From Brian Todd
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Among those who've worked with Samuel Berger, opposite him and those who covered him, the consistent line is: This is all inconsistent.
Supporters rush to the side of a man who they say is above reproach.
"There is nobody on either side of the aisle that thinks there was anything even possible that Sandy could have done deliberately here," says former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis.
But one man on the other side of the aisle, a Republican who spent years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says whether this was deliberate or sloppy, as Berger himself characterized it, he should have known better.
"It's not consistent with somebody who knows national security information and how to treat it," says Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona).
Samuel Berger certainly can't chalk it up to political inexperience.
From the day he emerged from Harvard Law School in 1971, Berger gravitated toward Democrats.
The next year, as a young speech writer for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, he met another idealist who ran McGovern's campaign in Texas, Bill Clinton.
Their friendship skyrocketed with their careers.
During Clinton's meteoric track through Arkansas politics, Berger took a more deliberate route as an aide to the late New York mayor John Lindsay, legislative assistant to Democratic congressmen, State Department policy-planner under Jimmy Carter before returning to private law practice.
By 1992 he re-united with his old friend, serving as one of Clinton's key foreign policy advisers during the campaign. He was rewarded with a position as deputy national security adviser.
In a later interview, Berger said the low-point of his entire tenure in the White House was the ambush of U.S. Rangers in Mogadishu, Somalia in October of 1993.
When Anthony Lake stepped down as national security adviser at the end of Clinton's first term, the choice of successor was apparently very easy.
Clinton, in his memoir "My Life" writes: "I didn't consider anyone other than Sandy Berger for the job of national security advisor... He felt comfortable bringing me bad news and disagreeing with me at meetings..."
"Mr. President, I am both honored and grateful for your confidence and this opportunity to serve," Berger said when he was named national security adviser in 1997.
An author who writes extensively on intelligence tells CNN that with Bill Clinton's predilection toward keeping CIA directors at a distance, he had no closer adviser on intelligence than Sandy Berger.
It was Berger's guidance that led Clinton to order retaliatory strikes on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan when the administration concluded Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network was behind the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in eastern Africa.
One intelligence analyst tells CNN Berger took one of the earliest hard-lines on tracking bin Laden, long before 9/11.
He went on to become one of the principal architects of the war in Kosovo, at a time when his boss was dealing with the impeachment scandal. And in late 1999, Berger played a critical role in foiling several terrorist plots around the millennium celebrations.
"This was the most serious threat spike during our time in office," Berger said in testimony before the 9/11 commission.
An inside player with a knack for shooting straight, a man who knew secrets and used them with discretion -- these are the consistent descriptions of Samuel Berger inconsistent with current troubles.