Sandy Berger

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Sandy Berger
19th United States National Security Advisor
In office
March 14, 1997 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Anthony Lake
Succeeded by Condoleezza Rice
United States Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
January 20, 1993 – March 14, 1997
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Jonathan Howe
Succeeded by James Steinberg
Personal details
Born Samuel Richard Berger
(1945-10-28) October 28, 1945 (age 70)
Millerton, New York, United States
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Susan Berger
Children 3 children
Alma mater Cornell University (Bachelor of Arts)
Harvard University (Juris Doctor)
Occupation Political consultant
Political pundit

Samuel Richard "Sandy" Berger (born October 28, 1945) is an American political consultant who served as the United States National Security Advisor for President Bill Clinton from March 14, 1997 until January 20, 2001. Before that he served as the Deputy National Security Advisor for the Clinton Administration from January 20, 1993 until March 14, 1997.

Early life[edit]

Berger was born to a Jewish family[1] in Millerton, New York where his parents ran an Army-Navy store. He graduated from Webutuck High School in 1963, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1967[2][3] and his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1971.

At Cornell, Berger was a member of the Quill and Dagger society with Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Hadley. Opposed to the Vietnam War, Berger began working for Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972. While there, he met Bill Clinton, forming a friendship that would last for decades. Berger later urged Clinton to run for president.[4]

After the McGovern campaign, Berger gained experience working in a variety of government posts, including serving as Special Assistant to Mayor of New York City John Lindsay and Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa and Congressman Joseph Resnick of New York. He was also Deputy Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State from 1977 to 1980 under Secretary of State Cyrus Vance during the Carter administration.[5]

After leaving the State Department, Berger went on to join the law firm Hogan & Hartson where he helped expand the firm's international law practice. As a partner, he opened the firm's first two international offices, in London and Brussels.[4] "Sandy Berger", Nancy Pelosi said in 1997, "was the point-man at... Hogan & Hartson... for the trade office of the Chinese government. He was a lawyer-lobbyist."[6]

Clinton Administration[edit]

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (center and pointing hand) gives the opening remarks at a Pentagon briefing for President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on February 17, 1998. President Clinton was in the Pentagon to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his national security team for a Gulf region update. Sandy Berger is seated to the right of Secretary Cohen.

Berger served as Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Governor Clinton during the campaign, and as Assistant Transition Director for National Security of the 1992 Clinton-Gore Transition. During Clinton's first term of office (1993–1997), Berger served as deputy national security advisor, under Anthony Lake in the National Security Council staff.

In Clinton's second term of office, Berger succeeded Lake as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1997 to 2001.

In this position, he helped to formulate the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration. During this time he advised the President regarding the Khobar Towers bombing, Operation Desert Fox, the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, responses to the terrorist bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the administration's policy of engagement with the People's Republic of China.[7]


Stock ownership[edit]

In November 1997, Berger paid a $23,000 civil penalty to settle conflict of interest allegations stemming from his failure to sell his stock of Amoco Corporation as ordered by the White House. Berger was advised by the White House to sell the stock in early 1994. He said he had planned to sell the stock, but then forgot. He denied knowingly participating in decisions in which he had a financial interest. With no evidence that Berger intended to break the law, the United States Department of Justice determined a civil penalty was adequate for a "non-willful violation" of the conflict of interest law.[8]

Chinese nuclear espionage[edit]

Sandy Berger with President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In 1999, Berger was criticized for failing to promptly inform President Clinton of his knowledge that the People's Republic of China had managed to acquire the designs of a number of U.S. nuclear warheads. Berger was originally briefed of the espionage by the Department of Energy (DOE) in April 1996, but did not inform the president until July 1997.[9][10]

A number of Republicans, including then presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander, called for Berger's resignation. They accused him of ignoring the allegations of Chinese espionage. "For his unwillingness to act on this serious matter, Mr. Berger should resign", Alexander said. "If he does not, he should be relieved of his duties by President Clinton."[11] President Clinton rejected the calls: "The record is that we acted aggressively," Clinton said. "Mr. Berger acted appropriately."[12]

I asked DOE to widen and deepen its investigation, to intensify as they were planning their counterintelligence efforts to brief the Congress [.] [W]ithin several weeks the FBI had opened up a full investigation on the prime suspect. So I took the actions that I believe were appropriate. I get an awful lot of threat information every day. I have to make a judgment as to what I brief the president on and what I don't. In 1997, when this was clearly a pattern and a systemic problem, I thought it was essential for the president to know — Sandy Berger, May 29, 1999.[13]

Unauthorized removal of classified material[edit]

The National Archives building in Washington, D.C..

