President’s Daily Brief

Sometime after World War II, it became increasingly apparent that intelligence gathered by a growing number of US federal agencies needed to be part of the day to day policy decision making practice of the President. As the intelligence agencies themselves evolved (from the OSS to the CIA, in one lineage, for example) the idea of a Director of Central Intelligence, or later, Director of National Intelligence, would create an interface between all the agencies and the President also evolved.

I’ve been reading The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents by David Priess. I think I got turned on to the book because I saw the author on MSNBC and it sounded interesting. And it is. The book chronicles the early development and long term evolution of what we now know of as the President’s Daily Brief.

Donald Trump isn’t the first president to require a very brief look at complex and extensive intelligence. For Kennedy, it was a matter of time. He was highly energetic, and easily distracted because of his keen interests in all the things around him. He needed a briefing document that would help the intelligence community pin the president down and put the important stuff in his head. Early efforts were less than successful, but in a reasonable amount of time, they invented a “checklist” of key bits of intelligence, with backup information appended, and Kennedy would carry it around with him and ultimately devour it. Key other personnel also had their copies of the Top Secret document, so there was some common baseline.

When LBJ ascended to office, shockingly, he had no idea that this checklist existed, since Kennedy kept LBJ out of all the loops a veep in a more friendly relationship with POTUS would be in. Also shockingly, except for those of you who already know how quirky our 36th president was, it was not so easy to get that stuff into LBJ’s head. He didn’t like reading, and was slow at it. He was easily distracted, and he had priorities that were not necessarily in line with what one might have hoped for a person in his job.

And that’s all I know because that’s how far I am in the book. But, I’m thinking a lot of interesting stuff happens after LBJ, right up to recent times.

The reason I mention any of this now is this report from WaPo, just out:

Breaking with tradition, Trump skips president’s written intelligence report and relies on oral briefings

For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.

Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings.

Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

There is actually a bit of iffy, false-balancing reporting right there (and elsewhere in the piece), with the term “traditionally dense intelligence book.” That is exactly what the PDB is NOT. Trump isn’t the first president with reading difficulties or a short attention span to be served by the intelligence community. It appears that the US intelligence community has been producing tailor made non-dense bullet-point-esque briefing documents since 1962, and doing it very well.

The problem here is not that the document is dense. The problem is that the President is dense. And functionally illiterate.

The same article has several quotes from people on the intelligence team explaining how Trump is fully engaged and excellent. They need to say these things to preserve the Republican for enemies foreign, I’m sure. And their jobs. Other experts who are not beholden provide a different story.

Several intelligence experts said that the president’s aversion to diving deeper into written intelligence details … makes both him and the country more vulnerable.

Leon Panetta … said Trump could miss important context and nuance if he is relying solely on an oral briefing. The arrangement also increases pressure on the president’s national security team, which cannot entirely replace a well-informed commander in chief…

“Something will be missed … If for some reason his instincts on what should be done are not backed up by the intelligence because he hasn’t taken the time to read that intel, it increases the risk that he will make a mistake.”

Anyway, The President’s Book of Secrets is a fun book if you are into that sort of thing. It was published in 2016. I hope to see a second edition.

I hope we all get to see a second edition (if you get my drift)!

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36 thoughts on “President’s Daily Brief

    1. Unlikely. The PDB would be very unlikely to provide that information, and it is not accessible. You should read the book, then you’d know!

    2. It is likely that the material Devin Nunes viewed at the White House was from the Presidential Daily Brief. Any other source, and he would have had to ask individual agencies for their material.
      It is also why the material could not be released to the committee. Only the Gang of 8 has that level of clearance, and Adam Schiff eventually went to see it.

  1. Why Trump’s brain is nearly atrophied.

    Now for the no-nos

    At the same time, some foods are a big no-no. These include fast food, fried food such as fish and chips, fatty foods such as red meat, pork and high-fat dairy, and, most of all, processed foods: baked goods loaded with trans fats and refined sugar such as cakes, biscuits, crisps, ready meals and frozen pizza, as well as many snacks. Then there are all of the margarines and commercial cheeses, along with other spreadable or “creamy” products. Ditto for processed meats such as salami, bologna and frankfurters. The more of these processed foods you consume on a regular basis, the higher your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Across multiple studies, people who consumed as little as 2g a day of trans fats had twice the risk of those who ate less than 2g. It’s disheartening to discover that most people in those studies ate at least 2g a day, with the majority of participants eating more than double that dose on a regular basis.

