SEPTEMBER 03, 2008
Before resigning under fire last year, embattled Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales violated Justice Department regulations by removing classified documents from a special secure facility without proper authorization.
According to the Justice Department’s inspector general Gonzalez, the nation’s top law enforcement officer for 31 months, stored the documents in his office and home. The files contained highly sensitive information on the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism efforts and were supposed to be heavily guarded.
A 29-page inspector general report says the breach risked exposing parts of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) terrorist surveillance program as well as interrogations of terrorist detainees. Aspects of the crucial surveillance program that were explicitly referred to in the mishandled documents had been classified as top secret and sensitive compartmented information.
Gonzales took the classified documents, which contained operational aspects of the program, home and stored them there for an indeterminate period of time even though such material must always be kept in a Sensitive Compartmented Storage Facility. Gonzales, who had been appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Bush before becoming White House counsel then attorney general, could have been criminally prosecuted but wasn’t.
A few years ago Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger got a slap on the hand (a $50,000 fine and community service) for removing highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives. Berger took the documents as he prepared to testify, on the behalf of the Clinton Administration, before the September 11 Commission. He stole the files, hid them under a construction trailer and later tried to get a trash collector to retrieve them.
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