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Archive for Friday, December 22, 2006

Official says ex-Clinton aide hid classified documents

December 22, 2006

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— President Clinton's national security adviser removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to find the trash collector to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.

The report was issued more than a year after Sandy Berger pleaded guilty and received a criminal sentence for removing the documents.

Berger took the documents in the fall of 2003 while working to prepare himself and Clinton administration witnesses for testimony to the Sept. 11 commission. Berger was authorized as the Clinton administration's representative to make sure the commission received the correct classified materials.

Berger's attorney, Lanny Breuer, said in a statement that the contents of all the documents exist today and were made available to the commission.

But Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., outgoing chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he's not convinced that the Archives can account for all the documents taken by Berger. Davis said working papers of National Security Council staff members are not inventoried by the Archives.

"There is no way to ever know if the 9/11 Commission received all required materials," Davis said.

Berger pleaded guilty to unlawfully removing and retaining classified documents. He was fined $50,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and barred from access to classified material for three years.

Officials said at the time of the thefts that the documents were highly classified and included critical assessments about the Clinton administration's handling of the millennium terror threats as well as identification of America's terror vulnerabilities at airports and seaports.

The employees did not think at the time there was enough information to confront someone of Berger's stature, the report said.

Later, when Berger was confronted by Archives officials about the missing documents, he lied by saying he did not take them, the report said.

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