Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sandy Berger may well be guilty of grave offenses, but is anyone who actually observed him at National Archives claiming that he engaged in skulduggery?

As I read this Washington Post article by John F. Harris and Susan Schmidt, all the damning allegations are sourced to "A government official with knowledge of the investigation" and "another government official." The same for this New York Daily News story, which cites "a senior law enforcement source."

In the Post, the spokeswoman for the National Archives is brought in just to cite proper procedure ("Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said that employees closely monitor anyone cleared to review classified presidential materials"), while the News story has this rather odd Cooper quote:

Asked if guards left Berger alone in the classified reading room while he made calls, archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper replied, "I'm not going to say I haven't heard that."

No one who was on duty seems to have talked to a reporter; no reporter seems to have seen any documents that confirm the sock-stuffing or any other unsavory behavior. And none of the IDs of sources suggest that those sources are deeply involved in the investigation. I'd say there could be some unambiguously dishonest smearing going on here.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly parses the Post story and finds something that doesn't pass the smell test:

Let me get this straight: (a) he had already been caught removing documents on a previous visit, (b) Archives employees set up a special coding system for his second visit, (c) they were watching him like a hawk the whole time — and he must have known it since they had caught him once before, (d) they saw him taking dozens of pages of notes and didn't stop him, (e) they saw him put those notes into his pockets, and (f) they must have also seen him put some documents in his portfolio as well.

But they let him walk out the door without challenging him. Why?

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