By DEBORAH ORIN
July 26, 2004 -- The Bush administration is examining whether to declassify the top-secret memo that former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger took out of the National Archives, sparking a criminal probe, officials say.
The memo, written on Berger's orders, is said to include a highly critical review of Clinton-era handling of the Millennium plot, as well as 29 proposals to tighten security. By some accounts, the Clinton team only adopted one of the proposals.
A government official said discussions on declassifying the memo began last April and have nothing to do with the "Socks-Docs" probe of whether Berger hid the memos in his socks or pants to sneak them out of a secure reading room when he worked for the 9/11 Commission.
"No decisions have been made," the official added.
Declassification would let the public see it — and might provide insight into whether there are any grounds for Republican charges that the memo was embarrassing to Berger.
There could be new impetus to release the document if Congress members probing the "Socks-Docs" flap ask that the memo — written by former Clinton/Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke — be declassified.
Berger walked off with four or five different drafts of the Millennium memo, known as an "after-action review" and classified "code word" — the highest security classification. Berger says it was "an honest mistake."
It isn't clear whether all documents taken by Berger — who says he accidentally destroyed a few — were copies, or whether some had handwritten notes in the margins by Berger or others that exist nowhere else.
The 9/11 commission report indicates that Berger wrote notes in the margins of memos sent to him by Clarke, sometimes flatly rejecting suggestions for action. On one proposal to go after Osama bin Laden, he simply wrote: "No."
The criminal probe began when National Archives staffers realized Berger had taken documents. They then ran a sting operation in which they coded some documents and confirmed that they were missing when Berger left.
At one point last fall, officials say, archives staffers asked Berger to return missing documents, and he returned some that they hadn't even realized had been taken. That raises the question of whether there could be documents missing that the archives staff doesn't know are gone.
The Millennium review is also said to include an urgent warning that al Qaeda cells have set up shop in America and a warning of "glaring weaknesses" in homeland security.
Ahh the Clinton years. Everything seemed great on the surface yet beneath it all the seeds of terror were being sowed.