The papers he took don't relate to those incidents, and Berger claims he took them inadvertently. To be sure, it's unlikely he thought he could hide anything from those writing the 9/11 report. Berger's spokesman, Joe Lockhart, pointed out that the Archives gave Berger only photocopies of the original documents and informed Berger of that so any cover-up would have been impossible. After learning of the incident, commission chairman Thomas Kean said his staff members checked and were sure they had "every single document that [they] needed or requested."
So how to explain what Berger called an "honest mistake"? He says that in gathering up papers, he must have accidentally taken some Archives documents along with his notes. Those who have worked with him find that plausible. Berger could get wrapped up in his work, they say, and his desk was piled high with documents and notes. "He always kept a lot of paper," says a former assistant. Nonetheless, Berger has now severed his ties as an informal adviser to the Kerry campaign, and a man once touted as a potential Secretary of State has seen his reputation tarnished.