WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, to pay a $50,000 fine for illegally taking classified documents from the National Archives.
The punishment handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson exceeded the $10,000 fine recommended by government lawyers. Under the deal, Berger avoids prison time but he must surrender access to classified government materials for three years.
"The court finds the fine is inadequate because it doesn't reflect the seriousness of the offense," Robinson said, as a grim-faced Berger stood silently.
Earlier in the hearing, Berger expressed remorse for his crime, which he described as a lapse of judgment that came while he was preparing to testify before the Sept. 11 commission.
"I let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material," Berger said. "I believe this lapse, serious as it is, does not reflect the character of myself."
"In this case, I failed. I will not again," he said.
The sentencing capped a bizarre sequence of events in which Berger admitted to sneaking classified documents out of the Archives in his suit, later destroying some of them in his office and then lying about it.
After initially saying it was an "honest mistake," Berger pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, which contained information relating to terror threats in the United States during the 2000 millennium celebration.