Daschle suspicious of timing on Berger leaks

Published July 20, 2004 11:04PM (EDT)

Two days before the final 9/11 report is released, full of damaging details for the Bush administration, and less than a week before the Democratic convention begins, there's a firestorm afoot over how and why Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger walked away from the National Archives last year with classified documents. The investigation started last October, and at least one leading Democrat is suspicious of why we're learning about it now: "I do think the timing is very curious, given this has been under way now for this long," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "Somebody leaked it, obviously, with intent, I think, to do damage to Mr. Berger, and I think that's unfortunate."

Berger says the removal of documents was inadvertent, but Republicans suspect worse, and have lots of details to play with, including leaks from "law enforcement sources" that Berger stuffed papers into his jacket, pants and socks. Until this afternoon, Berger was a campaign advisor to John Kerry, a point Republicans seized on. "I think it's pretty interesting that the press is now reporting that these documents had to do with airport security and seaport security, and that those are two areas where the Kerry campaign has seemed to focus on relative to alleged deficiencies in homeland security," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Kerry said Berger was on hiatus from the campaign, for now: "Sandy Berger is my friend, and he has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction. I respect his decision to step aside as an adviser to the campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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