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Context of 'July 19, 2004: News of Former National Security Adviser’s Document Theft Is Leaked to Press'

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Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to Bill Clinton, visits the National Archives to conduct a document review as Clinton’s representative to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. A junior staffer would usually perform such a document search, but the papers are so highly classified that Berger has to go himself. Berger is already worried that the archives may contain documents that can be used against him and the Clinton administration to attack it as having left the US vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Although he should use a secure reading room, where he would be monitored by a guard or camera, to review the documents, he is allowed to do so in the office of a senior archivist. He also keeps his cell phone, in breach of the rules. One of the boxes of documents he reviews contains files for former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and Berger will later steal copies of one such document (see July 18, 2003). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 1-5]

Entity Tags: National Archives and Records Administration, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to Bill Clinton, takes notes he has made on classified documents at the National Archives out of the archives. As the papers on which the notes are based are classified, the notes are also classified, even though they are about documents Berger saw during his time as national security adviser. Berger is at the archives to prepare for an interview with the 9/11 Commission, but he had previously visited them to prepare for discussions with the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (see May 30, 2002). As the proper security procedures are not followed, Berger is able to create a distraction and remove the top fifteen pages of the notes, leaving only two pages. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 6-7] Berger will later steal copies of a classified document from the archives (see September 2, 2003).

Entity Tags: National Archives and Records Administration, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The National Archives building.The National Archives building. [Source: Dan Smith]Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to Bill Clinton, steals a document he believes could be used against him and the Clinton administration from the National Archives. Berger is at the archives to prepare for an interview with the 9/11 Commission, but had previously visited them to prepare for discussions with the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (see May 30, 2002) and had improperly removed classified notes he had made on the documents (see July 18, 2003). The document he takes is an after-action report drafted by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke following a period around the millennium when the administration thought al-Qaeda might attack US interests. The report included 29 recommendations for government counterterrrorism programs, several of which were not implemented before Clinton left office. Although Berger thinks the Clinton administration took counterterrorism very seriously, he believes the document could be used against him. One of the workers at the archives sees Berger behaving suspiciously with the documents in a corridor, and alerts a superior. However, the documents are not cataloged, and the archives do not know what documents, if any, have been taken. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 7-8] Berger will be caught taking a document the next time he comes to the archives (see October 2, 2003).

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, National Archives and Records Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Members of staff at the National Archives find that Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to Bill Clinton, has stolen copies of an after-action report drafted by former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke from the archives. Their suspicions were aroused on a previous visit by Berger (see September 2, 2003), but before his fourth visit to view 9/11-related documents at the archives, they surreptitiously number the papers he is to be given in pencil, and he initially takes another two copies of the report, which he thinks could be damaging to him. Berger makes frequent trips to the toilet to conceal the stolen papers. During one of the trips, the archives’ staff examines the pile of documents and realizes what he has stolen. They print another copy of the stolen report and hand it to him, saying they think they forgot to give it to him in the first place. He says he needs time alone to make a private call—although a staff member monitors the phones and finds that no call is made from the office phone—and then makes another suspicious trip to the toilet to hide the document. Berger then goes outside the archives for a walk and, worried about taking the stolen papers and notes about other documents he should not have removed back inside the building, he hides them under a trailer on a nearby construction site. He returns to the construction site later that night to retrieve what he has hidden, then destroys three copies of the stolen memo, leaving himself with two copies and his own notes. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 250-252] The archives will confront Berger about the missing documents two days later (see October 4, 2003).

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, National Archives and Records Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, is phoned by a staffer from the National Archives, from which he has stolen copies of a document (see September 2, 2003 and October 2, 2003). The staffer says that three of the documents Berger reviewed are missing and, after Berger pretends to be indignant, threatens to call the National Security Council. Berger, who has stolen five copies of the document and destroyed three, then goes to his office to look for the remains of the destroyed copies, but cannot find them. He calls the archives and says that he has found two copies of the memo, trying to pass off his taking them as an innocent mistake. However, the archives then calls the National Security Council and the Justice Department, which launches an investigation into the theft. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 252-253]

Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, National Archives and Records Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sibel Edmonds testifies before the 9/11 Commission in a specially constructed “bug-proof” secure room for three and a half hours, describing in detail problems she witnessed while working as an FBI linguist (see, e.g., September 20, 2001 and After, (After September 14, 2001-October 2001), Early October 2001, (Late October 2001), (November 2001), and December 2, 2001). A month later, she tells the Independent: “I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily.… There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers (see April 2001).” [Independent, 4/2/2004] In its final report (see July 22, 2004), the 9/11 Commission will make no mention of the problems Edmonds witnessed with the FBI’s translation unit, save for a single footnote. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222; Edmonds, 8/1/2004] One month earlier, a reporter had asked one of the Democratic commissioners about the Edmonds case, and he replied, “It sounds like it’s too deep in the weeds for us to consider, we’re looking at broader issues.” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Sibel Edmonds

