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April 11, 2005

Sandy Berger's Scissors


by Michael Scheuer

Junk food and junk laws, neither are good for you. Unfortunately for Americans, an ever increasing number of junk laws are paving our way to national disaster. What are junk laws? They are laws passed by the Congress and then ignored; to wit, unenforced immigration laws, unregulated borders, and dual citizens voting in U.S. and foreign elections. Then there are those Constitutional mandates that have been transformed into junk law. For example, the Congress has unconstitutionally delegated to the president its exclusive prerogative to declare war. As a result, our children in the military are being killed and our country's resources dissipated on the basis of one man's decision, rather than by the informed consent witnessed by a formal, public, and recorded vote of the majority of the people's representatives, as the Founders required.

Another law, this one protecting classified intelligence from deliberate mishandling, was turned to junk last week. Mr. Samuel Berger, Mr. Clinton's National Security Adviser, pleaded guilty to stealing classified intelligence documents from the National Archives, taking them home, and cutting them up with scissors. What Mr. Berger had previously described as an inadvertent mistake is now, according to the same gentlemen, better described as the deliberate theft and destruction of classified documents pertinent to how the Clinton administration addressed or failed to address the al-Qaeda threat. In sum, the papers secreted in his shoes, BVDs, and pockets were not a surprise discovery when he got home and undressed. No, Mr. Berger now acknowledges that he had hidden them on his person, apparently with the joys of scissoring them into a mound of destroyed evidence foremost in his mind.

Well, Department of Justice officials last week delivered firm justice to Mr. Berger in the form of a virtually pain-free plea bargain. In doing so, they junked a law meant to protect U.S. security, at least insofar as it is to be applied to America's political aristocracy. Mr. Berger pleads guilty to that about which he previously lied to the American people, the 9/11 Commission, and the families of the 9/11 dead. In turn, he is punished with a fine and a three-year ban from holding a security clearance. In plainer terms, Mr. Burger ponies up a month's pin money and gets his clearances back just in time to retake a high public office of trust if a Democrat is elected president in 2008. Boy, that'll teach 'im.

Alongside the new intelligence report and the Pope's death, the junkifying of another federal law for Mr. Berger's benefit seems like small beer. Still, can Americans be sure that the documents Mr. Berger snipped into oblivion were not vital pieces of the 9/11 puzzle, notwithstanding the Kean-Hamilton crew's blithely mindless assertion that they are confident they saw all pertinent documents, though they cannot know what papers fell victim to Mr. Berger's blades? More importantly, can Americans take comfort in a legal system that bends federal law for a self-confessed liar and thief, thereby preserving that political aristocrat's ability to return to an office of public trust, even after deliberately betraying the trust he swore to protect classified intelligence documents?

The answer to both questions is no, Americans can take no comfort from the proliferation of junk laws. If forced to choose, they should take junk food over junk law. For while the former may kill them over time, the later will kill their country far more quickly.

 

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Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.

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