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David E. Sanger
David E. Sanger
Foreign Policy Specialist
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David E. Sanger
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Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and National Security Correspondent for The New York Times David E. Sanger writes compelling analyses and investigative articles that explain the complex events of our time. A member of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning team in international reporting, Sanger is one of the nation’s most lucid analysts of geopolitics, globalization and cyber power. A National Security and Political Contributor for CNN, Sanger’s articulate style has made him a frequent guest on CBS This Morning and many PBS shows.

Sanger's national bestseller, Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, is a riveting analysis of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, including its covert reliance on cyberwarfare, drones, and special operations forces. The book sent shockwaves around the globe. Foreign Affairs called it an “astonishingly revealing insider’s account.”

His previous bestseller, The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power, is an in-depth examination of American foreign policy successes and failures. TIME called it a "behind-the-scenes account...laced with scoops and secret conversations about a world spinning out of America's control."

A 30-year veteran of The New York Times, Sanger’s coverage of the Iraq and Korea crises took home the Weintal Prize, one of the highest honors for diplomatic reporting. He also won the White House Correspondents’ Association Aldo Beckman prize for his presidential coverage. His years as a foreign correspondent have given him a unique view into the rise of Asia, nuclear proliferation, global competition, and a volatile Middle East.

Early in his career, Sanger covered technology and economics, before turning to foreign policy. Over the years, he has focused on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the rise and fall of Japan, and China’s increasing power and influence. Later, he covered domestic and foreign policy issues as the Times’ White House correspondent from 1999 to 2006 and the NSA and cybersecurity as the current National Security Correspondent. 

He is a featured journalist in Alex Gibney's 2016 docu-thriller, Zero Days, based largely on Sanger’s investigation of the secret American and Israeli cyber program to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Sanger teaches national security policy as a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Full Bio >
  • The national security challenges facing Trump administration (2017)
  • Sanger Reports on Serial Leak of Cyber weapons at the N.S.A.
  • Inside the Hack: How Russia Influenced U.S. Election (2016)
  • royce carlton rci speeches speakers
    Sanger and Director Alex Gibney Talk "Zero Days" (2016)
  • The Backstory: Obama's Wars (2012)
  • Face the Nation: Iran Nuclear Deal (2015)
  • Sanger: Trump, Russia, hacking of DNC emails (2016)
  • David Sanger on The Daily Show (2009)
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Speaking Topics
The Trump Administration at One Year - What We Have Learned

Presidents try to bend the arc of history, but so do America’s allies and adversaries– and rarely have they greeted a new president with an array of challenges as complex as those that Barack Obama handed off to Donald Trump. From a North Korea that is brandishing a new nuclear arsenal and missiles that will soon be able to reach American shores, to a revanchist Russia, a rising China and a beleaguered Europe, disorder is everywhere. A 15-year-long American experiment in the Middle East has clearly become bogged down. Nuclear and cyber weapons pose challenges we never saw before. And around the world, populist movements seem on the march. The man who wrote The Inheritance and Confront and Conceal  in the last presidential cycle, and has reported for 30 years from around the world,  offers perspective and analysis on what Americans need to worry about, what needs to stay on their radar,  and what they can let others handle. 

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Cyber Conflict: The New Way Nations Struggle for Power and Influence

Only a few years ago, the idea cyber conflict among nations was the stuff of science fiction. No more. As David Sanger describes in the documentary thriller Zero Days, directed by Alex Gibney, low-level cyberwar is here, and here to stay. It’s a new class of short-of-war competition involving espionage and, increasingly, sabotage. Zero Days, based largely on Sanger’s bestseller, Confront and Conceal, tracks his investigation of the secret American and Israeli program to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, a tale of technological sleuthing that took him into the White House Situation Room, where two American presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, oversaw the covert action. But “Stuxnet,’’ as the attack was later called, was just the beginning. Now we have seen Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others use cyber as a new kind of weapon that is ushering in a new kind of competition and conflict – changing the world as surely as the airplane and nuclear weapons did. One of America’s premier investigative reporters and experts on cyber conflict takes audiences on a tour of this secret history and a future in which the nation will have to find a way to discuss and control the Pandora’s Box that has now been opened.  

