by Gary D. Halbert May 8, 2007 Introduction If you have read this weekly E-Letter for long, you know that I have more than a passing interest in politics. As a conservative, I follow politics closely, as apparently most of my regular readers do as well, based on our readership rates week in and week out. For reasons we do not understand, my political commentaries tend to get more readers than my investment letters. Go figure. Anyway, this week I have decided to chronicle the political crimes committed in recent years by former President Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, and current Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Scooter Libby. Both men were convicted of wrongdoing, but were their respective punishments commensurate with their crimes? Media coverage of Sandy Berger stealing classified documents from the National Archives, and his subsequent plea bargain and punishment, have long been forgotten by most Americans because the liberal media chose largely to ignore this national travesty. To dig into it deeply would risk implications for Bill Clinton, the media's darling. Scooter Libby's troubles, on the other hand, were front-page news often because he worked for the dreaded George W. Bush administration. Unlike Sandy Berger who got only a fine, community service and a loss of his security clearance for a mere three years for his crimes, Scooter Libby will very likely be going to prison for several years as a result of his crime, unless his fate is overturned on appeal later this year or next. In this issue of Forecasts & Trends E-Letter, we will look at the latest revelations in the Sandy Berger/Scooter Libby scandals, what crimes they committed, how they were exposed (as best we know) and what their criminal penalties were, or are likely to be in the case of Libby. You can reach your own opinion, as always, but I think most readers will agree with me that Sandy Berger got off with a slap on the wrist for much more serious crimes involving national security, while Libby is likely facing several years in prison for a questionable crime that threatened no one, much less our national security... Let's get started. Sandy Berger's Theft At The National Archives First, who is Sandy Berger? Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger is a Harvard Law School graduate who has been an active liberal Democrat during his adult career. He was a distinguished public servant who worked as National Security Advisor for Bill Clinton in 1997-2001 and in various Clinton administration positions prior to that (he and Clinton were very close). He worked in the Carter administration before that, and in various State Department positions in between. At the end of Clinton's second term, Berger left government life to become chairman of an international advisory firm that reportedly runs a large investment fund. Fast-forward to the crime, or should I say crimes, as there were several that Mr. Berger has admitted to. But where to begin? Perhaps we should start with the so-called "9/11 Commission" which was created by President Bush in late 2002 to investigate the terror attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Well before the 9/11 Commission actually came into being, former president Bill Clinton authorized Sandy Berger to be his representative to the Commission in a letter dated April 12, 2002 according to the National Archives and Records Administration. This letter from Clinton granted Berger access to the National Archives for purposes of reviewing classified documents and representing the former president and himself before the Commission. During 2003, Berger made several visits to the National Archives. As we now know, Berger stole several top-secret, classified documents from the Archives that had to do with Clinton administration preparations for the terrorist threats associated with the run-up to New Year's Eve on December 31, 1999 just before the "New Millennium." We also now know that Berger destroyed some of these documents. He pled guilty to doing so in federal court. The initial questions are obvious: 1) Why would a career government veteran and former National Security Advisor risk everything, including prison, to steal numerous classified documents from the National Archives; 2) What did he need to cover up; and 3) Perhaps most importantly, who put him up to it? Can you think of anyone other than Bill Clinton? Who else could ask a career politician to risk going to jail? But I'm getting ahead of myself. How Berger Finally Got Caught After Berger's initial visits to the Archives, officials there became suspicious of his motives. Berger would take documents from files and request to be given a private room, supposedly so that he could make secure phone calls. He also reportedly went to the men's room very frequently, and Archives officials suspected he might have taken classified documents with him. Their concerns became so serious that on his last two visits, Archives officials placed secret numbers on documents before giving them to Berger. This was the clincher as he stole some of the secretly numbered documents. On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the US Justice Department was investigating Berger for unlawfully mishandling classified documents in October 2003, by removing them from a National Archives'reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents we know Berger stole were five classified copies covering a report commissioned by Richard Clarke, a senior National Security Council anti-terrorism officer in the Clinton administration. Clark's report that Berger stole covered internal assessments of the Clinton administration's handling of the 2000 Millennium terrorist attack threats. When initially questioned by authorities, Berger reported that the removal of the top-secret documents in his attache-case and classified handwritten notes in his jacket and pants pockets was accidental. Later, in a guilty plea, Berger admitted not only to deliberately removing the five documents, but also to destroying three of them (cut up with scissors and trashed). Two of the copies were eventually recovered by DOJ investigators and returned to the archives. Berger eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material on April 1, 2005. Under a plea agreement, US attorneys recommended a fine of $10,000 and a loss of his security clearance for three years. However, on September 8, 2005, US Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson increased the fine to $50,000 at Berger's sentencing. Robinson stated, "The court finds the fine [recommended by government prosecutors] is inadequate because it doesn't reflect the seriousness of the offense." Berger was also ordered to serve two years of probation and to perform 100 hours of community service. No jail time. Critics suggest Berger destroyed primary evidence revealing anti-terrorism policies and actions, and that his motive was to permanently erase Clinton administration pre-9/11 mistakes from the public record. But in the end, two versions of the report were handed over by Berger and are now back on file in the Archives. Case closed? Yes, the case is officially closed, but that is not the end of the story. Most media reports of the Berger theft concluded that because two of the five stolen documents were recovered, and they were supposedly subsequent drafts of the documents Berger destroyed, no classified information was lost, or at least very little. However, on Berger's first two visits to the Archives, prior to any suspicion, he was allowed to review highly confidential material that was not fully documented, photocopied or catalogued at the individual item level. Only Mr. Berger knows what transpired on his first two visits, when he reviewed collections of confidential memos, e-mails, and handwritten notes, including materials taken from counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke's office. Again, what could possibly have been in those classified documents that would have persuaded a life-long public servant, and lawyer, to risk everything - including a possible prison term - to steal them from the National Archives? And who put him up to it? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count! Oh, and one last thing. Sandy Berger lost his national security clearance for three years. Guess what? The three years is up in 2008. That means he will have all his clearances back next year, just in time should Hillary Clinton be our next president. Don't be at all surprised, if that is the case, to see Sandy Berger in another high-level national security position in a Hillary Clinton administration. He took the fall, so payback time may well be in order!