The Sandy Berger Experiment: Bush Official Destroyed 9/11 Documents
Former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was accused of the theft and destruction of classified materials related to 9/11.
In 2003, Rice spent several days reviewing classified materials in the National Archives, prior to a deposition before the 9/11 Commission. She allegedly removed material related to the Bush administration's activities leading up to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. She later admitted to destroying the documents.
During a visit to the Archives to review 9/11 material, she took a break outside without an escort. She had placed four documents in her purse. She then was said to have slid the documents under a construction trailer; later, she retrieved the material from the construction site.
When officials from the National Archive realized that some documents were missing, they called Rice at her office.
Aware that mere possession of the documents could incriminate her, she shredded the classified material and placed it in the trash.
Rice had access to National Security Council (NSC) numbered documents, printed copies of e-mails, and staff member office files (SMOFs). The SMOFs contain working papers of NSC staff members, including Rice, and their content is not inventoried by the Archives at the document level. The SMOFs given to Rice during her first two visits contained only original documents.
Therefore, there appears to be no way to determine whether original documents related directly to the 9/11 Commission's investigation were stolen or destroyed.
Once this shocking news broke, the media piled on. The New York Times ran a series of nine straight, "above-the-fold" front page stories on the Rice scandal and how the documents could have served as evidence of the Bush administration's prior knowledge of 9/11.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer devoted an entire week of shows to the scandal, filming his show in front of the National Archives, and interviewing noted experts Paul Begala, Jack Cafferty, and James Carville.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also pilloried the Bush administration, accusing the president of advance knowledge of 9/11 and a subsequent coverup. In a series of shows captioned, "What did Bush know about 9/11 - and when did he know it?", Olbermann began a campaign to have Bush impeached over the incident. He stated that the destruction of the documents, "cast a dark shadow over everything that this administration has ever done."
The Democratic leadership in Congress also hammered the Bush administration. They demanded a harsh prosecution of Rice, noting that a typical sentence for the destruction or theft of classified documents was in the range of ten to twenty years.
Democrats also formed a committee to explore the impeachment of the President.
As expected, the talk shows ran wild with the story. David Letterman ran two top-ten lists on the topic over the course of a single week. One centered around a John Kerry guest appearance. Kerry read the "Top Ten Documents that the Bush administration 'Lost' ".
I'm very, very sorry. I got part of this story wrong. It wasn't Condoleeza Rice and the Bush administration. It was actually Sandy Berger and the Clinton administration. My mistake. Never mind.
Amazing how a party affiliation impacts news coverage and political sensibilities, eh?
Just one more thought on this whole matter.
In the original report (PDF), Berger admitted stealing "four documents, all versions of the MAAR" (Millenium After Action Review - described on page 7 of the report).
What no one in the mainstream media is asking is: why would Berger would take four copies of the same MAAR document? And why is the media downplaying the possibility that original documents were also stolen or destroyed?
Oh, that's right. Berger's a Democrat. Sorry, forget I asked.
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