National Archives Remain A Sticking Point For Clintons

The Clinton White House has yet to release records, which remain sealed at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, even though the expiration date is long past due for legally releasing the documents. According to Politico:

The papers contain confidential advice given to or sought by President Bill Clinton, including communications with then-first lady Hillary Clinton, and records about people considered for appointments to federal office.

About 33,000 pages of documents are involved, according to the National Archives, which runs the library.

Under the Presidential Records Act, such records can be withheld for up to 12 years after a president leaves office. However, at the 12-year mark, those broad restrictions fall away and the once-secret presidential papers are generally subject to disclosure. For the Clinton files, that milestone came and went in January 2013.

The long-sealed records pose a delicate series of choices for the Clintons, and even President Barack Obama. They could allow disclosure of the papers, fueling new stories about old controversies like Whitewater and pardons granted as the 42nd president left office in 2001. Or they could fight to keep some or all of the files secret, likely triggering a court battle and stoking concerns that the former president and his wife are unduly secretive.

This is not the first time the Clinton administration’s records from the National Archives have been the center of interest. In 2005, former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger pleaded guilty for intentionally taking and destroying  copies of a classified document about the Clinton administration’s record on terrorism. The original document, however, remained intact and still exists at the National Archives. According to The Washington Post, the document was an “after-action review” prepared by terrorism expert Richard Clarke in early 2000. It  detailed the Clinton administration’s actions to stop terrorist attacks during the millennium celebration. It also had information about the administration’s awareness of the rising threat of attacks on U.S. soil.

The incident itself happened in 2003 after Berger visited the National Archives twice, initially claiming he inadvertently walked away with the classified documents and lost them later on. 

Lanny Breuer, who served as special counsel to President Clinton and later as chief of the Criminal Division of the DOJ until March of 2013 in the Obama administration, was Berger’s attorney during the whole ordeal. The Washington Post reported in 2005:

 Under terms negotiated by Berger’s attorneys and the Justice Department, he has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and accept a three-year suspension of his national security clearance. These terms must be accepted by a judge before they are final, but Berger’s associates said yesterday he believes that closure is near on what has been an embarrassing episode during which he repeatedly misled people about what happened during two visits to the National Archives in September and October 2003.

Lanny Breuer, Berger’s attorney, said in a statement: “Mr. Berger has cooperated fully with the Department of Justice and is pleased that a resolution appears very near. He accepts complete responsibility for his actions, and regrets the mistakes he made during his review of documents at the National Archives.” 

The terms of Berger’s agreement mandated that he acknowledge to the DOJ what actually happened. Instead of his original claim that he unintentionally took copies of the document from the archives and later lost them, he confirmed he intentionally took the copies and shredded them up in his office. National Archives suspected Berger had removed the document after he visited the facility on October 2, 2003. The Archives later called  Bruce R. Lindsey, a former White House lawyer and Clinton’s liaison to the archives and complain about the incident. 

Sources told The Washington Post that Lindsey called Berger, who “soon acknowledged to archives officials that he had removed documents — by accident, he told them — and returned notes that he made, as well as the two documents he had not destroyed.”