Colbert King:

Set aside Republican speculation that former Clinton national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger was trying to hide classified information from the Sept. 11 commission or that he had provided the material to the Kerry campaign. Do likewise with Democratic suspicions that the FBI's investigation of Berger was leaked to distract attention from the commission's report. Those concerns, all unproven, are partisan and secondary. Keep the focus where it belongs. Did Sandy Berger violate the rules regarding the protection of classified information entrusted to him, and if he did, will he be held accountable for his actions?


... But I do know that there are men and women in service to our nation who have paid a dear price for their mishandling of classified materials. They, too, were presumably known and loved by others. Nonetheless, their failure to properly safeguard sensitive information landed them in trouble with their government. Should Sandy Berger, because he is connected, be given a pass for taking classified materials out of the National Archives without permission? Should distraction by the cares of the world serve as an adequate defense for the violation of security procedures?


"Inadvertent" means not focusing the mind on the matter. Sources who tell The Post that archives officials witnessed Berger stuffing papers in his clothing may be of the view that the former national security adviser's mind was focused wonderfully on what he was doing. Sandy Berger denies walking off with classified stuff in his pants. But getting to the truth is, in fact, what this is all about.

At issue is not Berger's sense of injustice or embarrassment, or the gotcha game that is being played out by Republicans, or the Democratic establishment's willingness to give Berger the benefit of the doubt because he's one of their own.

The question is, was Sandy Berger's violation due to negligence -- at best -- or was it deliberate -- at worst? And should he be held accountable for his actions? Or is he too important and well-connected to be treated like everyone else? What's the answer, Washington?


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