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Clinton aide forfeits law license in Justice probe

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Samuel R. Berger, the Clinton White House national security adviser who was caught taking highly classified documents from the National Archives, has agreed to forfeit his license to practice law.

In a written statement issued by Larry Breuer, Mr. Berger's attorney, the former national security adviser said he pleaded guilty in the Justice Department investigation, accepted the penalties sought by the department and recognized that his law license would be affected.

"I have decided to voluntarily relinquish my license," he said. "While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession. I am very sorry for what I did, and I deeply apologize."

In giving up his license, Mr. Berger avoids being cross-examined by the Board on Bar Counsel, where he risked further disclosure of specific details of his theft. The agreement is expected to be formalized today.

Mr. Berger, national security adviser from 1997 to 2001, was convicted of removing documents from the Archives in 2005 while preparing to testify before the September 11 commission.

Fined $50,000, sentenced to 100 hours of community service and barred from access to classified material for three years, he also was ordered to undergo a polygraph test if asked -- although the Justice Department has declined to administer the test despite urging by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform.

In February, Mr. Davis called for a new investigation by the committee into the Berger theft, saying the Justice Department gave him a "free pass" in its investigation. In a terse letter signed by 17 Republicans, he said the department was "unacceptably incurious" about Mr. Berger's visits to the Archives in May 2002 and July 2003 and never told the September 11 commission he removed original, uninventoried documents.

David Marin, the committee's Republican staff director, said the Justice Department told the September 11 commission it had everything Mr. Berger removed from the Archives and the nation's national-security exposure was "zero."

But, Mr. Marin said, no one told the commission that Mr. Berger had access to original documents, which he could have taken without detection.

"We wanted the highest possible level of assurance that Mr. Berger did not take other documents," Mr. Marin said. "We still have the same concerns. Obvious investigative tools were not used. If you do not look, you will obviously not find the evidence."

Brian McNicoll, Mr. Davis' spokesman, said yesterday the decision by Mr. Berger to accept disbarment rather than face questions "does seem to cast doubt on claims by Mr. Berger and the Department of Justice that he need not complete the terms of his plea agreement and submit to a polygraph because he has revealed everything of significance he has to offer."

The Justice Department has said it was unaware of any new facts to support a new investigation.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Hertling, in a letter to government reform committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said an "extensive investigation" led to a guilty plea and the department "stands by its investigation."

Mr. Hertling said the department devoted "significant resources" to the Berger probe, conducted more than 50 interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. He also disputed Mr. Davis' conclusion that the department did not inquire about Mr. Berger's first two visits to the Archives.

"Neither Mr. Berger nor any other witness provided the department with evidence that Mr. Berger had taken any documents beyond the five referenced in the plea agreement," he said.