A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Records and Sandy Berger, again

For those of you who think that Sandy Berger's little transgression was, as Jack put it, "much to do about not much," let me point you to this article. In particular, I'd like to note the final paragraph, in which Weinstein says the following:
"The Archivist of the United States works for the American people, indifferent to partisanship, regardless of which political party dominates the Congress or the Executive branch of government. Therefore, the Archivist must display at all times a devotion to the laws and principles governing the responsibilities of his office. At all times, he serves as the designated custodian of America's essential 'records that defy the tooth of time.'"
Amen, brother. Think about it folks-- what brought Nixon down? The paper trail. Phone records, memos, deposits from the Committee to Reelect the President, and, of course, gaps in the tapes. No way the conspiracy gets traced all the way to Mitchell, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and, eventually, Nixon himself if there aren't records acting as the road map to the "smoking gun."

What's causing Tom DeLay all this trouble in the Senate these days? Questions over trips and other goodies DeLay received that were paid for by lobbyists' credit cards. Questions over money that was for his reelection fund that seem to have arrived in DeLay's personal accounts. Does any of that become an issue if there isn't a paper trail to follow? Probably not. Deniability is really hard to maintain when records clearly show otherwise.

So, tell me again why it's not a big deal that a former National Security Advisor was caught stealing classified documents from the National Archives, destroying them once he got home (which makes the "Oh, I took those by accident" defense a little hard to swallow, don't you think?), and then lying about the whole thing to Justice Department officials? If the person who erased those 18 minutes from the Nixon White House tapes had ever been caught and then let off with a slap on the wrist, would that have been no big deal? If someone had taken material related to Reagan's involvement with the Contras and Sandinistas and destroyed them, would that have been no big deal?

Records are a big deal. The higher up the bureaucratic foodchain you go, the bigger a deal they become, and there really aren't many fish bigger than classified documents from the administration of a former President. Berger should be rotting in jail, and it sets a horrible precedent that he is not.


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