By Alan Nathan © 2007

President Clinton’s Former National Security Advisor was caught stealing and destroying classified documents from the National Archives (before the 9/11 Commission could read them), but his actions have garnered less media attention than a fly breaking wind.

Sandy Berger illegally removed four documents, hid them under a construction trailer for later retrieval, then cut three of the four with scissors upon returning to his office. He admitted to lying about it when first questioned by their officials, according to a December 20, 2006, report by Inspector General Paul Brachfeld.

We already knew that in September of 2005, Berger was sentenced to pay a $50,000 fine and complete 100 hours of community service for taking and destroying documents never meant to leave the Archives in October 2003. However, at the time of his plea bargain, much of this story was never reported, and most of us were unaware of just how premeditated had been his cloak and dagger exercises.

Well, now we know, but little of it is making the headlines or the airwaves. Why? Why is it that secret material failing to reach the 9/11 Commission never ignited explosions of press inquiry? He was chosen by Clinton to provide these after-action reports of the 2000 millennium terror plot to the Commission investigating the state of our intelligence on terror before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Wasn’t that beyond a conflict of interest? Why didn’t the Commission send someone not connected to the investigation?

And don’t embarrass yourself by even imagining that Berger, his attorney, and all of his apologists are to be taken seriously when they contend that the documents still exist in their entirety and were submitted to the Commission. As Virginia Republican Representative Tom Davis accurately pointed out when commenting to the Associated Press, “Working papers of National Security Council staff members are not inventoried by the Archives.” He added, “Consequently, there is no way to ever know if the 9/11 Commission received all required materials.”

Nobody on the Commission (or on the planet) can assert to have the full accounting of an original tally never known. Why?

Because if it wasn’t inventoried, you have no beginning number!

This all screams the question, “Why has the media allocated so little focus on this?” The normal order of things would suggest that we learn from our predecessors. While that remains true for most professions, the same cannot be said of the journalism community.

When debating a judicial nominee’s state of neutrality, one requisite is paramount: Does he have a greater allegiance to his vocation than he does his politics? When judges are meeting such standards, then both the liberal and conservative judge shall rule far more similarly to one another than would two fellow liberals or two fellow conservatives not meeting that requisite.

The average reporter also once had a stronger loyalty to his craft than his biases – perhaps the path to the good old days is through the future, and current journalism majors can lead us back to excellence.

Today however, the media’s five-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives (as was reported by the Pew Foundation in 2004) is having a deleterious impact on us all in that we’re only fully protected when the GOP commit the offense.

Don’t get me wrong, as a centrist I’m delighted with the media exposing Republican criminality. But why should citizens be more vulnerable to other charlatans simply because they are Democrats receiving less scrutiny from their brethren in the Fourth Estate?

Every once in a while a story of great magnitude arises in a way that provokes such little initial coverage that it effectively hides in plain sight. When this occurs, it’s either because the original news worthiness appears to be at a lower level of importance, or because those with direct and indirect vested interests have enough aggregate influence so as to play down the story in question.

The Watergate scandal is an example of the first; Sandy Berger removing and extinguishing protected records of national security exemplifies the second.

In the Watergate burglary fiasco that revealed President Nixon covering up his campaign’s attempt to steal papers from the Democrats, there were political operatives wielding their influence to conceal the event. Thankfully, those operatives were far outweighed by a press more interested in journalism than anyone else’s political agenda. Consequently, what was originally reported as a garden-variety breaking-and-entry would later be understood as a grotesque violation of public trust.

What happened to that kind of passionate investigative journalism? Sandy Berger stealing and destroying classified documents is a story with so many startling facts already in evidence, even the layman newshound should think to ask, “What else is being hidden and what are the motives?”

Why is robbing national security documents less important than robbing campaign documents?