Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Eighteen House Republicans have urged the Justice Department to proceed with a polygraph test for Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser who agreed to take the test as part of a plea of guilty of stealing documents from the National Archives.

“This may be the only way for anyone to know whether Mr. Berger denied the 9/11 commission and the public the complete account of the Clinton administration’s actions or inactions during the lead-up to the terrorist attacks on the United States,” the congressmen said in their letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

The congressmen — led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia — said a prompt lie-detector test is needed to determine the extent of Mr. Berger’s thievery, especially because the former Clinton administration adviser reviewed original documents for which there were no copies or inventory.

Other signers of the letter are Reps. Duncan Hunter, Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray of California, John L. Mica of Florida, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, Dan Burton and Mark Souder of Indiana, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, John M. McHugh of New York, Chris Cannon of Utah, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Tennessee, Michael R. Turner of Ohio, Kenny Marchant of Texas, Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Patrick T. McHenry and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina and Bill Sali of Idaho.

Mr. Davis, former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, released a report by his staff on Jan. 9, saying a Justice Department investigation of Mr. Berger’s admitted document theft was “remarkably incurious.”

The report said the theft compromised national security “much more than originally disclosed” and resulted in “incomplete and misleading” information to the September 11 commission. It said Mr. Berger was willing to go to “extraordinary lengths to compromise national security, apparently for his own convenience.”

In October, Mr. Davis led an effort to hold hearings to determine whether any documents were “destroyed, removed or were missing” after visits by Mr. Berger to the Archives. He said the full extent of Mr. Berger’s document removal “can never be known” and the Justice Department could not assure the September 11 commission that it received all the documents to which Mr. Berger had access.

Mr. Davis said that during sentencing, Mr. Berger agreed to a polygraph examination as part of a plea deal, but Justice never administered the test, according to two Justice officials closely connected to the case — John Dion, chief of the counterespionage section, and Bruce Swartz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division.

He said Mr. Berger assured the commission that it received all the documents it sought but that some of the papers Mr. Berger examined were originals for which there were no copies or inventory. He said there is no way to know whether Mr. Berger returned all of those documents.

Lanny Breuer, Mr. Berger’s attorney, has said the matter was thoroughly investigated by the Justice Department for more than two years and effectively closed for more than a year. He said the report’s conclusions were based on “pure conjecture.”

“Sandy Berger made a mistake. But he has admitted that mistake, fully cooperated with the government’s investigation, paid his debt to society, and moved on. It’s time for the new congressional minority to do the same.”

Justice Department spokes-man Bryan Sierra has said the department “has no evidence that Sandy Berger’s actions deprived the 9/11 commission of documents, and we stand by our investigation of this matter.”

Mr. Berger pleaded guilty in April 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, including documents outlining the government’s knowledge of terrorist threats to the United States. Fined $50,000 and barred from access to classified material for three years, he faced a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, but his plea deal reduced the fine and kept him out of prison.

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