Berger hid documents under a trailer outside
Former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger, fined $50,000 for taking classified documents from the National Archives, hid the papers under a construction trailer where they later could easily be retrieved, a report on Dec. 20 said.
The National Archives Office of Inspector General said that during a 2003 visit to the facility, Mr. Berger left the building un- escorted for a break, during which time he “placed the documents under a trailer in an accessible construction area outside Archives 1 (the main Archives building).”
The report said Mr. Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and brought them to his office.
Mr. Berger, who served as national security adviser under President Clinton from 1997 to 2000,
pleadedguiltyinApril2005toamisdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.Thematerialincludeddocuments outlining the government’s knowledgeofterroristthreatsinthe United States during the 2000 New Year’s celebration.
He was fined $50,000 by a federal judge, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and barred from access to classified material for three years. The top Clinton adviser had faced a year in prison and a $100,000fine,butapleaagreementin thecasereducedthefineandkepthim out of jail.
The removal occurred while Mr. Bergerwaspreparingtotestifybefore theSeptember11commissioninvestigatingintelligenceandsecurityfailures,raisingquestionsaboutwhether he was attempting to cover up the Clinton administration’s counterterrorism policies and actions.
Mr. Berger, with authorization fromMr.Clinton,alsowasreviewing NationalSecurityCouncildocuments on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, Sudan and related presidential correspondencetopreparefortestimony before the House and Senate intelligence committees.
In his televised testimony to the September 11 commission, Mr. Berger said the Clinton administra- tion’s “sustained attention” to terroristthreatsand“rigorousactions” had foiled a terrorist threat in December1999tobombairportsinthe United States.
But Attorney General John Ashcroft told the commission that he saw some of the documents that had turnedupmissingfromtheArchives and that the plot was stopped with “luck playing a major role.”
During his sentencing in September, Mr. Berger told the court that he let “considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material.”
“In this case, I failed. I will not again,” he said.
Theinspectorgeneral’sreport,first madepublicbytheAssociatedPress, said that when Archives employees first suspected Mr. Berger was removing classified documents, they failed to notify any law-enforcement agency.ItalsosaidArchivesemployeesdidnotfeelthattherewasenough information to confront someone of Mr. Berger’s stature.
The report said Mr. Berger removed four documents from the facility.
ThegovernmentchargedthatMr. Berger “knowingly removed classified documents from the National ArchivesandRecordsAdministration and stored and retained such documents at places,” including his office in Washington.
Mr. Berger initially claimed he tookthedocumentsastheresultofan “honest mistake,” but later admitted that he placed the classified records in his pants and jacket and put other classified documents in a leather portfolio.
In October, several top House Republicans asked for an investigation andcommitteehearingstodetermine which documents were “destroyed, removed or are missing” as a result of Mr. Berger’s admitted theft.
In a letter to the House Government Reform Committee, the lawmakersaskedChairmanThomasM. Davis III, Virginia Republican, to investigatewhethertherewascriminal misconductintheremovaloftheclassified documents by the Clinton administration official.
Democrats will assume control of Congress next month, and the request for an investigation is expected to be shelved.
Clinton adviser Samuel R. Berger