This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," April 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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SANDY BERGER, FMR. NAT'L. SECURITY ADVISER: I exercised very poor judgment in the course of reviewing the files at the archives for the 9/11 Commission (search). I deeply regret it. It was mistaken and it was wrong.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: That, of course, former National Security Adviser Samuel Sandy Berger (search), after his guilty plea on Friday to misdemeanor charges in connection with his removal and destruction of certain classified documents from the National Archives. His guilty plea answers some questions, but raises others.
For help in answering them, we turn to our colleague Michael Isikoff, the veteran investigative reporter with "Newsweek" magazine.
Mike, it's nice to see you.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you.
HUME: Thanks for coming in. So, what happened on that day exactly? Berger was facing testimony before a Senate panel investigating 9/11.
ISIKOFF: The 9/11 Commission.
HUME: Right. The 9/11 Commission, I'm sorry.
ISIKOFF: The 9/11 Commission. He was preparing -- he was the sort of designated briefer for all Clinton administration officials who were going to be testifying before the commission, as well as he was going to be a principle witness. He made a number of visits to the archives. Three, I believe. But the principle one comes in September of last year in which he -- I'm sorry, September of '03...
ISIKOFF: Of '03, in which he reviews copies of what was called an After-Action Report on the U.S. government's response to the millennium crisis of 2000, when there was a high concern that there was going to be an Al Qaeda attack. And we actually thwarted one. A very alert customs inspector in Washington State caught this guy, Ahmed Rasan, who was in fact crossing the border. An Al Qaeda guy with explosives intended to blow up Los Angeles Airport.
After that, Richard Clarke, the National Security counter terrorism adviser writes a memo saying we got lucky here that there is going to be -- that there is extensive evidence that there is Al Qaeda presence in the United States. And there's going to be another attack. They intend to attack us. We need to take a look at what we did and what we need to do. And that was this NFC Commissioned After-Action Report that was sent to Sandy Berger in the early months of 2000.
There were five different versions of this After Action Report in which agencies would make comments, Berger would write comments on it. Clarke would write comments.
HUME: Which is not an uncommon thing for these things to go through a review process before they become the memo, right?
ISIKOFF: Not an uncommon thing. Berger takes five copies from the archives back...
HUME: Now, to the best of our knowledge, these are not the original memos or drafts. They are copies of it.
ISIKOFF: They are copies.
HUME: Which presumably Berger knew, right? Knew they were copies?
ISIKOFF: We don't know that for sure. But we do -- the important thing is that there was a lot of suspicions at the time that Berger may have destroyed government -- original government records so that the...
HUME: Archives are without them.
ISIKOFF: Archives are without them and the commission would be without them. And he may have been destroying incriminating evidence for the Clinton administration. One thing that was clear from the plea on Friday is the prosecutor said that's not the case, that there were originals of all five copies.
But just to get back to the story...
HUME: Nothing has been lost as a result of what Berger did.
ISIKOFF: According to Noel Hellmann, the chief of the Public Integrity section at the Justice Department, he said nothing has been lost to the U.S. government archives.
HUME: That's him on -- the face you see there now. OK, go ahead.
ISIKOFF: Anyway, Berger takes five copies back. He tells the archives he didn't take anything when they contact him the next day. So, he lies to the archives and proceeds to destroy, with scissors, cuts up three of the copies and returns the other two. And so that was...
HUME: And then did he try to slip them back? Or did he come back and present them to the archivist?
ISIKOFF: I think he presented them to the archives. He brought them back to the archives.
ISIKOFF: Right. And that was the mistake that he says he made. The key questions here are one.
HUME: The mistake was taking the two.
ISIKOFF: Well, yes. Taking the two. And one explanation.
HUME: And the timing...
ISIKOFF: One explanation could be having been caught red-handed for having lied to the archives about whether he took documents. It was easier to say well oops, I only forgot these two, rather than oops, I forgot five. Right. Right. And bring back a big stack of files of the same thing.
HUME: So do we know why he did this?
ISIKOFF: Well, I mean, it's hard to get in somebody else's head. The explanations.
HUME: And that did not emerge, did it, at this hearing?
ISIKOFF: Not in open court. Not in open court. But what the government has said, what Berger's people have said is that he was trying to get straight before -- get the testimony straight. He wanted to understand it, that these five copies were confusing to him. They were, you know, largely duplicates, you know, and so he destroyed three. That is the explanation that has been offered.
HUME: That is not very convincing, is it?
ISIKOFF: It's not. It's certainly -- I'm, you know, I -- I was skeptical. But I have to be governed by...
HUME: And of course, we don't know what all was in these documents. We know the drift of them, but we don't know exactly what all was said.
ISIKOFF: We do, actually. From the 9/11 Commission report and I brought some of it with me.
ISIKOFF: Yes. That it is not a question of when there will be another attack by Al Qaeda. It is an attack of when. And there's got to be a lot more action taken by the government to thwart it.
HUME: So in other words, it could arguably be seen as accusing the Clinton administration of doing something that it manifestly did not do.
ISIKOFF: Very similar to the Clarke memos in early 2001 to the Bush White House about they're coming, we have got to do something and lack of action, lack of response.
HUME: Great summary of this. Mike, thanks very much.
ISIKOFF: OK. Thank you, any time.
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