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Law

Sandy Berger to plead guilty on documents charge

Prosecutors recommend fine, but not jail, for ex-Clinton adviser

By Terry Frieden
CNN

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Sandy Berger
Bill Clinton
Justice Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors will recommend that former national security adviser Sandy Berger be fined $10,000 and lose his security clearance for three years, but receive no jail time, sources said.

The Justice Department announced Thursday that Berger would plead guilty to illegally removing classified documents from the National Archives.

Berger, adviser to former President Clinton, was expected to enter the plea in U.S. District Court in Washington Friday to a single count of "unauthorized removal and retention of classified material," officials said.

The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Reacting to the news of the plea deal, Berger's attorney, Lanny Breuer, said Thursday, "Mr. Berger has cooperated fully with the Department of Justice and is pleased a resolution appears very near."

The charging document states that between September 2 and October 2, 2003, Berger "knowingly removed classified documents from the National Archives and Records Administration and stored and retained such documents at places ... including his place of employment."

An associate of Berger told CNN the former national security adviser admitted to the Justice Department he originally took five copies of an after-action report -- one during his September 2003 visit to the Archives and four during his October 2003 trip.

When he returned to his office and compared the copies he had, he believed several were basically the same, the associate said.

He admitted to officials that he then used scissors to cut up three copies that night while at his office, they said. At first he had said he had either misplaced or unintentionally thrown them away.

When Archives officials contacted him after they realized documents were missing, he told them about the two copies he had and returned them, along with the handwritten notes he had taken, they said. He did not say anything about the three copies he had destroyed.

Clinton had asked Berger to review thousands of pages of documents related to the millennium terror plot and its aftermath for submission to the September 11th commission. While reviewing those documents, his lawyer said, Berger inadvertently took some classified documents and intentionally took handwritten notes he put together while reviewing the documents.

Last July, when the removal became public, Berger told reporters he had made an "honest mistake."

"It is one I deeply regret. 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," Berger said.

CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


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