WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama is expected to receive on Thursday his first top secret intelligence briefing similiar to the one provided President Bush each day, according to U.S. officials familiar with the process.
A team of intelligence briefers has been named and is ready to discuss with Sen. Obama the Presidential Daily Brief– the PDB as it is called.
In a message to CIA employees obtained by CNN, CIA Director Michael Hayden said Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell will lead the first briefing of the newly elected President and has designated senior agency officer Michael Morrell to oversee the PDB process during the transition. The two principal briefers for Obama will be CIA career officers.
Each day, the commander in chief receives the PDB. DNI McConnell and other senior national security officers brief President Bush each morning, six days a week, on the most sensitive information affecting the security of the United States. The President learns about the latest threats and what the nation’s spies are doing to help protect the nation.
The PDB is put together each night by a small group of senior analysts at the CIA, incorporating the most current information gathered from the 16 agencies which make up the intelligence community. It might include reports from spies, satellite imagery and electronic intercepts. Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer once referred to the PDB as the “most highly sensitized classified document in government.” Vice President Cheney has called the PDB “the family jewels.”
The DNI’s office which oversees the process has been ready to deliver the PDB to the newly elected President from day one. Senior intelligence officers are chosen to brief the president-elect in person where ever he may be. Secure equipment– computers, phones and office space– are pre-positioned ahead of time if the president elect is located outside of Washington. The briefing of President elect Obama will parallel what President Bush receives. However, President-elect Obama will likely get supplemental materials that provide more detailed information– the kind of stuff Mr. Bush would not need since he has been briefed on security issues for many years. The President elect will also get information tailored to his specific interests.
As the official candidate of the Democratic party, Obama was entitled to and did receive one intelligence briefing at his request following the political convention. DNI McConnell said the candidates briefings focused on terrorism and a few related topical issues, but it did not include the most sensitive details about operations and covert activities. Republican nominee Sen. John McCain received a similar briefing.
Each President ultimately sets the parameters for the PDB– what topics is the commander in chief interested in? What does he want to know more about? It’s not a given that a President will ask for a face to face briefing by his chief intelligence officer.
President Clinton preferred to simply read the PDB himself, shunning the in person briefing. James Woolsey, Clinton’s first Director of Central Intelligence, spent so little time with the President that he has often joked that the small plane that crashed onto the White House lawn in 1994 was actually Woolsey trying to get an appointment with the President. Clinton’s successor, President George W. Bush immediately reinstituted the daily briefing by his intelligence chief.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden will also receive a PDB briefing.