When news broke last year that former national security advisor Sandy Berger was under investigation for removing several National Archives documents, conservatives quickly jumped to sinister conclusions. They claimed that Berger was trying to keep the documents from being seen by members of the 9/11 Commission.
Fox News host Brit Hume claimed that Berger was afraid the documents showed that President Clinton had been “too soft” on terrorists. The theory that Berger was “trying to cover either his tracks or Bill Clinton’s tracks” made “more sense than anything else,” Hume said. Likewise, William Kristol asserted that Berger was trying to steal the original copies of the documents. “It’s not correct to say that there are copies of what Sandy Berger took away elsewhere.”
And so went the attacks from prominent conservatives. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Berger had tried to “hide information” from the 9/11 Commission. Tom DeLay even likened Berger’s behavior to “third-rate burglary.”
Just one problem – the central claim of their argument turned out to be false. The papers that Sandy Berger removed were not originals at all. They were actually copies of a report that was reportedly spread widely around the administration when it was released in 1999. This explains why Justice Department investigators found that Berger “‘did not have an intent to hide any of the content of the documents’ or conceal facts from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”
The opposite is true in the case of the missing John Roberts documents. As the Washington Post stated today, “No duplicates of the folder’s contents were made before the lawyers’ review.” In other words, unlike the Berger case, the missing file may very well contain the sole original copies of some documents. And more importantly, unlike the Berger case, anyone interested in concealing the information in those documents could do so by stealing them.
So where are the right-wing super-sleuths now?