When readers of the New York Times look to understand the swirling dynamics of wars, diplomacy, cyber conflict and geopolitics, they look for the byline of one of the paper's most senior correspondents: David E. Sanger, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and White House and National Security Correspondent. Over a 40-year career at the Times, Sanger has become known for the depth of his sources in the world of national security, his painstaking reporting and research, and his in-depth investigations into the complex events of our time.
And his reach goes far beyond the Times. He is a CNN contributor on national security and politics. He is the author of three books — The Inheritance, Confront and Conceal and, most recently, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age. The last become an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary, also called The Perfect Weapon. His latest documentary, Year One, was released by HBO in October 2022 and chronicles President Biden's first year struggling to rebuild American democracy at home and alliances abroad. Sanger also teaches national security at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where the class he conducts with Graham Allison, "Central Challenges in American National Security, Strategy and the Press,'' is among the most popular at the school.
In 2016, Mr. Sanger was a key member of the Times team that examined Russia's interference in the presidential election — part of his broader coverage of nation-states' use of cyber power. That investigation was part of a series of stories that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Several years previously, it was Sanger's investigation that broke the details of the “Olympic Games,’’ the federal government's codename for the secret cyber-attack on Iran's nuclear program mounted by the United States and Israel: one of the defining moments of the early cyber age. The story of how two Presidents guided that attack was part of Sanger's book Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power. The book sent shockwaves around the globe and was called an “astonishingly revealing insider’s account” by Foreign Affairs. The docu-thriller, Zero Days, an Alex Gibney film about the secret effort to sabotage Iran's program, tells the story of how Sanger reported on one of the country’s most clandestine operations.
His book, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age is an incisive look into how a new era of cyber conflict has changed the national security landscape, providing new ways to influence national elections, conduct sabatoge, and execute short-of-war operations. The HBO documentary The Perfect Weapon, directed by John Maggio, takes viewers deep into the cyber battles of the current age, interviewing current and former military and intelligence officials, while conducting new, on-the-ground reporting from the front lines of the cyber wars.
At the Times, Mr. Sanger's previous investigative work led to Pulitzers for the investigation into the causes of the space shuttle Challenger and into Chinese technology investment in the United States. Sanger’s coverage of the Iraq and Korea crises won the Weintal Prize, one of the highest honors for diplomatic reporting. He also won the White House Correspondents’ Association Aldo Beckman prize for his coverage of the American presidency.
The Perfect Weapon: A New Era of War, Sabotage, and Fear
We live in a new era of constant cyber conflict, as nations use cyber sabotage, misinformation, and fear to gain advantage and exercise power. Everyone is a target, and ordinary Americans are often the collateral damage in a growing conflict among states. David Sanger, the author of “The Perfect Weapon” and executive producer of the HBO documentary of the same name, moves from the White House Situation Room to the dens of Chinese, Russian, North Korea, and Iranian hackers, to Silicon Valley’s boardrooms, as he uncovers a world coming face-to-face with the perils of the technological revolution. It is a conflict, Sanger explains, that the United States helped start when it began using cyberweapons against Iranian nuclear plants and North Korean missile launches. But now we find ourselves in a conflict we are uncertain how to control, as our adversaries not only exploit vulnerabilities in our hyper-connected nation but as we struggle to figure out how to deter these complex, short-of-war attacks. Drawing from David Sanger’s vast experience at the intersection of national security and cybersecurity, “The Perfect Weapon,” explores how the rise of cyberweapons has transformed geopolitics like nothing since the atomic bomb’s invention. From crippling infrastructure to sowing discord and doubt—cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists.
The Revival of Superpower Conflict
For three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans believed that we were in a different world—one in which terrorism, climate change, viruses and disinformation were the primary threats to the country. They were partly right, but the past few years have demonstrated that the age of superpower conflict is back—this time with a vengeance. David Sanger takes a deep look at our twin confrontations with Russia and China, and why the struggle America finds itself in now is so much more complex than the Cold War ever was. In a world of technological interdependence, of cyber vulnerabilities and misinformation and disinformation that can circle the globe in seconds, the challenge is dramatically different than it was when the Berlin Wall fell. With examples that range from Beijing to Ukraine, David Sanger tells the story of a struggle that seems familiar, but is not.
Can Biden Restore America's Global Influence?
As Joseph R. Biden Jr. settled into his office as the 46th President of the United States, he was immediately confronted with a huge agenda of interlocking crises: A devastating pandemic that has killed more Americans than died in combat in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined; an economic crisis that brought with it joblessness and inflation; a crisis of racial justice and a burgeoning climate catastrophe. Overarching them all, however, is a collapse in American influence around the world. These past few years of partisan division have caused allies and adversaries alike to question whether the United States remains the model for the rest of the world. And as doubts rise, China has raced to exploit the opportunity – investing across the globe, wiring it for 5G networks, and using its cash and prowess to help authoritarians retain control. But is this a temporary blip or a terminal decline? In this event, David Sanger offers his expert insight into the Biden Administration’s policies and takes on the question on every American’s mind: Can American strength abroad be rebuilt, starting by rebuilding at home?
Around the World in 60 Minutes
Every war the United States has entered since 1941 has something in common: Twelve months before it broke out, there was no warning or real conception that within a year, the United States could once again be on the battlefield. Major cyber-attacks have taken us by surprise. So has a global pandemic and a war for Ukraine. David Sanger takes his audience on an hour long tour of the world's hotspots, and the conflicts few see coming. And he will remind the audience that while the world is unpredictable, it is not unmanageable. Resilience and preparation make the difference between successful national responses and failures.