Richard Lehman, a CIA official who worked with every president from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush and was credited with creating the president’s daily intelligence briefing, has died. He was 83.
Lehman, who also was chairman of the National Intelligence Council, died Feb. 17 at Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association Hospice House.
Lehman, who worked at the CIA from 1949 to 1982, was awarded two Distinguished Intelligence Medals, the agency’s highest honor. He was also recognized as one of 50 trailblazers who formed the CIA.
“We all thought we were saving a country from disaster through intelligence,” John Kenneth Knaus, who spent 40 years with the CIA and is Lehman’s brother-in-law, told the Concord Monitor. “He was the kind of guy you looked to pull things together and do it in an analytical and extremely objective way.”
Lehman created the president’s daily intelligence brief in June 1961, after Robert Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States, complained that the president had been blindsided after missing pieces of intelligence.
Kennedy loved the memos, nicknamed “pickle” after PICL, President’s Intelligence Checklist. It was later renamed the President’s Daily Brief. He would sometimes send the brief back with comments.
Lehman had a prominent role in keeping Kennedy informed of developments during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. He became a CIA transition liaison for new presidents.
Not all presidents liked the memo, Lehman said in an interview with Richard Kovar, who served in the Directorate of Intelligence. Lyndon Johnson didn’t read it.
“Johnson really was not that much of a reader; the thing didn’t appeal to him the way it did to Kennedy,” Lehman said in the interview. In the end, the agency gave the briefings to other members of Johnson’s administration.
Lehman was chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 1979 to 1981.
After retiring from the CIA, Lehman advised George H.W. Bush’s administration when he transitioned into office in 1988. He had formed a relationship with Bush during the president-to-be’s brief stint as Director of Central Intelligence.
Lehman later helped start a consulting business of retired intelligence officers.
He and his wife, Diane Harris Lehman, moved to Concord in 2001. She died in 2002.