Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Maybe you had to be there. I did research into the records of a couple of Civil War regiments at the National Archives in 1989, so maybe that's why the Washington Post account of Sandy Berger's "Trousergate" troubles strikes me as hilarious:

The FBI is investigating Clinton administration national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger's removal of classified documents from the National Archives, attorneys for Berger confirmed last night.

Berger inadvertently took copies of several versions of an after-action memo on the millennium bombing plot from the Archives last fall, said his attorney Lanny Breuer. The lawyer said one or more of the copies were then inadvertently discarded. ...

Berger discovered several versions of the classified memo in a leather portfolio he had taken to the Archives, his attorney said. He returned them and papers on which he had taken notes about materials he had reviewed. Those notes, Breuer said, were not supposed to have been removed from the Archives without review by employees there. Berger's actions, said Breuer, were the result of "sloppiness" and were unintentional.

Berger "inadvertently" stuffed "several" classified documents down his pants? (A detail the WaPo conveniently omits). I know he went in there intending to cover his ass, but I didn't think he meant it literally.

In all the time I've done historical research, I never had the urge to put it down my pants.

Then he "discovered" other documents in his book bag. Who could have put them there? The Little People?

The National Archives staff was a good deal more strict with me when I did my research, I can tell you. They kept track of every singe soldier's file I touched -- and well they should have. I had to go right to the top of the food chain to get permission to have more than one of them in front of me at a time.

The Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania, wher eI did the bulk of my research, never would have let Berger rip them off like that. They would have had his number. Archivists with valuables under their care can spot a thief. Hell, my high school librarians would have tackled him. Jimmy Snyder, the study hall troublemaker in 10th grade, used to stuff his German texbook down the front of his jeans and brazenly head out the library doors just for the thrill of watching the librarians spring into action and try to bust him for theft.

"Sloppiness" + "U.S. National Security Advisor in the years before 2001" = you do the math.