President Clinton's national security advisor removed classified documents from the National Archives, hid them under a construction trailer and later returned to retrieve them, the agency's internal watchdog said Wednesday.
The report was issued more than a year after Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger pleaded guilty and received a criminal sentence for removing the documents.
Berger took the documents in the fall of 2003 while working to prepare himself and Clinton administration witnesses for testimony to the Sept. 11 commission.
Berger was authorized as the Clinton administration's representative to make sure the commission got the correct classified materials.
Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, said in a statement that the contents of all the documents exist today and were made available to the commission.
But Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), outgoing chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he's not convinced that the Archives can account for all the documents taken by Berger.
Davis said working papers of National Security Council staff members are not inventoried by the Archives.
"There is absolutely no way to determine if Berger swiped any of these original documents. Consequently, there is no way to ever know if the 9/11 commission received all required materials," Davis said.
Berger pleaded guilty to unlawfully removing and retaining classified documents. He was fined $50,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and was barred from access to classified material for three years.
Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that National Archives employees spotted Berger bending down and fiddling with something white around his ankles.
The employees did not feel at the time there was enough information to confront someone of Berger's stature, the report said.
Later, when Berger was confronted by Archives officials about the missing documents, he lied by saying he did not take them, the report said.
Brachfeld's report included an investigator's notes, taken during an interview with Berger.
The notes said Berger had not been aware that Archives staff had been tracking the documents he was provided because of earlier suspicions from previous visits that he was removing materials. Also, the employees had made copies of some documents.
In October 2003, the report said, an Archives official called Berger to discuss missing documents from his visit two days earlier. The investigator's notes said, "Mr. Berger panicked because he realized he was caught."
Significant portions of the report were redacted to protect privacy or national security.