- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Justice Department gave former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger a “free pass” in its investigation into his removal of documents from the National Archives, says a senior Republican lawmaker, who yesterday called for a House committee to investigate the matter instead.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, 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 that he removed original, uninventoried documents.

Mr. Davis also said the department failed to administer a polygraph examination, despite the test being part of a plea agreement Mr. Berger made with the government in exchange for a lesser sentence.

“In investigating Mr. Berger, the Justice Department apparently gave him a free pass due to his stature as a famous former White House official,” Mr. Davis said in a letter to committee Chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat.

“The department’s investigation came up lacking in a number of areas,” he said. “Our committee, the 9/11 commission and the public have a right to a full account from Mr. Berger and the Justice Department. This can only be accomplished by further investigation.”

The letter was signed by 15 House Republicans.

Mr. Waxman’s office did not return calls for comment.

Mr. Berger, President Clinton’s national security adviser from 1997 to 2001, pleaded guilty in April 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, including documents outlining the Clinton administration’s knowledge of terrorist threats to the U.S.

He was fined $50,000 and barred from access to classified material for three years. Facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, the plea bargain with the Justice Department reduced the fine and kept him out of prison.

The material was removed while Mr. Berger was preparing to testify before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which was investigating intelligence and security failures. This raised questions about whether he was attempting to cover up the Clinton administration’s counterterrorism policies and actions.

Last month, the National Archives Office of Inspector General said Mr. Berger left the building unescorted for a break and placed the papers “in an accessible construction area outside” the main Archives building.

Lanny Breuer, Mr. Berger’s attorney, has said the case was thoroughly investigated by the Justice Department for more than two years and has been closed for more than a year. He said his client cooperated with the government’s investigation and has moved on.

“It’s time for the new congressional minority to do the same,” he said.

The Justice Department has said there is “no evidence that Sandy Berger’s actions deprived the 9/11 commission of documents, and we stand by our investigation of this matter.”

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