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President's Daily Brief

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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, and is also distributed to a small number of top-level US officials who are approved by the President, and includes highly classified intelligence analysis, information about covert operations of the US Central Intelligence Agency and reports from the most sensitive US sources or those shared by allied intelligence agencies.[1] The PDB is also provided to the President-elect of the United States, between election day and inauguration.

The PDB is produced by the Director of National Intelligence,[2] and involves fusing intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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);[3] the first was produced by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Richard Lehman at the direction of Huntington D. Sheldon on June 17, 1961 for John F. Kennedy.[4][5]

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.[6]

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 Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor[citation needed]. 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.[6]

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.[7][8] The Washington Post noted that a leaked document indicated that the PRISM SIGAD (US-984) run by the National Security Agency (NSA) is "the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports."[9] The PDB cited PRISM data as a source in 1,477 items in the 2012 calendar year.[10] Declassified documents show that as of January 2001 over 60% of material in the PDB was sourced from signals intelligence (SIGINT).[11] According to the National Security Archive, the percentage of SIGINT-sourced material has likely increased since then.[11]

Political importance

Former Central Intelligence 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."[12]

During a briefing on May 21, 2002, Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary, characterized the PDB as "the most highly sensitized classified document in the government."[13]

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.[14][15] The release was a reversal of the government's previous stance in legal briefs attempting to keep the PDB indefinitely classified.[16] On August 24, 2016, CIA released a further 2,500 briefs from the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford presidencies at a symposium held at the Nixon Presidential Library.[17]

Public awareness

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 a 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.[18]

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."[19]

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."[20] In mid-December 2016, the CIA website said Obama had initiated electronic delivery of the written brief in 2014 and that he received it six days a week.[3]


  2. ^ CIA to Cede President's Brief to Negroponte, a February 19, 2005 Washington Post article
  3. ^ a b "The Evolution of the President's Daily Brief > Today's Brief",, July 10, 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  4. ^ "The Collection of Presidential Briefing Products from 1961 to 1969". CIA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "The President's Intelligence Checklist 17 June 1961" (PDF). CIA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room. June 17, 1961. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "President's Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to Kennedy and Johnson" (PDF). CIA. CIA.
  7. ^ "A Look Back ... The President's First Daily Brief". 2008-02-06. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  8. ^ "Association of Former Intelligence Officers Speech Transcript". 2011-08-12. Archived from the original on 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  9. ^ "U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program". The Washington Post. June 6, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  10. ^ "Prism scandal: Government program secretly probes Internet servers". 2013-06-07. Archived from the original on 2013-06-07.
  11. ^ a b Harper, Lauren (10 June 2013). "National Security Agency has pushed to "rethink and reapply" its treatment of the Fourth Amendment since before 9/11". The National Security Archive. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  12. ^ Under Bush, the Briefing Gets Briefer[dead link], a May 24, 2002 Washington Post article
  13. ^ Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer on May 21, 2002, from the website of the White House
  14. ^ Gerstein, Josh (2015-09-15). "CIA relents in secrecy fight on presidential intelligence briefings". Politico. Retrieved 2015-09-15.
  15. ^ "Brennan Delivers Keynote at President's Daily Brief Public Release Event",, September 16, 2015.
  16. ^ CIA Releases Roughly 2,500 Declassified President’s Daily Briefs,, September 16, 2015.
  17. ^ CIA Releases Roughly 2,500 Declassified President’s Daily Briefs,, August 24, 2016.
  18. ^ Blanton, Thomas S., "The President's Daily Brief", National Security Archive, April 12, 2004. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  19. ^ Thiessen, Marc (September 10, 2012). "Opinions: ... Why is Obama skipping more than half of his daily intelligence meetings?". 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 ...
  20. ^ Wright, David, and Barbara Starr, "Trump to receive intel briefing, meet Flynn", CNN, December 21, 2016. Retrieved 2017-01-12.

Further reading

  • 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.

External links