A federal judge yesterday ordered former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger to pay a $50,000 fine and give up his security clearance for three years as the penalty for smuggling classified terrorism documents out of the National Archives in 2003.
The sentence was much more severe than the $10,000 fine that Justice Department prosecutors and Berger's attorneys had jointly proposed after Berger pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. But Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson said the punishment, which also included two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, would more "sufficiently reflect the seriousness of the offense."
She said she took into account Berger's "otherwise exemplary record" and "sincere expression of remorse" in her sentence.
Berger, who had classified documents hand-delivered to his desk when he advised President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in April to unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. He admitted to stuffing copies of documents in his coat jacket as he left the National Archives and then destroying some at his office and pretending he had never possessed them. Berger had been reviewing the records about the Clinton administration's response to reports of terrorist threats in 2000 as he was preparing to respond to questions from the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"My actions . . . were wrong. They were foolish. I deeply regret them, and I have every day since," Berger told Robinson yesterday. "I let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material."
The disclosure of the government's investigation of Berger last year prompted him to step down as an adviser to the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).