Does the President of the United States need to be briefed on intelligence every day? According to President-elect Donald Trump, the answer is a resounding "no."
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday this week, Trump told Chris Wallace that daily briefings are unnecessary because he "doesn't need to be told the same thing every day."
Trump, who has received just a handful of daily briefings since winning the election over a month ago, told Wallace:
"You know, I'm, like, a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years – but eight years. I don't need that. But I do say, 'If something should change, let us know.'"
For more than 60 years, the President's Daily Brief (PDB) has enabled U.S. presidents to receive a multi-source look at international intelligence each day. Consisting of intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to name a few, the PDB is also available to the President-elect between election day and the inauguration.
That being said, former presidents have questioned the validity of daily briefings. Additionally, every president since Truman has catered the way in which briefings are received to their liking. So let's take a look at how other presidents chose to receive their intelligence briefings.
President Harry Truman
Upon assuming the role of commander-in-chief after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, President Harry Truman concluded that there was a need for a daily briefing. Later citing that there was "no concentration of information for the benefit of the President," Truman tasked the U.S. Central Intelligence Group (CIG) with creating the briefing.
Several weeks later, the CIG gave Truman the very first Daily Summary, which was a two-page document consisting of six protocols. The report, which contained only foreign intelligence, included news about China, French Indochina, Yugoslavia, and a report from the US Embassy in Paris. In 1951, the Daily Summary was replaced by the Current Intelligence Bulletin, which included more sources and was wider in scope.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Unlike President Truman, President Eisenhower came to the White House with a wealth of knowledge concerning international affairs. As a result, Eisenhower minimized the importance of daily briefings in favor of periodic high-level briefings. Eisenhower reviewed these briefings at weekly National Security Council (NSC) meetings, which he chaired for eight years.
In 1958, after Eisenhower argued that the materials presented to him lacked context, the Central Intelligence Bulletin was introduced. The new and lengthier report contained 12 items – each with six to eight lines – and several pages of articles addressing the items in greater detail.
President John F. Kennedy
While Eisenhower preferred longer and more in-depth briefings, President Kennedy opted for concise reports that could literally fit into his pocket, thus creating the President's Intelligence Checklist (PICL). The PICL remained unchanged until Kenndey's successor President Lyndon B. Johnston created a PDB that met his specifications.
Unlike Eisenhower, Kennedy also preferred more informal conversations surrounding intelligence rather than weekly NSA meetings. A top CIA analyst later recalled that Kennedy's approach was akin to a “pickup touch football game crossed with a Harvard seminar."
President Richard Nixon
Under the Nixon Administration, PDBs became an all day affair. In order to accommodate National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, the CIA delivered up-to-the-minute reports morning and afternoon. By 1969, when Nixon took office, the PDB had increased in size from Kennedy's pocket report to a lengthy 10 pages.
Nixon, who blamed the CIA for his 1960 loss to Kennedy, received the daily summaries from Kissinger and never dealt directly with the CIA. Kissinger edited the summaries and told the CIA what they should contain. According to Kissinger, Nixon regularly ignored the reports.
President Barack Obama
Although the PDB had gone through many iterations prior to President Obama taking office in 2009, there was always one constant: there was always a hard copy. This changed in 2014 when the CIA began delivering PDBs electronically at Obama's request.
Obama prefers to read the briefings alone on his iPad rather than receive oral briefings. This is in direct contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush who relied heavily on oral briefs.
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