Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Crime and (Non)Punishment

Doc Farmer and I seen to be on the same wave length today, both of us posting opinions on the Sandy Berger follies. - Sailor

Crime and (Non)Punishment
Written by Doc Farmer
Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I was a bit careless this past weekend. And, in the spirit of confession being good for the soul, I'd like to tell you about it.

Normally on the weekend, I like to sleep. A lot! One of my colleagues, a former paramedic, has informed me without any doubt or hesitation that there is no way to "make up" for lost sleep. Well, call the Mayo Clinic (and hold the ham on rye) because I do it every single weekend. I'm talking serious snore time here.

But not this past weekend. No, I decided to take a quick trip over to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. When I lived in the D.C. area, it was the one place I never visited, so I figured now was the time. The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, Anacostia during daylight hours (with full body armor, of course), the White House, etc., are all sites I had seen. But not the National Archives.

I sauntered in as if I owned the place. Which, in point of fact, I do - along with about 300 million other people. I looked at the stacks, I wandered around a bit, I admired the architecture - a bit too froggy-like for my tastes, but nobody's perfect - and I found some highly classified documents. They were copies, of course, but they had some interesting comments written in the margins.

So, as I was in a building I owned (even if only by a miniscule percentage), I figured that the stuff inside was mine as
well. That said, I took them. I had forgotten my briefcase - mainly because I don't even own one - but necessity is a mother, as they say (well, as the rude ones say, at least) and I have had the good fortune to drop some serious tonnage in the past few months. Therefore, my clothing is now rather less form-fitting than it once was. Not to worry, though - the documents filled out that wasted space quite nicely. Even my socks, which would once droop to the ankles, were now staying up rather well thanks to the pages wrapped around my calves.

Granted, the flight home was a bit crinkly, but I suffered no major paper cuts near any vital organs so I consider it a win-win situation.

When I returned home, though, I was suddenly struck with a bit of a conundrum. You see, I didn't read the documents all that closely while in the National Archives - I was a bit busy stuffing them in my shorts at the time, don'tchaknow - and when I looked them over, I found that a number of them
were actually copies of the same document. Oh, there were different notes in the margins on a few of them, but that couldn't have been too important, right? So, ever the environmentalist, I put on my best Fawn Hall outfit and ran the excess paperwork through my shredder. I had planned to put them in the recycling bin at work.

Just then, Jim from the building next door had announced a wienie roast, but was short on kindling. Naturally, I wanted to be a good neighbor. Besides, the environment's overrated. Therefore, I took my bag of shredded National Archives documents and popped them under the charcoal briquettes. They took to the match most happily and in mere minutes, there was a red rosy glow where once there was only blackness.

Y'know, I think those wienies tasted even better than usual - they had a sort of historical flavor.

But I digress.

After that satisfying sausage soirée, I decided that my Dad (ever the history buff) would love to take a look
at these potentially earth-shattering pages, plucked from our Nation's Capitol. A quick Fed-Ex, and they arrived safe and sound. I'm sure Dad will keep them where he keeps a number of important family records - in the support joists, just above the water heater in the basement. Yeah, they'll be safe there, no problem.

After relating my weekend adventures to some of my co-workers, however, there was some consternation on their part. They started talking about gloom and doom scenarios. 20 years in Leavenworth, being "disappeared" by MIBs at two in the morning (or is it one in the morning? Damn Daylight Saving Time!), that sort of thing. They kept telling me that I had committed a major crime. Pshaw and Balderdash, I replied. Nobody would miss those documents. They were only copies. And so what if they were marked "Eyes Only" in big red letters? We're a government of, by and for the people, right? Well, last time I checked, I'm people (no comments, please, from any of my ex-wives) so I figured I was entitled.

Besides, what's the worst I can expect, eh? A fine, maybe. And they might take away my National Archives library card for a couple of years. Big whoop.

By now, you've probably figured out that the story above wasn't completely true. My apartment complex doesn't allow for barbequing.

However, that issue notwithstanding, I want you to imagine that it was true. Do you believe that I'd be free to write this article? Do you think for one second that I wouldn't be anywhere else but in an FBI interrogation room, shackled to the chair, hot lamp shining in my eyes, with a rack of rubber hoses on the wall?

Well, I wouldn't be. If my name were Sandy Berger.

Somehow, this guy commits a major security breach. He steals classified government documents from a secured facility within the National Archives by shoving them down his pants. He destroys some of those documents. Copies
or not, he destroyed them, which is a major faux pas judicially speaking. Is he jailed? Is he hauled before a Federal Judge? Is bail denied, while the scope of the damage he caused can be assessed?


He says "Oops!" and gets fined.

If it were you or I, we'd be eligible for a PhD in manual gravel manufacturing in about 30 years or so. Our homes would be ransacked trying to find the documents, we'd be grilled like a steak the way my Mom likes it (well done, or "ashes"), and we'd be thrown in a cell so deep underground that the moles would have to read to us.

Somehow, though, the concept of "justice" has escaped a Federal department whose name includes that very word! They, in a decision of epic stupidity, have decided to give Sandy Burglar a pass. A
fine, a slap on the wrist, and a declaration that he showed "bad judgment" in his criminal acts. Gee, next time I want to rob a bank, I'll see if I can cut a deal like that. I didn't do anything that bad, your honor - besides, it's just paper, right? Lots of copies around, too.

Since we've got a new Attorney General, I'll assume that he's not quite up to speed on how things work. Well, Mr. Gonzalez, let me clue you in. When you have a major crime involving a breach of national security, you throw the bastard in jail! You don't let him have a news conference to say "Sorry" and then let him walk. You don't take away his security clearance for three years.
You take it away FOREVER!

If this is the way you're going to run the Department of Justice, I think America deserves a refund on your salary!

About the Writer: Doc Farmer is a writer and humorist who is also a moderator on ChronWatch's Forum. He formerly lived in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but now resides in the Midwest. Doc receives e-mail at

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