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Sea of Fire: The North Korean Nuclear Threat

In the 1980’s, when North Korea secretly began going down the nuclear road, one journalist began writing about the country’s ambitions and its fears of the United States, David Sanger, then a foreign correspondent in Asia for the New York Times. Those early warning signs have now evolved into perhaps the most urgent national security threat facing the United States: A North Korea with a sizable arsenal of nuclear arms and, soon, an ability to reach American cities. Sanger takes you through how we got here, a story that involves three generations of the Kim family, five American presidents, and a long history of miscommunication, missed opportunities, and mutual threats. Today the question is whether there is a way to stop North Korea from achieving its nuclear ambitions, and whether the U.S. will determine if it must confront the country or learn to live with the threat it poses. And beyond the nuclear threat lurks another North Korean capability to wreak havoc: Its growing corps of hackers, who have already attacked American companies, the British health system, and central banks.

Managing this multidimensional challenge is the hardest immediate problem in American foreign policy. David Sanger guides his audience through both the history and the strategic implications. 

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The Gamble: America, Iran and the Second Nuclear Age

From the reporter who helped reveal the world’s biggest black-market network in nuclear weapons, both in the New York Times and in the documentary Nuclear Jihad, comes an assessment of the Second Nuclear Age, a far more dangerous era than the superpower arms races of decades past. He asks the question: Is it possible, at this late stage, to free the world of nuclear weapons? And if so, what is the path?

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Around the World in 60 Minutes

Join David E. Sanger, National Security Correspondent for The New York Times, as he engages in a lively exploration of the hot-spots that pose the biggest challenges to the United States, from the Middle East to East Asia. Sanger explores the question of whether America’s influence is in decline, as other powers rise and old alliances fray on issues ranging from American surveillance to its inward turn, and what it will take to remain the dominant power over the next decades. Sanger offers penetrating analysis based on a keen intellect and deep reporting inside Washington and around the globe. 

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Freedom of the Press and State Secrets: The Unavoidable Collision

Few reporters delve more deeply into the world of national security – and the most sensitive stories about nuclear threats, cyber threats and global power struggles – than David Sanger. In Freedom of the Press, he argues that the delicate balance between the government’s need to protect national security secrets and the media’s responsibility to keep citizens informed about what the United States is doing around the world has gotten seriously out of whack. Prosecutions of suspected sources have chilled the reporting process. Worse yet, it has begun to restrict that important channel that has allowed news organizations who have obtained sensitive or classified information to hold candid conversations with government officials about what information can truly do harm, and what information, even if classified, can be revealed with little real risk. Sanger argues that some of the most important revelations of the past decade – about the drone program, the American use of cyber weapons against Iran, the government’s decision to conduct warrantless wiretapping of its own citizens – all involved classified material. Yet their revelation sparked critical debates, and sometimes major changes in policy. This is a discussion about how one of the most critical problems in American democracy gets dealt with, day by day, in newspapers, on the air and on the web. 

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No journalist has spent more time discussing national security and foreign policy with Donald Trump than David Sanger of the New York Times. With the Trump administration, the burning question around the world is whether America is going to radically change the tenets of the post-World War II order. Will the United States pull back – militarily and diplomatically – from the leadership roll it has assumed since 1945? Or is the new President simply re-negotiating America’s rules of engagement, to fit his “America First” approach– an approach that was first discussed in one of David’s interviews. Sanger will take you deep inside the debates in the Trump inner circle, at a moment when the most fundamental questions of America’s future role in the world are being debated and questioned, from our confrontations with China and North Korea, to our alliances in Europe. Is it time for a revolution in American national security, or just a readjustment? Can we withdraw from key parts of the world and still retain our place at #1 in power and influence around the globe?

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China’s Rise: The Hopes and the Fears

At a moment when the rest of the world’s economies appear shaky, China’s growth has never been more important for the rest of the world – or more feared. It’s ascension to the role of the world’s second largest economy, and its growing military might, all in the space of 30 years, make it perhaps the most remarkable story of the 21st century. But America has never been skilled at managing the rise of a competitor, or adjusting to make for one. And the Chinese – caught between a desire for a far greater global role and a recognition that they have many challenges to tend to at home – seems uncertain about how fast it wants to hit the accelerator. Based on his years of experiences as a foreign correspondent in Asia, and then back in Washington as the United States tries to understand whether cooperation with China is possible or confrontation inevitable, David Sanger explores the fascinating tension between two superpowers.

