When you write commentary, as we do, you are generally dependent on reasonably accurate news reporting. When the facts of a story bounce around–which is not unusual–you are left commenting on a moving target.
A good case in point is the mystery surrounding Sandy Berger’s guilty plea. This morning, the Wall Street Journal scolded conservatives for perpetuating “misinformation” about the Sandy Berger case, and suggested that in reality, Berger did little or nothing wrong:
The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that’s simply an “urban myth,” prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was “so inaccurate as to be laughable.” In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror “after-action” report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.
“Those documents, emphatically, without doubt–I reviewed them myself–don’t have notations on them,” Mr. Hillman tells us. Further, “there is no evidence after comprehensive investigation to suggest he took anything other than the five documents at issue and they didn’t have notes.” Mr. Berger’s sentencing is scheduled for July, and Mr. Hillman assures us Justice’s sentencing memo will lay out the facts and “make sure Mr. Berger explains what he did and why he did it.”
Now, Mr. Hillman ought to know the facts of his case. But it is impossible to square his account with reports published by, for example, the Washington Post–hardly a conservative source. As we have noted, the Post reported:
Berger’s associates said yesterday he believes that closure is near on what has been an embarrassing episode during which he repeatedly misled people about what happened during two visits to the National Archives in September and October 2003.
Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business.
Archives officials have said previously that Berger had copies only, and that no original documents were lost. It remains unclear whether Berger knew that, or why he destroyed three versions of a document but left two other versions intact. Officials have said the five versions were largely similar, but contained slight variations as the after-action report moved around different agencies of the executive branch.
I don’t see how this can be squared with what Hillman is now telling us. Why would Berger remove five identical copies of the same report, shred three of them with a pair of scissors, and return the other two to the archives? And why, as he has now admitted, would he lie about such conduct? And, if Berger shredded three of the copies, how can Hiillman have seen them to verify that they contained no notes? If Hillman’s current account is correct, Berger sounds like a candidate for a psychiatric ward, not for Secretary of State.
Hillman says the truth will come out when Berger is sentenced. Let’s hope so. For now, consider me unconvinced. And what’s with the Journal’s recent habit of unfairly blasting conservatives in unsigned editorials?