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Berger: Removal of copies was 'an honest mistake'

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

He quit as an informal adviser to Kerry's campaign.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former national security adviser Sandy Berger says he regrets the way he handled classified terrorism documents, calling the whole thing "an honest mistake." Republicans say the matter raises questions about whether the former Clinton administration official sought to hide embarrassing materials.
"What information could be so embarrassing that a man with decades of experience in handling classified documents would risk being caught pilfering our nation's most sensitive secrets?" House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said. "Mr. Berger has a lot of explaining to do."
The Justice Department is investigating whether Berger committed a crime by removing from the National Archives copies of documents about the government's anti-terror efforts and notes that he took on those documents. Berger was reviewing the materials to help determine which Clinton administration documents to provide to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
When news of the investigation surfaced, Berger on Tuesday quit as an informal adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign to limit the political fallout. Berger told reporters he was not guilty of criminal wrongdoing.
"Last year, when I was in the Archives reviewing documents, I made an honest mistake. It's one that I deeply regret," Berger said. "I dealt with this issue in October 2003 fully and completely. Everything that I have done all along in this process has been for the purpose of aiding and supporting the work of the 9/11 commission, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply, absolutely wrong."
Many Democrats, including former President Clinton himself, suggested that politics were behind disclosure of the probe only days before Thursday's scheduled release of the Sept. 11 commission report. That report is expected to be highly critical of the government's response to the growing Al-Qaida threat, a potential blow to President Bush's re-election campaign.
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