Philip Shenon, investigative reporter for the New York Times, has written a book on the 9-11 Commission and talked about it with Fresh Air host Terry Gross on National Public Radio Monday. Judging by Shenon's past willingness to heap all of the blame for 9-11 on the then eight-month old Bush administration (as opposed to the eight years of Clinton that preceded it), it's no surprise he praised Clinton's former National Security Advisor, the disgraced Sandy Berger, who got caught and convicted for shoving copies of classified documents into his socks. Shenon hailed Berger and suggested he only did it because he feared Republicans would blame him and the Clinton administration for missing the 9-11 threat, even though, according to Shenon, "his friends and his colleagues will tell you that, you know, nobody was on top of the al-Qaeda threat like Sandy Berger."
Host Terry Gross: Your book begins with Sandy Berger, who was President Clinton's national security adviser, smuggling confidential documents out of the National Archives by stuffing them into his clothes. This is an infamous story. Why do you start there, and what did you learn about why he smuggled out the documents?Philip Shenon: It's been a parlor game in Washington for a long time. Why would Sandy Berger destroy his reputation like this? It has an awful lot to do with Sandy Berger's personality. I believe he thought that if some of these documents found their way to the public or to Republicans on Capitol Hill that he would somehow be blamed for 9/11 when, in fact, a lot of his friends and his colleagues will tell you that, you know, nobody was on top of the al-Qaeda threat like Sandy Berger. And he did a lot of admirable work in trying to prepare for terrorist attacks as they rose up. The answer seems to be, as to why he stole these documents, that, again, he thought that some of these documents might somehow implicate him in not having acted fast enough or done enough to deal with the bin Laden threat over time....Again, I think that may reflect Sandy Berger's a catastrophizer. People who know Sandy Berger and know his record suggest that he's one of the people who might well have been saluted in the 9/11 Commission report for having been on top of al-Qaeda.
For the full account of Shenon's NPR interview, including his defense of former White House counterterrorism director (and Clinton partisan) Richard Clarke, visit TimesWatch.