Nathan Sales, Senior Fellow - The Soufan Center

Senior Fellow

Nathan Sales


Ambassador Nathan Sales is a Senior Fellow at The Soufan Center, focusing on a range of global security issues and geopolitical dynamics, including terrorism, China, Russia, and Ukraine. He brings an extensive record of public service and decades of experience working at the intersection of international security policy and human rights.

From 2017 to 2021, Ambassador Sales served at the U.S. Department of State as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (acting), where he led the mission of preventing and countering threats to civilian security, including terrorism, mass atrocities, and violations of human rights and the rule of law.

Concurrently, Ambassador Sales was Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He served as the principal adviser to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters and led the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau. He was also the Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, leading U.S. relations with the 83-member Coalition and efforts to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in the Middle East and around the world.

While at the State Department, Ambassador Sales led the elements of the U.S. government’s China strategy promoting democratic values and human rights, including with respect to Hong Kong and Xinjiang. He oversaw the development and implementation of a wide range of U.S. government sanctions. Ambassador Sales was the architect of the landmark 2017 UN Security Council Resolution 2396 on terrorist travel, and successfully pressed NATO to make counterterrorism a core Alliance mission. He led diplomatic engagements to persuade a dozen key partners in Europe and the Americas to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety. He also led the U.S. government’s international efforts to combat white supremacist terrorism. Under his leadership, the State Department imposed terrorism sanctions on the Russian Imperial Movement – the first-ever U.S. designation of white supremacist terrorists.

Before joining the State Department, Ambassador Sales was Of Counsel at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP (formerly Bancroft PLLC) and a tenured law professor, teaching and writing in the fields of administrative law, constitutional law, and national security law. His scholarship has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court multiple times.

Ambassador Sales received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and he earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke Law School. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.