On July, 19, 2004 the Associated Press revealed that the former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was being investigated by the US Justice Department and the FBI in connection for a misdemeanor, specifically, mishandling of classified documents. Apparently, Sandy Berger took it upon himself to remove five classified documents regarding Clinton’s handling of the millennium terrorist plots. Since he was able to return only two of the five documents, Sandy Berger was filed with a criminal charge.
In the course of the investigations, it was found out that Sandy Berger did indeed take the documents he was accused of removing from the National Archives, that he made notes which he did not present to the Archives’ employees, and that he cut up the first three documents he removed from the Archives.
He and his attorney Larry Breuer negotiated with the head prosecutor of the Berger case, Noel Hillman who was also the chief of Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Justice Department. The negotiations were apparently successful for Sandy Berger was only penalized with $10,000 dollars and loss of security clearance for three years. U.S. Magistrate judge Deborah Robinson on September 8, 2005 disagreed only with the fine, raising it to $50,000, but she let the plea bargain agreement stand as it was.
From start to finish of the whole Sandy Berger scandal, there were questions that remained unanswered on most people’s minds. Why did Sandy Berger take the documents and why did he cut up the first three? Speculations were rife on what Sandy Berger’s motivations were. The conspiracy theory presented below was first on people’s list.
Cover-up and High-level Conspiracy
Some of Sandy Berger’s critics believed that he took the memos from the Archives to avoid some sensitive and highly explosive information from being brought up during the 9/11 commission’s investigations. To some of the critics, the fact that Sandy Berger cut up three of the documents and subsequently took two more indicate that he was not merely preparing for his interview with the commission.
Berger’s allies and even the chief prosecutor of Berger’s case, Noel Hillman, vociferously denied these allegations. They said that Berger destroyed the first three because that was easier to do than sneaking them back in to the Archives. In fact, it can be concluded that Berger had national security in mind because he did not want these documents to fall into the wrong hands. They also contended, and the 9/11 commission confirmed this, that Berger only destroyed copies and the originals were still in hard disks. Therefore, the commission had complete and detailed information about the after-action memos under Clinton’s administration regarding the millennium attack plots.
However, Sandy Berger’s critics claimed that the copies which Berger destroyed were not innocent copies but actually contained handwritten notes on the margins which would have incriminated the previous administration had they not been destroyed. The critics said this could be the only explanation for Berger’s elaborate attempts to procure and destroy the said documents. In fact, they said, if Berger’s motives were so innocent, why would he go back and remove two more documents?
The Sandy Berger camp replied that the critics were deluding themselves. The latter two documents which were recovered had nothing on their margins so taking them, as Berger said, was just an innocent mistake. Critics remain unconvinced because copies or not, Berger destroyed the materials and therefore, nobody will know for sure which camp is telling the truth.