On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating Berger for unauthorized removal of classified documents in October 2003 from a National Archives reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents were five classified copies of a single report commissioned from Richard Clarke covering internal assessments of the Clinton Administration's handling of the unsuccessful 2000 millennium attack plots. An associate of Berger said Berger took one copy in September 2003 and four copies in October 2003.[14] Berger subsequently lied to investigators when questioned about the removal of the documents.[15]

In April 2005, Berger pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington.[15] According to the lead prosecutor in the case, Berger only took copies of classified information and no original material was destroyed. Berger was fined $50,000,[16] sentenced to serve two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, and stripped of his security clearance for 3 years.[15][17] The Justice Department initially said Berger stole only copies of classified documents and not originals.[18] But the House Government Reform Committee later revealed that an unsupervised Berger had been given access to classified files of original, uncopied, uninventoried documents on terrorism. During the House Government Reform Committee hearings, Nancy Kegan Smith acknowledged that she had granted Berger access to original materials in her office.[19]

On December 20, 2006, Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that Berger took a break to go outside without an escort. "In total, during this visit, he removed four documents ... Mr. Berger said he placed the documents under a trailer in an accessible construction area outside Archives 1 (the main Archives building)." Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.[20][21]

On May 17, 2007, Berger relinquished his license to practice law as a result of the Justice Department investigation. Saying, "I have decided to voluntarily relinquish my license." He added that, "While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession. I am very sorry for what I did, and I deeply apologize." By giving up his license, Berger avoided cross-examination by the Bar Counsel regarding details of his thefts.[22]


After leaving the Clinton Administration, Berger became chairman of Stonebridge International, an international advisory firm he co-founded in 2001 which focuses on aiding companies in their expansion into markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia.[5] Berger is also Chairman of the D.B. Zwirn Global Advisory Board, an international investment fund and merchant capital provider founded in 2001 and with offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia.[23] Berger is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. He also serves on the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Doha Center.[citation needed]

In late 2003, Berger was called to testify before the 9/11 Commission regarding steps taken against terrorism during his tenure and the information he provided to his successor, Condoleezza Rice. At the time, Berger was also acting as an informal foreign policy advisor to Senator John Kerry during his campaign for the presidency. He quit his advisory role after controversy arose regarding his preparations for testifying before the September 11 committee.[24]

In April 2005, Berger pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington.[15] According to the lead prosecutor in the case, Berger only took copies of classified information and no original material was destroyed. Berger was sentenced to a fine and a three-year suspension of his security clearance.[15]

Berger served as a foreign policy adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.[25] Before joining the Clinton administration, Berger had worked as an international trade attorney; currently, he is chairman of Albright Stonebridge Group and chairman of the board of D.B. Zwirn Global Advisory Board. He lives in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., is married to Susan Berger and has three children.

Berger currently serves on the Advisory Board of the National Security Network, and he is an Advisory Board member for America Abroad Media.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ edited by Louis Sandy Maisel, Ira N. Forman, Donald Altschiller, Charles Walker Bassett Jews in American Politics: Introduction by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman; accessed March 31, 2015.
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed March 31, 2015.
  3. ^ Berger biography,; accessed March 31, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Ahrens, Frank, "The Reluctant Warrior", Washington Post, February 24, 1998.
  5. ^ a b Stonebridge website; retrieved January 10, 2007.
  6. ^ Hentoff, Nat, "Dinner With Gen. Chi", Washington Post, January 26, 1997
  7. ^ Apple Jr., R. W., "A Domestic Sort With Global Worries", New York Times, August 25, 1999.
  8. ^ "Berger Agrees To Pay Penalty",, November 10, 1997
  9. ^ Gerth, Jeff and Risen, James, "China Stole Nuclear Secrets From Los Alamos, U.S. Officials Say", New York Times, March 6, 1999
  10. ^ "The White House and China", New York Times, Editorial, April 9, 1999
  11. ^ "Clinton's security adviser takes heat for China nuclear scandal",, March 11, 1999
  12. ^ Gerstenzang, James and Drogin, Bob, "Clinton Defends Response In China Espionage Case", Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1999
  13. ^ Transcript, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, May 27, 1999, Retrieved: May 27, 2006
  14. ^ "Sandy Berger to plead guilty on documents charge". CNN. April 1, 2005. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Turley, Jonathan (2013-06-25) Snowden's Russia chase reveals double standard, USA Today
  16. ^ Sherman, Mark, "Berger Pleads Guilty to Taking Materials", Associated Press via, April 2, 2005
  17. ^ Margasak, Larry, "GOP Contradicts Justice Department", Associated Press, January 10, 2007
  18. ^ Seper, Jerry (September 9, 2005). "Berger fined for taking papers". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  19. ^ R. Jeffrey Smith. Berger Case Still Roils Archives, Justice Dept. The Washington Post. February 21, 2007
  20. ^ Lichtblau, Eric, "Report Details Archives Theft by Ex-Adviser", New York Times, December 21, 2006
  21. ^ Margasak, Larry, "Report Says Berger Hid Archive Documents", Associated Press, December 20, 2006
  22. ^ Clinton aide forfeits law license in Justice Probe
  23. ^ Schurr, Stephen, "DB Zwirn hires Clinton aide", Financial Times, March 15, 2006
  24. ^ "Sandy Berger Quits Kerry Team",, July 20, 2004.
  25. ^ Hillary Clinton's Advisor
  26. ^ Profile], America Abroad Media website; accessed March 31, 2015.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Jonathan Howe
Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Succeeded by
James Steinberg
Preceded by
Anthony Lake
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Succeeded by
Condoleezza Rice