The President's Daily Brief (PDB), sometimes referred to as the President's Daily Briefing or the President's Daily Bulletin, is a top-secret document produced and given each morning to the president of the United States; it is also distributed to a small number of top-level US officials who are approved by the president. It includes highly classified intelligence analysis, information about covert operations, and reports from the most sensitive US sources or those shared by allied intelligence agencies. At the discretion of the president, the PDB may also be provided to the president-elect of the United States, between election day and inauguration, and to former presidents on request.
The PDB is produced by the director of national intelligence, and involves fusing intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Defense Department, Homeland Security and other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
Purpose and history
The PDB is intended to provide the president with new intelligence warranting attention and analysis of sensitive international situations. The prototype of the PDB was termed the President's Intelligence Check List (PICL); the first was produced by CIA officer Richard Lehman at the direction of Huntington D. Sheldon on June 17, 1961 for John F. Kennedy.
Although the production and coordination of the PDB was a CIA responsibility, other members of the U.S. intelligence community reviewed articles (the "coordination" process) and were free to write and submit articles for inclusion.
While the name of the PDB implies exclusivity, it has historically been briefed to other high officials. The distribution list has varied over time but has always or almost always included the Vice-President, Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor. Rarely, special editions of the PDB have actually been "for the president's eyes only," with further dissemination of the information left to the president's discretion.
Production of the PDB is associated with that of another publication, historically known as the National Intelligence Daily, that includes many of the same items but is distributed considerably more widely than the PDB.
The PDB is an all-source intelligence product summarized from all collecting agencies. The Washington Post noted that a leaked document indicated that the PRISM SIGAD (US-984) run by the NSA is "the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports." The PDB cited PRISM data as a source in 1,477 items in the 2012 calendar year. Declassified documents show that as of January 2001 over 60% of material in the PDB was sourced from signals intelligence (SIGINT). According to the National Security Archive, the percentage of SIGINT-sourced material has likely increased since then.
Former CIA director George Tenet considered the PDB so sensitive that during July 2000 he indicated to the National Archives and Records Administration that none of them could be released for publication "no matter how old or historically significant it may be."
On September 16, 2015, CIA director John Brennan spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library, at the public release of a total of 2,500 daily briefs and intelligence checklists from the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson presidencies. The release was a reversal of the government's previous stance in legal briefs attempting to keep the PDB indefinitely classified. On August 24, 2016, the CIA released a further 2,500 briefs from the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford presidencies at a symposium held at the Nixon Presidential Library.
The PDB was scrutinized by news media during testimony to the 9/11 Commission, which was convened during 2004 to analyze the September 11, 2001 attacks. On April 8, 2004, after testimony by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the commission renewed calls for the declassification of a PDB from August 6, 2001, entitled Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US. Two days later, the White House complied and released the document with redaction.
Usage by Presidents and Presidents-Elect
During the 2012 re-election campaign, a former Bush administration official and President Barack Obama critic reported that "officials tell me the former president [Bush] held his intelligence meeting six days a week, no exceptions" (for a putative 86% in-person attendance record) though "Bush records [were] not yet available electronically for analysis".
Obama records, by contrast in this analysis, showed that during "his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times—or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012 [within the 1,225 days analyzed], his attendance ... [fell] to just over 38 percent." Obama initiated electronic delivery of the written brief in 2014 and received it six days a week.
In the first six weeks of the presidential transition of Donald Trump in 2016, the president-elect averaged about one PDB a week. He had "participated in multiple PDBs in some weeks, CNN has learned. And the transition team said last week Trump would be increasing his PDB participation to three times a week." However, by the final weeks of his presidency Trump didn't have a single PDB listed on his schedule.
During the presidential transition of Joe Biden in 2020, Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris gained access to the PDB in late-November 2020. Upon taking office, Biden started committing to receiving the PDB on most days, with Harris in attendance.
- "Sources: Trump Adviser Kushner Loses Access to Top Intelligence Briefing". The Jerusalem Post. February 28, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "Donald Trump will get Secret Service protection, classified briefings and a pension for life when he leaves the White House"
- Pincus, Walter (February 19, 2005). "CIA to Cede President's Brief to Negroponte". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "The Evolution of the President's Daily Brief". CIA. July 10, 2014. Archived from the original on January 28, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
- "The Collection of Presidential Briefing Products from 1961 to 1969". CIA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room. Archived from the original on August 28, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
- "The President's Intelligence Checklist 17 June 1961" (PDF). CIA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room. June 17, 1961. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 28, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
- Mansfield, Celia (September 16, 2015). "The President's Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to Kennedy and Johnson" (PDF). CIA Historical Collections. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "A Look Back ... The President's First Daily Brief". CIA. February 6, 2008. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
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- Pincus, Walter (May 24, 2002). "Under Bush, the Briefing Gets Briefer". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
- "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer". White House. May 21, 2002. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Gerstein, Josh (September 15, 2015). "CIA relents in secrecy fight on presidential intelligence briefings". Politico. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
- "Brennan Delivers Keynote at President's Daily Brief Public Release Event" (Press release). CIA. September 16, 2015. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "CIA Releases Roughly 2,500 Declassified President's Daily Briefs". CIA. September 16, 2015. Archived from the original on August 16, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- "CIA Releases Roughly 2,500 Declassified President's Daily Briefs" (Press release). CIA. August 24, 2016. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
- Blanton, Thomas S. (April 12, 2004). "The President's Daily Brief". National Security Archive. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
- Thiessen, Marc (September 10, 2012). "Opinions: ... Why is Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
The Government Accountability Institute ... examined President Obama's schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012...
- Wright, David; Starr, Barbara (December 21, 2016). "Trump to receive intel briefing, meet Flynn". CNN. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
- "Biden puts the 'daily' back into the administration's intelligence briefings". NBC News. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
- Czachor, Emily (November 24, 2020). "Biden will now receive President's Daily Brief, which includes information on intelligence, military operations". Newsweek. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
- Helgerson, John L. (2021). Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect, 1952–2016 (Fourth ed.). Washington, D.C.: Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency. ISBN 978-1-929667-34-5. Retrieved November 30, 2021.
- Priess, David (2016). The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents from Kennedy to Obama. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-596-0. The fourth edition includes details of the transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in its new Chapter 9.
- "What is the PDB?". Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
- "President's Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to Kennedy and Johnson" (PDF). CIA. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2015.
- "The Collection of Presidential Briefing Products from 1961 to 1969". CIA. Archived from the original on August 28, 2016.
- "Previously Released President's Daily Briefs". National Security Archives, George Washington University. Archived from the original on October 7, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
- "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" (PDF). CNN. August 6, 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 13, 2004.
- "David Priess talked about his book, The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents from Kennedy to Obama". C-Span. April 6, 2016.