The Bergerian Gambit

Punditom and Blogdom alike are in an uproar over Sandy Berger’s stealing of a series of drafts of the after action report on the Millenium plot and subsequent “losing” some of the document pages. While various newspapers have also weighed in, this line from the Washington Post article points to my theory on why Berger took such a large chance in taking and “losing” some of the documents.

They knew he was interested in all the versions of the millennium review, some of which bore handwritten notes from Clinton-era officials who had reviewed them. [Emphasis added]

Anyone who has been part of a document review process knows that the comments and notes on the document are often more revealing than the document itself and the notes and subsequent revisions reveal a lot about the underlying thinking and arguments that shape the document, as well as exposing possible concerns. I believe it wasn’t the documents that Berger was interested in, but the comments. Some of those comments had to be significant enough to for Berger to take the chance he did. It was one thing to take the papers but quite another to “lose” some of them them (read here destroy or hold hostage for later gain). It would be interesting to see exactly what pages are missing and what material was covered. While it is impossible to know what was written on them or who wrote it, knowing what was being presented could at least focus the questioning of Mr. Berger.

Now before anyone thinks this is unique and only Democrats would do something like this (taking classified documents), read this revealing post by Discriminations on how Henry Kissinger removed significant classified foreign policy material after leaving office. He makes Sandy Berger look like a penny ante pick pocket.

[Update] The more I think about it the more I conclude that the other pages taken (other than those that ended up missing) and later were returned were part of a calculated obfuscation for the those that disappeared. The real question is, as I noted before, whether the missing pages were destroyed or held in abeyance for later leverage (read political blackmail or self-protection). My money is on the second option.