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Sandy Berger
Official Portrait of United States National Security Advisor Samuel Richard "Sandy" Berger.jpg
18th United States National Security Advisor
In office
March 14, 1997 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Deputy James Steinberg
Preceded by Anthony Lake
Succeeded by Condoleezza Rice
19th 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
Samuel Richard Berger

(1945-10-28)October 28, 1945
Millerton, New York, United States
Died December 2, 2015(2015-12-02) (aged 70)
Washington, DC, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Susan Harrison
Children 3
Education Cornell University (AB)
Harvard University (JD)

Samuel Richard "Sandy" Berger (October 28, 1945 – December 2, 2015) was an attorney who served as the 18th US National Security Advisor for US President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001 after he had served as the Deputy National Security Advisor for the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997.

In 2005, he was fined and sentenced to two years of probation, plus community service, for the unauthorized removal of classified material from the National Archives. He gave up his license to practice law.

Early life

Berger was born to a Jewish family in Millerton, New York, where his parents ran a surplus store. He graduated from Webutuck High School in 1963, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Cornell University in 1967, and his earned 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 lasted for decades. Berger later urged Clinton to run for President of the United States.

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.

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. "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."

Clinton administration News Photo 980217-D-2987S-010
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. Clinton was in the Pentagon to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his national security team for a Gulf region update. Berger is seated to Cohen's left.

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. Berger served eight years on the National Security Council staff, first from 1993 to 1997 as deputy national security advisor, under Anthony Lake, whom Berger had recommended for the role, and then succeeding Lake as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 1997 to 2001.

Berger was a central figure in formulating the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration, and played an integral role advancing the administration's self-described objectives of advancing "democracy, shared prosperity, and peace." In President Clinton's words, "Nobody was more knowledgeable about policy or smarter about how to formulate it. He was both great in analyzing a situation and figuring out what to do about it. His gifts proved invaluable time and time again, in Latin America, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, and the Middle East."

Key achievements during Berger's NSC tenure included the 1995 peso recovery package in Mexico, NATO enlargement, Operation Desert Fox, the Dayton Accords that ended the civil conflict in Bosnia, the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, the Good Friday Agreement that helped bring about peace in Northern Ireland, and the administration's policy of engagement with the People's Republic of China. In a March 2005 oral history interview at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, Berger noted, "I think during the '90s we took China from outside the international system and brought it inside the international system, partly through trade, and economics, and otherwise."

On July 4, 1999, in what South Asia expert Bruce Reidel called Berger's "finest hour," Berger advised President Clinton through a pivotal negotiation with Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif to pull that country's troops back from Kashmir, averting a potentially cataclysmic nuclear war with India.

Berger also advised the President regarding the Khobar Towers bombing and responses to the terrorist bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In the final years of the Clinton administration, combating terrorism was the paramount foreign policy priority; Berger said in his March 2005 oral history interview at UVA's Miller Center, "I said to Condoleezza Rice during the transition ... that the number-one issue that she would deal with as national security advisor was terrorism in general and al-Qaeda specifically."


CIA Director Brennan and Former National Security Advisers Berger and Scowcroft in Riyadh
Berger with CIA Director John Brennan (l) and Brent Scowcroft (r) before greeting the new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in January 2015

After leaving the Clinton Administration, Berger became chairman of Stonebridge International, an international advisory firm he co-founded in 2001 which focused on aiding companies in their expansion into emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. Stonebridge International merged in 2009 with The Albright Group, a similar firm founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to form Albright Stonebridge Group.

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.

Berger was 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. Berger was 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 served on the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Doha Center. Berger served as a foreign policy adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign. Berger served on the board of directors of the International Crisis Group and World Food Program USA, and also on the advisory boards of the National Security Network, and America Abroad Media.

Personal life and death

Berger lived in the American University Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., was married to Susan Harrison Berger, and had three children.

Berger died of cancer in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2015, at the age of 70, more than a year after being diagnosed.


In November 2015, Berger was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government for his contributions to promotion of a strong and friendly relationship between the United States and Japan, particularly in his role as National Security Adviser to President Clinton. He also provided legal and commercial advice to the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C.

On December 1, 2015, World Food Program USA announced that it has given its inaugural Global Humanitarian Award to Samuel R. Berger in recognition of his decades of leadership helping families in need across the globe. Additionally, the World Food Program USA established the Samuel R. Berger Humanitarian Fund, which will support humanitarian organizations as they work to eradicate hunger around the world.

In 2000, Berger was presented with an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

See also

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