    It’s not just in the genes: the foods that can help and harm your brain

    1. Back when I started, most of my time was spent with medical journals. But 15 years into my research, much of my time is spent with cookbooks.

      That seems an odd statement to make for a researcher associated with a real institution — you’d expect it from someone like the charlatans at natural news or the food babe quack.

    2. Apparently:

      Lisa Mosconi is the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic of the Department of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and was the founder and director of the Nutrition and Brain Fitness Lab at New York University. She holds a dual PhD degree in Neuroscience and Nuclear Medicine from the University of Florence, Italy, and is a certified integrative nutritionist and a board-certified, holistic healthcare practitioner.

      No idea what a board-certified holistic heathcare practitioner is, but in general this sounds solid. Possibly Dr Mosconi was trying for an accessible tone in the piece. I agree that (if so) she hit a slightly jarring note instead.

      But who cares what I say? I eat way too many crisps (chips) and chips (fries) to be treated as a reliable source. And vodka and cornflakes is the breakfast of champions.

    3. “And vodka and cornflakes is the breakfast of champions.”

      Just as good single malt, inked-up fountain pen, and good dog are required for updating the journals kept for sons and the new daughter-in-law.

      I’m finding more and more that a bracing bit of ice-cold gin is required for listening to news — even local news.

    4. If I can make a serious recommendation, do please try Plymouth gin if you can find any. It’s particularly good, and a reminder – now needed – that these ’boutique’ gins popping up everywhere are overpriced and overhyped. Plenty of ice, Fever Tree tonic and a squeeze of fresh lemon, obvz. As a charm against the worsening horrors of the news, it holds its own with anything I know.

  2. What an absolute pile of shit that read is.
    Extra virgin olive oil is a MUST is it???
    How the flying fuck have generation after generation of people been living all over the world without this must????

    Flax seed.??? Where does one get that??? Christ knows what the chia shit is. Never heard of it.

    No rice mentioned No cassava. No maize.
    No legumes or ground nuts.

    Now im a bit of a fan of the guardian, for the hilarious brexit dialog mostly , but this is a fucking travesty of journalism.

    Fuck off stupid rich arseholes with your crapola diet regimens. Kiwi fruit! Jeez.
    Maple syrup!!!!
    Yeah, ya got no access to potable water but whatcha need is maple fucking syrup and sardines.

    No offence ment towards you Lionel A.
    Its just awful pus in the link.

    1. No offence ment towards you Lionel A.
      Its just awful pus in the link.

      None taken, the post was intended as humour and yes ‘health-care practitioner’ is code for a quack, but then the Donald is quackers.

  3. Sorry I’m late. Is this the 5 minute food fight or the 15 minute food fight? Hey there is nothing that I like better than lording it over other people with my holier-than-though “diet for perfection”. It starts with no trans fats. No non-virgin oils. No animal fats. No sugar of any kind. No members of the solinaceae family ( Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, nightshade ) . No red meat of any kind. No non-read meat either. No fish that might be contaminated with ocean or other water. No grain products, especially wheat products. No dairy products. No salt. No pepper. The only thing you are allowed to eat is beans. Oh, and don’t forget to buy my book on the diet for perfection. It is called, oddly enough , “Diet for Perfection”. It is unsullied with any sort of scientific analyses. And in case you haven’t figured it out, I am celebrating April Fools day early this year, because I am not sure I can last much longer on this perfect diet….

  4. dean

    don’t forget the word holistic in that.

    Now there is a thing, I had used that word holistic but it got edited out with a link I decided to remove.

    Either that or there is something eating words around here.

  5. Well, while everyone else is talking about food, I’ve read a few more chapters. When Kissinger comes into the picture things change considerably. “I think President Nixon and I do a better job of interpreting raw intelligence than the CIA, though I suppose the daily brief is helpful” to paraphrase. Also, confirmation of Kissinger’s approach to his staff but with a twist. His habit of making people dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s ten times each wasn’t necessarily to make them suffer and thus do better, but rather, to keep 80% of the IC busy while he thinks great thoughts.

    Go read some yourself and report back!

  6. MikeN: PDB is going to be relevant in unmasking the surveillance of Trump by Team Obama.

    What? I thought the doctrine was that the Deep State was suppressing all information that might incriminate them…

    1. Chris Winter, there is no info that might incriminate the Deep State. Susan Rice sent an e-mail to Susan Rice the morning before Trump became President detailing a meeting between Obama and Comey, how Obama told Comey to do everything by the book regarding the Russia investigation. So clearly nothing untoward had happened.

