From a reader:
Back in the very early 80s, I worked for a short while in the vault in the
Northrop engineering library in El Segundo, CA. Sometimes engineers screwed
up and threw Secret or Top Secret files, papers, reports into “burn barrels”
which were only supposed to be used for Confidential (low level gov’t
clearance) or Northrop Private (personal payroll & health insurance stuff).
Despite having been briefed & re-briefed on this stuff, and presumably
despite their stratospheric I.Q.s, they somehow didn’t get the concept that
every Top Secret document had a control number, and could only be destroyed
by authorized people who did all the paperwork to document the destruction.
When confronted regarding their mistake, they invariably went into
free-fall panic, especially if they were foreign-born. The usual procedure
after a screw-up was that the person responsible was team interviewed
(always intimidating) and of course the incident would be noted in their
Other than the burn-barrel mistake, another situation which came up
frequently was the reassignment of personnel from project to project, with
Secret and Top Secret documents checked out by former team members turning
up missing when the project ended sometimes years later.
I don’t buy Sandy Berger’s story at all. I was required to go through
Secret and Top Secret documents page by page to make sure no pages were
missing. Each paragraph was marked as to the material contained in that
paragraph (Confidential, Secret, Top Secret), and it was also necessary to
check the classification of each and every paragraph to make sure that the
classification of the document as a whole represented the highest
classification of any paragraph within the document.
Nobody who worked with classified documents would think that he could take
documents out of a secured room without SIGNING for them in the presence of
the document custodian for that room. Nobody with familiarity with Top
Secret documents would ever assume that there were lots of extra copies of
those documents, and that if the original were lost, it could easily be
replaced. It is not permitted to make any photocopy of any Top Secret
document, since that would obviously destroy the utility of assigning a
unique number to each copy.
The fact that the man was stuffing papers down his pants and into his socks
should tell you all you need to know about mens rea. He knew that if he
asked permission to take ANY piece of paper from that room that the answer
would be no. And what’s worse from my point of view, he didn’t give a damn
if the document custodian took the blame when documents came up missing.
Screw the little people. This guy deserves to be in prison far more than
Chuck Colson ever did.
Don’t use my name. Love your stuff.