Tuesday, July 20, 2004

How Not to Keep a Secret

Captain's Quarters is exactly right about Sandy Berger's supposedly inadvertent removal of classified documents from the National Archives:
Perhaps [Berger's] explanation will fly for those who have never worked around classified documents, but since I spent three years producing such material, I can tell you that it's impossible to "inadvertently" take or destroy them. For one thing, such documents are required to have covers -- bright covers in primary colors that indicate their level of classification. Each sheet of paper is required to have the classification level of the page (each page may be classified differently) at the top and bottom of each side of the paper. Documents with higher classifications are numbered, and each copy is tracked with an access log, and nowadays I suppose they're tracking them by computers.

Under these rules, it's difficult to see how anyone could "inadvertently" mix up handwritten notes with classified documents, especially when sticking them into one's jacket and pants.
Moreover, Sandy Berger -- of all people -- should know that you don't just make notes of classified information and blithely stuff the notes in your jacket and trousers. Notes of classified information are classified and must be marked and handled properly. Unless Berger had access to an authorized storage facility, and approval to take the classified notes to that facility, he had no business walking out the the National Archives with classified notes. You don't simply take them home and stuff them in a desk drawer.

This smells worse than last week's garbage.