The New York Times does an absolutely disgraceful job of spinning the Sandy Berger story. For those not paying attention, Berger, the former Clinton National Security Advisor, purloined classified documents that were supposed to have been reviewed by the 9-11 Commission. The Times story, which is here, has two central points. First, that Berger's "mishandling of the documents" was "inadvertent," and second, that this is all just partisan politics as usual.
For example, the story takes great pains to tell us (and tell us again) about how accidental this all was:
Mr. Berger was not immediately available for comment on the Republican remarks. However, he said Monday night that the documents had been taken inadvertently.and
Mr. Berger inadvertently removed at least two slightly different versions of a memo critiquing how the government handled national intelligence and security issues before the millennium celebration in December 1999, as well as personal notes he had taken on classified documents, Mr. Breuer said Monday night.and
"In the course of reviewing over several days thousands of pages of documents on behalf of the Clinton administration in connection with requests by the 9/11 Commission, I inadvertently took a few documents from the Archives," Mr. Berger himself said in a statement Monday.
Now at this point in the Times story, anyone relying on this august publication for actual news or anything would be unaware that Mr. Berger had managed his "inadvertent" "mishandling" of these classified documents by stuffing them down his pants to sneak them past security. This comes from sources such as Berger's own lawyer and National Archive guards, as reported by more reputable news sources.
Now, maybe pointing out that Berger was hiding classified documents in his trousers would have cut against his claims of inadvertence, but the Times does not present this version of events until the eighteenth paragraph. And even then the only attribution to the claim is from "Republican senators":
The affair took on a slightly comic note today, as Republican senators said Mr. Berger had apparently put some papers in his trousers.
The Times story never gives any other sources for this than those evil Republicans.
And the Times also presents this as a purely political matter. Readers are told in the second paragraph that "'Mr. Berger does not want any issue surrounding the 9/11 commission to be used for partisan purposes,'" and in the third paragraph that this whole thing was brought to public attention by those pesky Republicans:
The decision to step aside came after a day in which Republicans zeroed in on the disclosure that Mr. Berger, who was President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, removed classified documents from the National Archives last year.Its all just hard-ball politics:
Mr. Berger, no stranger to the knees and elbows of Washington, apparently bowed to the political reality that "if you have to explain it, don't bother."
At this point the Times still hasn't bothered to tell any of its readers that Berger is the subject of a criminal investigation, which doesn't come until seventeen paragraphs into the story (and the Times is wrong about the meaning of a "target and a "subject" of the investigation too, but oh well . . . ).
Another thing. Mickey Kaus points out that at first the Times tried to deal with the story by burying it on page A-16:
A-16: Even cynical New York Times-bashers must be amazed that that is where the paper ran the news of the Sandy Berger criminal investigation. ... I guess they wouldn't want to bump that late-breaking piece on untucked shirttails from the front page.
The "it was all a big mistake and anyway its the Republican's fault" version was only after the story would not go away.
And yet another thing. Anyone notice that the NYT story doesn't inform the readers that Berger's home was searched by the FBI? The FBI searching the home of a former National Security Advisor isn't news?