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Drowned out by Katrina, Berger gets away with it

By Frank Salvato
web posted September 19, 2005

Now that the vitriolic finger pointing has started to subside and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin have admitted that maybe, just maybe, there might be some substance to the assessment that the disaster response from their local and state governments was practically non-existent, we can revisit news that the mainstream media opted to bump from the limelight.

It was no surprise that the mainstream media chose to cover the events taking place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 24/7. It literally was the storm of the century, or at least the decade. The "if it bleeds it leads" mentality makes mainstream news outlets predictable. While there were many stories, both despicable and heroic, worth conveying to the public the aftermath of the hurricane stopped being "breaking news" when the typical viewer, after hours of repetitive coverage, became eligible for course credit in the science of flood rescue.

Inevitably, when all of the mainstream media is focused on "the big story," lesser events, or perhaps less dramatic events slip through the cracks. Many times this is a pity but sometimes those involved in the "lesser stories" breathe a sigh of relief that the media spotlight wasn't shining on their situations. Such was the case with Sandy Berger and the classified documents pilfered from the National Archives.

While America was preoccupied with the stories of widespread looting by people we can assume didn't vote for President Bush in the last election, inept local and state authorities who chose not to implement their well designed emergency management plans and hack politicians taking cheap shots at one of the most comprehensively coordinated federal disaster management efforts on record, Sandy "The Burglar" Berger was receiving a slap on the wrists for something an average American would have been sent to prison for.

If you recall, Berger, a former National Security Advisor under President Clinton, was arrested and charged with stealing classified documents and handwritten notes referencing the government's knowledge of terror threats to the United States. While he put some of the classified documents in a leather portfolio that he carried into and out of the National Archives and Records Administration Building in Washington DC, he stuffed other documents in his pants and jacket. He is on record as saying that his taking of the classified documents was an "honest mistake" made in preparation for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger leaves federal court on September 8
Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger leaves federal court on September 8

Of course, it is remarkable that a former National Security Advisor – a position that requires an intimate knowledge of how to handle classified documents – would consider stuffing them, as well as the personal handwritten notes that correspond with those documents, down his pants as an "honest mistake." Anyone worth their salt in Washington DC politics knows that an "honest mistake" as all encompassing as Berger's is about as rare as an intellectually stimulating conversation between William F. Buckley and Snoop Dog.

For his "honest mistake," Berger was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and to surrender his access to classified government materials for three years. He was also sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service.

The mainstream media, except for a very few publications, literally buried the story.

What should have the American people up in arms is not the lenient sentence that Berger received, but the fact that a former National Security Advisor would literally steal then destroy documents directly related to terrorism threats to our country while our country is engaged in a war against terrorists!

It is loathsome that the liberal left is playing politics with the war against terrorism. It truly exposes the narcissistic mentality of those politicians who would put their political agendas ahead of the safety, and in fact, the very existence of our country. What is worse yet is when shyster politicians commit crimes against our country while literally aiding the enemy in order to protect a former president's legacy and a current senator's political aspirations.

Sandy Berger is guilty of more than pilfering some inconsequential documents from the National Archives. He is guilty of putting his politics before his country. He is guilty of protecting a political legacy before protecting our troops in the battlefield. He is guilty of committing an obstruction of justice; sabotaging information directly related to the war against terrorism.

Although the judge in Berger's case went beyond the government's recommendation when imposing his sentence, his punishment falls short of the seriousness of his crime given the fact that al Qaeda terrorists are still threatening US cities and killing Americans all over the globe.

The fitting punishment for Berger's selling of his country down the river to protect a political legacy should have included a period of time where he was walking the halls of a federal prison asking, "Are those documents in your pants or are you just glad to see me?"

Frank Salvato is the managing editor for TheRant.us. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, socio-political education project. His pieces are regularly featured in Townhall.com. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and numerous radio shows. His pieces have been recognized by the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention and are periodically featured in The Washington Times as well as other national and international publications. He can be contacted at oped@therant.us Copyright © 2005 Frank Salvato

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