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Books & Other Works
  • Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power
  • The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power
  • Zero Days
  • Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get The Bomb?
“There are very few reporters — indeed, very few experts of any stripe — who can go as wide and as deep as David Sanger can on American foreign policy and American politics. David occupies one of the most influential perches in all of journalism, and he has an engaging personality that brings his world alive to students and professors alike. David was very generous with his time, meeting individually with graduate students doing specialized research and in small groups with students who wanted an insider’s perspective on one of the most fascinating periods in American history. This was an excellent event for Duke, informative and exhilarating.”
Duke University
“I knew to expect an outstanding session. David did not disappoint. . David is the rare combination of a deeply knowledgeable DC insider with personal warmth and accessibility to which the audience warmly responds. An excellent educational program.”
The Drummond Center for Statesmanship
“Thank you for your outstanding keynote presentation at NAITA's 25th Anniversary World Trade Gala last week. Your remarks were quite timely and thought-provoking and brought clarity to a very complex situation.”
North Alabama International Trade Association
“In a word, awesome. I lost count of the number of people who came up to me after the lecture to say how great it was. Not only did he pack the house (and handle Q/A wonderfully), he also devoted a lot of time to four of our student journalists for an interview, and then talked to them during the reception. Several students thanked me for the event, and told me they found it inspirational regarding their own career goals.”
University of Pennsylvania
“The event was exceptional. In addition to being a true gentleman, David gave a superb presentation that expressed not only the ideas contained in his book, but also most recent developments related to his overseas trip with the President. We are enriched by David's cogent analysis, honesty, and wisdom.”
Monmouth University
“David Sanger is so smart and generous with his time. The audience loved him! I appreciate how “apolitical” he is – very refreshing someone just talks facts.”
Newport Beach Public Library Foundation
“Thanks once again for taking the time to come up here to Ithaca, for your wide-ranging talk, and for giving the Cornell students and community a chance to ask questions about journalism and the future of the media. I think you handled it all brilliantly.”
Cornell University
“We had a very successful program yesterday. We had about 105 people attend the event and the participants were engaged from the get go and appreciated the David’s relatability. There were great questions from faculty, students and community members alike. David spoke very eloquently and shared great insights about IS and the Middle East.”
Middlesex Community College
“Thank you for your magnificent presentation last night. My phones (cell, office and home) haven't stopped ringing and I have numerous e-mails and even a bouquet of flowers all praising the event. It was largely due to your powerful presentation and words of wisdom, caution and hope that we are local celebrities (for 15 minutes).”
Orange County Partnership
“David was a delight.... He has great verbal acuity and is a wealth of knowledge, obviously a very bright man. Our audience was very interested in what he had to say.... We would highly recommend him.”
Town Hall South
“David Sanger's visit to the university was a real success. I found him to be very gracious with his time and made himself quite accessible to our students as well as to the community.”
University of Evansville
“David Sanger's appearance before a packed audience was one of our best events this year. His insightful and balanced assessment of the administration's handling of recent crises -- including Iran, Iraq, and Korea -- was met by rave reviews. David Sanger is a thoughtful and engaging speaker who gave us a glimpse into the White House and the administration's handling of foreign policy at this critical time in our nation's history.”
Goucher College
“Outstanding! The full range of his talent was on display - his insider's knowledge of Washington politics, his ability to place current events in historical context, his skill at connecting with his audience, his knack for explaining complex issues, and not least, his humor.”
The College of William and Mary
“You did a marvelous job last night with your remarks. And, for the record, you are a genius.”
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
“All feedback on your talk has been very good. Two students who just stopped in reported that it was the best of the three lectures we've had so far because you really seemed to be talking to the audience, you had many enlightening anecdotes, and of course because you were dealing with such hot issues.”
University of Rhode Island
“David E. Sanger delivers!! He was captivating, brilliant, and most generous. Thank you for suggesting him.”
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