Former National Security Adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger, who this week admitted to taking classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, also was found in possession of a small number of classified papers containing his handwritten notes from Middle East peace talks during the Clinton administration, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Although the Mideast notes are not the main focus of the current criminal probe, the source says their removal may shed further light on Berger’s intentions. The Mideast notes were allegedly taken from the National Archives along with classified documents that officials say may paint the Clinton administration’s handling of the al-Qaida threat in a negative way.
“Berger was heavily involved in several Israeli-Palestinian initiatives in the 1990s, and in Clinton’s seeing Arafat and the Palestinians as negotiating partners, all leading to Camp David, which many now regard as a huge policy mistake that culminated in the violence still raging,” said the source.
Many American and Israeli political experts have in recent years blasted Clinton’s approach to Mideast peacemaking, and some have openly blamed his administration’s policies — seeking major Israeli territorial concessions in exchange for promises of peace by the Palestinian Authority — as factors in Arafat’s decision to launch the Intifada.
Clinton also famously helped turn Arafat’s image from guerilla leader to statesman, inviting the PLO president to the White House more times than he did any other world leader. Bush and Sharon have been trying to isolate Arafat, saying he is directly involved in terrorism.
Berger, a close confidante of former President Bill Clinton, was designated as the official from the Clinton administration who would review documents relevant to the 9-11 commission’s probe.
The source told WND, “I can’t see how notes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives in the 1990s would be at all relevant to the 9-11 commission. We now have to question why he would have taken these, and in doing so, it could shed light on why he would take the documents that are the current focus of the probe.”
The Justice Department is investigating whether Berger committed a crime by removing anti-terror-related documents, which discuss a 1999 plot to attack U.S. millennium celebrations and offer more than two dozen recommendations for improving the response to al-Qaida.
Berger had been an informal adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign, but he quit Tuesday.
Kerry said later, ”Sandy Berger is my friend, and he has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction. I respect his decision to step aside as an adviser to this campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly.”
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.”