Thursday, October 12, 2006

GOP Brings Forward Old Violation By Berger

This is classic. Long after the matter has been adjudicated in federal court, the Republicans have dredged up a several year old security violation by one of Bill Clinton's top advisors to distract the nation from the endemic problems of the GOP.

A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives called Wednesday for a congressional investigation into the improper handling of classified documents by President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger.

Berger admitted last year that he deliberately took classified documents out of the National Archives in 2003 and destroyed some of them at his office. He pleaded guilty in federal court to one charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material and was fined $50,000.

Ten lawmakers led by House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter and Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner released a letter calling for the House Government Reform Committee to investigate.

They asked the committee to determine whether any documents were missing from Clinton administration terrorism records, to review security measures for classified documents and to seek testimony from Berger.

Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, said the Justice Department had asked Congress to hold off on any oversight until the legal case concluded.

"It's important that the House conduct its own review to ensure there is a clear understanding of the facts, and sensitive and highly classified security information is not potentially compromised in the future," Kasper said.

Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis responded to the letter by sending a request to the inspector general of the National Archives asking for his report on the Berger matter. Committee spokesman Brian McNicoll said it was a preliminary step to help Davis decide whether to pursue a committee investigation.

Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, did not immediately return a call for comment.

At issue is a strange sequence of events in which Berger admitted to sneaking classified documents out of the National Archives in his suit, later destroying some of them and then lying about it. The Bush administration disclosed the investigation in July 2004, just days before the Sept. 11 commission issued its final report.

During Berger's sentencing hearing Breuer characterized Berger as eager to get the facts of the Sept. 11 attacks right when he took the material, which contained information relating to terror threats in the United States during the 2000 millennium celebration.

Democrats had complained about the timing of the original disclosure of the investigation in 2004, claiming the White House was using Berger to deflect attention from the Sept. 11 commission's harsh pre-election findings. Wednesday's events sparked similar charges from Rep. Henry Waxman, top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee.

In a letter to Davis, Waxman wrote that the Berger incident is not new and already has been reviewed by committee staff. He noted that Berger gave a television interview Tuesday criticizing the Bush administration's policies involving North Korea.

"It would be regrettable if the letter from Republican members that you received today and your own letter to NARA were prompted by Mr. Berger's criticism of the administration," Waxman wrote. "It would be equally regrettable if the sudden calls for an investigation were part of an organized effort to divert attention from the war in Iraq and other pressing national issues."

Berger just finished defending the Clinton administration from scurrilous charges made in ABC's "Path To 9/11" hatchet job, and here comes the pay back.


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