    2. Find someplace I’ve pushed a Russian conspiracy.

      Repeated lies and racist comments, bigotry and dishonesty from the current president, yes.

  7. Briefing or no, it won’t make much difference if the undeserving jackasses braying in the White House are essentially intelligence denialists. I hate to go on about the precedent set by the Office of Special Plans except to remind that it was created as a way for Dubya’s Republicans and propagandists to manipulate intelligence and circumvent normal intelligence channels — back when the so-called liberal media were beating the drums for war with Iraq.

    Yeah “Deep State” my arse. What a load of cockamamie manure.

    1. Speaking of cockamamie manure, it is amusing, but not surprising, to see how the White House’s spin on the Porter timeline is falling into a billion little pieces of lies.

      The willingness of the current administration to lie so blatantly over things that are easily investigated is astounding — why be so stupid?

      I feel the same way every time some political moron posts a racist or bigoted item on social media or sends a d**k pick to someone and acts surprised when he is caught out.

  8. again: the surprise is that anyone is surprised …. oh- you mean corporate media never really publicized how illiterate the tRumph was during the election- even though there was a subsurface drumbeat about this at nearly every turn?

    oh yeah- making him a “legitimate” candidate made it a dramatic [cough*profitable*cough] story…..nevermind…..

    1. So someone who dominates in the Republican primaries should not be treated as a “legitimate candidate”? Really?

      In reality, the MSM dismissed Trump’s chances right up until the last moment, i.e. didn’t treat him as a serious candidate. Hillary was going to win, all were confident.

      Also, there’s no literacy requirement in the Constitution, nor a competency requirement.

      I hate Trump, and wish voters in a handful of states like Wisconsin more had voted for Hillary rather than Trump, but the reality is that he was a legitimate candidate by virtue of being placed on the ballot by the Republican Party, and crying “MSM! MSM!” just increases his odds of re-election. Ugh.

    2. Because we are broken once and for all.

      After today’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School I have to say (not for the first time) that yes, the USA is most definitely broken. Sandy Hook was probably the test for possible reform and the US failed abjectly, and now it’s at the 18th school shooting for the year (only a month and a half in…), with 17 confirmed dead (so far) in this particular attack alone.

      And as ObApp noted this in the same country where a person boasted that he could kill people and not lose voters, and then indeed became the country’s president.

      There is more than one thing that is irretrievably broken in the USA.

    3. I concede your point dohgaza as it applies to the primaries – the press did indeed treat tRump [and Bernie] as sideshows. But I believe that upon the nomination [and I seem to recollect that early in the primaries it looked like he was going to win it] they were either lazy or too attached to the ‘normalization narrative’ . Or-
      as you suggest , they refused to admit to themselves that he might just become POTUS [do they get a pass for that level of complacency? I dunno] Admittedly they were likely caught off guard by the level of insanity but IMHO, by the second debate they could/should have taken the gloves off and questioned him closely about the nuts and bolts of, for instance, his fiscal policies or say, his abject ignorance of foreign policy. Demanded some specifics re his NAFTA opposition . And yes- maybe asked him to name a few books he has read in his life or as a “Christian” rattle off the first half dozen books of the NT or speak to his ‘conversion experience’ ?

      My frustration lies in the ‘one question- allow some bumper sticker answer- rarely ask the next question’ call and response pattern I saw – especially during the “debates”.

      And really- how much digging – you know, the stuff reporters are “supposed” to do , would it have taken to uncover and expose the money laundering questions or the mistress payoffs?

  9. The willingness of the current administration to lie so blatantly over things that are easily investigated is astounding — why be so stupid?

    Because they can.

    “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, ok? It’s, like, incredible.” — Donald Trump (insulting the intelligence of his supporters and rubbing their noses in it).

    Because we are broken once and for all.

    1. Because we are broken once and for all.

      After today’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School I have to say (not for the first time) that yes, the USA is most definitely broken. Sandy Hook was probably the test for possible reform and the US failed abjectly, and now it’s at the 18th school shooting for the year (only a month and a half in…), with 17 confirmed dead (so far) in this particular attack alone.

      And as ObApp noted this in the same country where a person boasted that he could kill people and not lose voters, and then indeed became the country’s president.

      There is more than one thing that is irretrievably broken in the USA.

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