Friday, April 01, 2005

Times on Berger, LA police scandal, and UN, The Independent notes two British journalists arrested for covering Zimbawe's elections

Question for the day, is Sandy Berger entering a plea deal to put the incident behind him or is he Sticky Fingers Berger?

Kara e-mailed wondering how this would play out elsewhere. I have no idea what others will say. Many defended him at the time, including myself (this was before The Common Ills went up). However, if he's pleading guilty, that's different than operating under the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

Kara writes that this "is an important issue." I couldn't agree more. To reference the story we're discussing, Eric Lichtblau's "Ex-Clinton Adviser to Admit Taking Classified Papers" from this morning's New York Times.

The material involved a classified assessment of terrorist threats in 2000, which Mr. Berger was reviewing in his role as the Clinton administration's point man in providing material to the independent commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Officials with the Archives and the Sept. 11 commission ultimately determined that despite the incident, the commission had access to all the material needed in its work.
When the issue surfaced last year, Mr. Berger insisted that he had removed the classified material inadvertently. But in the plea agreement reached with prosecutors, he is expected to admit that he intentionally removed copies of five classified documents, destroyed three and misled staff members at the National Archives when confronted about it, according to an associate of Mr. Berger's who is involved in his defense but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plea has not been formalized in court.

Kara: I don't care what his reasons were or what someone Clintonista rushes in to offer as defense. If he did it, if he removed material the 9-11 commission was intending to review, it doesn't matter to me if he returned it or if "ultimately" the commission "determined" they had all the material they needed.

Agreed. That was an investigation, not the type we needed, but all we've gotten thus far. If he removed materially intentionally in the midst of an investigation, serious issues are raised.

Again, he may be copping a plea to put the matter behind him. I don't know. But if he does indeed plead guilty, there are questions that he needs to answer. Maybe he'll pull a Mad Maddie and say he's answered that question thousands of time and take offense when anyone asks it, but the reality is an investigation was ongoing and if he's pleading that he intentionally removed papers (for whatever personal reason) there's really no defense for that.

The paper notes (rumor, at this point, and people should remember that as we wait to see what happens):

On Sept. 2, 2003, in a daylong review of documents, Mr. Berger took a copy of a lengthy White House "after-action" report that he had commissioned to assess the government's performance in responding to the so-called millennium terrorist threat before New Year's 2000, and he placed the document in his pocket, the associate said. A month later, in another Archives session, he removed four copies of other versions of the report, the associate said.
Mr. Berger's intent, the associate said, was to compare the different versions of the 2000 report side by side and trace changes.

The paper also wonders what the future will hold for him (the usual he-looks-forward-to-putting-this-behind-him is offered).

Berger may have truly been tired. He may have been uncomfortable reviewing the documents in the designated space. While that may be the case and that may be understandable, the fact remains that it was in the midst of an investigation.

I have no desire to trash Berger and I hope the rumors are false . If they're true, he has questions to answer and there's no "moving on" until it's dealt with. That's not meant to imply that he should be crucified but that is to say that if he wants to continue his career in the public sector, he needs to answer tough questions. In a perfect world, he'd go on Democracy Now! and answer questions for Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez. Since I don't see that happening, possibly he could go on Nightline before Ted Koppel steps down.

John M. Broder's "Los Angeles Paying Victims $70 Million for Police Graft" was cited in an e-mail this morning by Marcia who pointed out that she heard about it and a LA Times article on the story, yesterday on Democracy Now!. From the Times' article:

The city has settled, at a cost of almost $70 million, nearly all of more than 200 lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the worst corruption scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department's recent history, officials said Thursday.
A handful of cases remain from the episode, the so-called Rampart scandal, which erupted in 1999 when an officer assigned to an antigang unit in the city's Rampart Division blew the whistle on fellow officers. They were accused of framing some of their victims, robbing suspects and engaging in a pervasive pattern of brutality and other misconduct.
[. . .]
More than 100 criminal convictions were overturned as a result of an investigation into the Rampart Division, and more than a dozen officers resigned or were dismissed. The scandal further tarnished the reputation of a department that many in African-American and Latino neighborhoods already considered a hostile occupying force. It also led directly to a consent decree with the Justice Department that provided for federal monitoring of arrests to track racial profiling and for more stringent civilian oversight of the police.

Here's the Democracy Now! item from yesterday:

Los Angeles Pays $70 Million in Police Abuse SettlementsThe city of Los Angeles is expected to announce today it will end up paying a total $70 million in settlements to citizens who were abused by the police as part as what is known as the Rampart Division police scandal. Over the past five years the city has been sued more than 200 times for police mistreatment and abuse. The Rampart scandal began in September 1999 when Officer Rafael Perez pleaded guilty to charges that he had stolen three kilos of cocaine from LAPD evidence facilities. In exchange for a five-year sentence, he promised to tell authorities about a case in 1996 in which he and his partner shot a young man then planted a gun on him to justify the shooting. Attorney Gregory Yates, who represented clients who were abused, said he was disappointed that none of the major lawsuits went to trial in front of a jury. A trial, he said, "would have exposed how massive and widespread the corruption was."

Also note Warren Hoge's "U.N. Votes to Send Any Sudan War Crime Suspects to World Court:"

The Security Council voted Thursday night to send any war crimes suspects from the Darfur region of Sudan to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, after the United States obtained amendments to exempt Americans from the tribunal's jurisdiction.
The vote of the 15-member Council was 11 in favor, with four abstentions- Algeria, Brazil, China and the United States.

The Times also reports on Zimbabwe's elections but after two "democracy" stories that have had "addendum" stories tacked on to them after about the U.S.'s influence in the region, we'll look elsewhere for reporting on Zimbabwe's elections. So we'll turn to The Independent and highlight Meera Selva's "Zimbabweans queue to vote in 'rigged' poll." From that article:

The European Union has already dismissed the election as fraudulent, but Mr Mugabe has the support of South African election observers, who are expected to rule that the vote is free and fair.
[. . .]
Yesterday, some voters complained that election officials, all chosen by the government, had followed them into the voting booth. MDC officials had urged voters to remain at the polling stations after voting to watch the observers, but the government said anyone lingering would be arrested. The results, expected today, are likely to show that Zanu-PF increased its majority in parliament. Mr Mugabe is keen to win a two-thirds majority, which will allow him to amend the constitution and create an un-elected senate, appointed by the President. Critics say the new chamber, which will have the power to scrutinise proposed legislation, will allow Mr Mugabe to bypass parliament.
Archbishop Pius Ncube, whose see is in the MDC heartland of Bulawayo, caused an outcry when he said the election was fixed and the only way Zimbabweans could oust Mr Mugabe was through a "non-violent popular uprising". Yesterday, he said that Zanu-PF would only win 40 per cent of the vote if the election were truly fair.

Also pay attention to this note at the end of the article:

* Two British journalists have been arrested while covering the election. Toby Harnden, The Sunday Telegraph's chief foreign correspondent, and Julian Simmonds, its photographer, were at a polling station in a primary school near Norton, south of Harare, early in the afternoon, when they were taken into custody.

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