I knew it. You knew it.

When Sandy Berger, the former national security adviser to the president of the United States, was caught red-handed stealing highly classified documents from the National Archives more than a year ago, he was permitted to go free. He was allowed to go out and give speeches. He was even permitted to serve as a national security adviser to a presidential candidate and was talked about as a possible secretary of state for John Kerry, should he have been elected to the White House.

The investigation dragged on for more than a year.

The public has never received answers as to the specific papers taken by Berger, whose excuse for being in the National Archives at the time was preparing his former boss, Bill Clinton, for testimony before the 911 commission.

And, last week, confirmation came. Berger would be charged with one misdemeanor count of taking classified material. He copped a plea and would plead guilty, avoiding any jail time. His “punishment” would be a $10,000 fine and not being allowed to serve in a national security position in the federal government for a period of three years, which, of course, is meaningless since Republicans will be in control of the White House until 2008.

It was the proverbial slap on the wrist. It’s worse than that. It’s a shake of the finger with a wink and a nod. It’s a joke.

Berger didn’t even have to admit he did anything wrong. He got away with characterizing this high crime as an “honest mistake.”

Once again, the case shows there are two standards of justice in America – one for ordinary people like you and me and another for members of the establishment, the elite.

If you or I had walked out of the National Archives with highly classified documents, we would have been slapped in leg irons and done hard prison time. Berger did it and never saw the inside of a jail cell.

He wasn’t even forced to produce all the documents stolen. He wasn’t even forced to account for them. Did he shred them? Did he burn them? Did he sell them to foreign powers? Did he give them to the presidential candidate for whom he was working? Did he use them to blackmail someone?

The American people will never know the answers to these questions. The American people will never even get to see those documents – even though they may well have been distributed to our enemies. The American people will never even get an accounting of those papers or a suitable explanation.

Was Sandy Berger covering up for his own serious national security mistakes leading up to Sept. 11? Or was he covering up for the mistakes of his superiors?

We know that Berger signed off on instructions not to attack Osama bin Laden at least three times before the devastating terror attacks in 2001. Since this was a matter of public record, one can only wonder what unrevealed scandal or scandals he was trying to conceal.

And that’s what this yearlong-plus Justice Department investigation has left us with – more unanswered questions.

Are we really at war? Are we really concerned about national security in this country? As we leave the borders wide open and slap former top national security officials on the wrist for stealing classified secrets, can we really say we are behaving like a nation at war?

When men in the battlefield, operating under wartime conditions, are prosecuted for premeditated murder for killing terrorists, we give a pass to civilian officials who steal national security secrets. Does this make sense to you?

And notice that Sandy Berger’s plea agreement was announced by the Justice Department on the day Terri Schiavo died – to ensure it would be buried and overwhelmed in the day’s news coverage.

Whatever crimes Berger committed – and I am certain they would be stunning if the public ever learned the full extent – the Bush Justice Department has just affirmed it is complicit in them.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.