The Washington Post advances the Sandy Berger scandal with a double byline story by John Harris and Susan Schmidt: “Archives staff was suspicious of Berger.” Basic facts remain cloudy and disputed, but this is an important story.
The Post reports that when Berger arrived at the National Archives for his second visit on October 2, staff had coded the documents that Berger requested for review:
They devised a coding system and marked the documents they knew Berger was interested in canvassing, and watched him carefully. They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. At one point an Archives employee even handed Berger a coded draft and asked whether he was sure he had seen it.
At the end of the day, Archives employees determined that that draft and all four or five other versions of the millennium memo had disappeared from the files, this source said.
This source and another government official said that archivists gave Berger use of a special room for reviewing the documents. He was examining the documents to recommend to the Bush administration which papers should be released to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said that employees closely monitor anyone cleared to review classified presidential materials.
The contradictions over essential facts, such as when Berger was first alerted to missing documents, have characterized the controversy this week.
Sources have told The Washington Post, and other news organizations, that Berger was witnessed stuffing papers into his clothing. Through attorneys and spokesmen, Berger has denied doing that.
The story also reports that, according to Berger’s lawyer, Berger had taken 40 to 50 pages of his notes on the documents during three visits to the archives beginning in July. The story states flatly that Berger turned the notes over to the archives upon request, but that statement too appears to derive solely from Berger’s attorney.
What is the status of the criminal investigation? Has evidence been submitted to a grand jury? If the investigation has gone on for a year, shouldn’t it be wrapped up by now? I have not seen a news story that even touched on the status of the investigation.
And what are we to make of the known facts? In his Weekly Standard column, Hugh Hewitt provides the kind of analysis to the apparently known facts that this story badly needs: “The gap.” Stay tuned.