Ok, this is weird. From the preliminary facts released it strikes me as more of an oversight on Berger’s part than a deliberate theft, but it’s unsettling to me that someone that senior, with that much experience, would make that kind of error. I feel sorry for the man, actually. He made a bad mistake, at exactly the wrong time, and now he’s going to go a turn in the media meat grinder with both sides of a nasty electoral campaign cranking the spin machine as hard as they can. He may well wind up doing jail time as well, for all I know.

On a lighter note, given the way some of the documents left the National Archives, am I the only “Harvey Birdman: Attorny At Law” fan who keeps hearing Phil LaMarr’s Black Vulcan SuperVolt line “Pure electricity… in my pants” in response?

Update: The more I read more about this, the less sorry I feel for Berger. The seemingly universal reaction from people with actual experience handling classified documents is that the “inadvertant” removal of material as claimed by Berger is just not possible. The fact that Berger apparently removed documents on multiple occasions is particularly damning — if I made a critical error like that once and was informed of it, I’d be very careful not to do it again. Berger apparently wasn’t.

Nevertheless, we must be careful not to go overboard. Some of the more egregious elements in the initial reports, such as the removal of documents in socks, are now in question, and the image of Berger ‘stuffing’ documents into his trousers Fawn Hall-style is gradually morphing into a picture of putting documents in pants pockets. Still a crime, but these minor adjustments should serve as a reminder that the facts on the ground are still in flux at least in the details.

I also note at least one thing that Hugh Hewitt said that doesn’t seem quite right to me. Hewitt wrote:

“Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, said the panel had been given access to all copies of drafts that were missing, and thought that the integrity of its work had not been compromised. ‘We had access to copies of everything we are reading about,’ he said.”

Given that every story includes the crucial detail that Berger lost or destroyed some of the documents he took home, this cannot be true. The Commission is so desperate to maintain the illusion that it’s conclusions can be trusted that it is denying the parrot is dead. The report cannot be certain of its conclusions since Berger lost or destroyed some of the material he took. Saying otherwise is akin to a Nixon defender saying Ms. Woods’ 18 minute gap didn’t matter.

The fact that Berger destroyed some of the documents he took home does not mean that he destroyed all existing copies of those documents. It’s quite possible that the Commission saw copies that Berger did not destroy. It’s also possible that they didn’t. We don’t know. We need to find out, but jumping to conclusions doesn’t help.

One Response to “WTF?!?”
  1. jbn says:

    The reports that Berger hid documents in his clothes, perhaps his pants, makes it difficult to think that his action was an “oversight.”

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