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shortly before the 9/11 Commission is due to release its final report (see July 22, 2004), Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “We believe.… that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, [between al-Qaeda and] Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq.” [Time, 7/16/2004] This is based on a review of NSA material performed by one commission staffer (see January-June 2004) and a day trip to NSA headquarters by a group of staffers to examine material there (see Between July 1 and July 17, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 155-7, 370-373] The US media immediately runs prominent stories on the Commission’s evidence regarding Iran and nearly completely ignores evidence regarding Pakistan. The Commission’s final report mentions that around ten of the hijackers passed through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001. At least some Iranian officials turned a blind eye to the passage of al-Qaeda agents, but there was no evidence that the Iranian government had any foreknowledge or involvement in the 9/11 plot (see Mid-July 2004). [Time, 7/16/2004; Reuters, 7/18/2004] In the wake of these findings, President Bush states of Iran, “As to direct connections with September 11, we’re digging into the facts to determine if there was one.” This puts Bush at odds with his own CIA, which has seen no Iran-9/11 ties. [Los Angeles Times, 7/20/2004] Bush has long considered Iran part of his “axis of evil,” and there has been talk of the US attacking or overthrowing the Iranian government. [Reuters, 7/18/2004] Provocative articles appear, such as one in the Daily Telegraph titled, “Now America Accuses Iran of Complicity in World Trade Center Attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/18/2004] Yet, while this information on Iran makes front page news in most major newspapers, evidence of a much stronger connection between Pakistan and 9/11 is nearly completely ignored. For instance, only UPI reports on a document suggesting high-level Pakistani involvement in the 9/11 attacks that is revealed this same week. [United Press International, 7/22/2004] Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission’s final report will contain almost nothing on Pakistan’s ties to al-Qaeda, despite evidence given to the Commission that, according to one commissioner speaking to the Los Angeles Times, showed that Pakistan was “up to their eyeballs” in intrigue with al-Qaeda. [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Pakistan, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Iran, 9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, 2004 Elections

News of a document theft from the National Archives by Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser in the Clinton administration, is leaked to the press. Berger took copies of a document because he thought it might be used against either himself or Clinton, but was caught by archives staffers (see September 2, 2003 and October 2, 2003). He has been under investigation by the Justice Department for several months. The leak comes several days before the 9/11 Commission is due to publish its final report (see July 22, 2004), and the commissioners and their staff assume that that the news is leaked by the White House, because it is “eager to suggest that Berger’s acts had deprived the 9/11 Commission of information that might have embarrassed him and the Clinton administration.” Berger immediately steps down as an adviser to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 413-414]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections

The 9/11 Commission’s final report.
The 9/11 Commission’s final report. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 9/11 Commission completes its work and releases its final report. They blame incompetence for the reason why the US government did not prevent the attack. The Washington Post summarizes the report, “The US government was utterly unprepared on Sept. 11, 2001, to protect the American people from al-Qaeda terrorists.” [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] The report itself states, “We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] The Washington Post reports, “Though openly dreaded for months by many Republicans and quietly feared by the White House, the report was much gentler on the Bush administration than they feared. Rather than focus criticism on the Bush administration, the commission spread the blame broadly and evenly across two administrations, the FBI, and Congress.” [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] More to the point, as former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke notes in a New York Times editorial, “Honorable Commission, Toothless Report,” because the commission wanted a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, “it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions.” [New York Times, 7/25/2004] The Washington Post comments, “In many respects, the panel’s work has been closer to the fact-finding, conspiracy-debunking Warren Commission of the mid-1960s, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, than to the reform-oriented Church Commission, which exposed assassination plots and CIA abuses during the mid-1970s.” [Washington Post, 7/18/2004]

Entity Tags: John F. Kennedy, Richard A. Clarke, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Church Commission, 9/11 Commission, US Congress, Warren Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, 2004 Elections

Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, pleads guilty to stealing copies of a memo from the National Archives. Berger took the papers because he thought they might be used against him, but was caught by the archives staff (see September 2, 2003 and October 2, 2003). He pleads guilty to the misdemeanor of “unauthorized removal and retention of classified material” and to mishandling classified documents. Although Berger could be sent to prison for a year, the Justice Department only asks for a $10,000 fine, and does not even request that he be stripped of his security clearance. The judge rejects this as too lenient, imposes a $50,000 fine, and orders Berger to give up his security clearance for three years. Berger says: “My actions… were wrong. They were foolish, I deeply regret them.… I let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material.” Author Philip Shenon will write, “It is widely believed in Washington legal circles that [Berger’s lawyer] got his client an extraordinarily lenient deal from the Justice Department.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 414, 425]

Entity Tags: Philip Shenon, US Department of Justice, Sandy Berger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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