Several top House Republicans yesterday asked for an investigation and committee hearings to determine which documents were “destroyed, removed or are missing” as a result of former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger’s admitted theft of papers from the National Archives.
In a letter to the House Government Reform Committee, the lawmakers asked Chairman Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, to investigate whether there was criminal misconduct in the removal of the classified documents by the Clinton administration official.
“Because Mr. Berger was designated by President Clinton as the representative of the Clinton administration to the national 9/11 commission investigation into the terrorist attacks, it is vitally important for our congressional investigative committee to determine what records were destroyed, removed or are missing,” the letter said.
Dave Marin, a spokesman for Mr. Davis, said yesterday that the chairman has requested a copy of the inspector general’s report at the National Archives on the Berger matter. He said Mr. Davis plans to review the report before deciding whether to investigate.
Mr. Berger was fined $50,000 by a federal judge in September 2005 for illegally taking classified documents out of the National Archives by stuffing them in his pants. He told the court that he let “considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material” and described the removal of the documents as a lapse of judgment as he was preparing to testify before the September 11 commission, which was investigating intelligence and security failures.
But the government said Mr. Berger “knowingly removed classified documents from the National Archives and Records Administration” and stored them at various locations, including his Washington office.
The document theft raised questions about whether Mr. Berger was attempting to cover up the Clinton administration’s anti-terrorism policies and actions. The records he took were related to internal assessments of Mr. Clinton’s handling of a terrorist threat in December 1999 to bomb airports in the United States.
Mr. Berger pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, including documents outlining the government’s knowledge of terror threats in the United States during the 2000 New Year’s celebration.
In his televised testimony to the September 11 commission, Mr. Berger said the Clinton administration’s “sustained attention” to terrorist threats and “rigorous actions” foiled the New Year’s plot.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, however, told the commission in 2004 that he saw some of the documents that had turned up missing from the Archives and that the plot was stopped with “luck playing a major role.”
Members of Congress requesting the investigation and hearings were Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Dan Lungren of California, John L. Mica of Florida, Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Mark Souder and Dan Burton of Indiana, Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Tennessee and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin.