network and affiliated foreign terrorist presence within the U.S., capable of supporting additional terrorist attacks here. Furthermore, fully 17 months before the September 11 attacks, the review recommend[ed] disrupting the al Qaeda network and terrorist presence here using immigration violations, minor criminal infractions, and tougher visa and border controls.

These are the same aggressive, often criticized law enforcement tactics we have unleashed for 31 months to stop another al Qaeda attack. These are the same tough tactics we deployed to catch Ali al-Marri, who was sent here by al Qaeda on September 10, 2001, to facilitate a second wave of terrorist attacks on Americans.

Despite the warnings and the clear vulnerabilities identified by the NSC in 2000, no new disruption strategy to attack the al Qaeda network within the United States was deployed. It was ignored in the Department's five-year counterterrorism strategy.

So basically, Sandy Berger took classified documents that set forth measures to enhance US security. Such documents set out those measures during THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. And comparing the suggestions to what the Clinton Administration actually put into effect would have reflected poorly on the Clinton Administration because it did NOTHING.

Moreover, the After Action strategy was not even on the Clintonite radar during the Clinton-to-Bush transition. Here's Ashcroft again:

I did not see the highly-classified review before September 11. It was not among the 30 items upon which my predecessor briefed me during the transition. It was not advocated as a disruption strategy to me during the summer threat period by the NSC staff[,] which wrote the review more than a year earlier.

Ed Morrissey, the Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters Blog, says you cannot mistakenly take classified material:

I spent three years producing such material, I can tell you that it's impossible to "inadvertently" take or destroy them. For one thing, such documents are required to have covers -- bright covers in primary colors that indicate their level of classification. Each sheet of paper is required to have the classification level of the page (each page may be classified differently) at the top and bottom of each side of the paper. Documents with higher classifications are numbered, and each copy is tracked with an access log, and nowadays I suppose they're tracking them by computers.

Under these rules, it's difficult to see how anyone could "inadvertently" mix up handwritten notes with classified documents, especially when sticking them into one's jacket and pants. Furthermore, as Clinton's NSA, Berger would have been one of the people responsible for enforcing these regimens, not simply subject to them . . . "Inadvertent" and "sloppiness", in the real context of secured documentation, not only don't qualify as an excuse but don't even register as a possibility.

So Berger's actions are of a piece with Clintonism as a whole: ignore the threat, fail to prevent future attacks, then attempt to hide your failures.

Sounds like Berger would be a great addition to a Kerry administration.

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