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Berger hit with $50,000 fine for stealing classified material

By Associated Press
Published September 9, 2005

WASHINGTON - Sandy Berger, former President Bill Clinton's national security adviser who was once entrusted with the nation's most sensitive secrets, was fined $50,000 Thursday for taking classified documents from the National Archives.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson handed down the punishment in federal court, stiffening the $10,000 fine recommended by government lawyers. Under the deal, Berger avoids prison time but he must surrender access to classified government materials for three years.

"The court finds the fine is inadequate because it doesn't reflect the seriousness of the offense," Robinson said, as a grim-faced Berger stood silently.

She also sentenced Berger to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service.

Earlier in the hearing, Berger made a short emotional plea that admitted fault and expressed remorse for his crime.

"I let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material," said Berger. He tried to portray his actions a lapse of judgment that came while he was preparing to testify before the Sept. 11 commission last year.

"In this case, I failed. I will not again," he said.

The sentencing capped a sequence of events in which Berger admitted to sneaking classified documents out of the National Archives in his suit, later destroying some of them in his office and then lying about it.

Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, said his client will not appeal the sentence.

Initially claiming his actions were an "honest mistake," Berger later pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, which contained information relating to terror threats in the United States during the 2000 millennium celebration.

During Thursday's hearing, Breuer characterized Berger as an official eager to get the facts of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks right when he improperly took classified documents and handwritten notes from the Archives.

The Associated Press first reported in July 2004 that the Justice Department was investigating Berger.

The disclosure prompted Berger to step down as an adviser to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

[Last modified September 9, 2005, 01:19:15]

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