New U.S. intelligence director takes over daily Bush briefings despite advice against it
By KATHERINE SHRADER Associated Press Writer
(AP) - WASHINGTON-
For the first time, new national intelligence director John Negroponte stepped into the Oval Office this week to present President George W. Bush with his classified daily intelligence briefing.
The Wednesday morning session came as the administration is rethinking the way the government handles intelligence information following a series of reports critical of the way spy agencies collect and share information.
It also underscored that the White House is not immediately heeding the advice of a presidential commission on intelligence, which recommended last month that someone other than Negroponte brief the president each day.
The briefing, previously conducted by the CIA director, is coveted because of the time and potential influence the briefer has with the president. Yet it also requires significant preparation on issues, such as the potential for a North Korean nuclear test or the latest al-Qaida threat.
As a result, the presidential commission said in the report last month that the director of national intelligence, or DNI, should not "prepare, deliver or even attend every briefing."
"For if the DNI is consumed by current intelligence, the long-term needs of the intelligence community will suffer," the commissioners wrote in a letter to Bush that accompanied their report.
But Bush had said in February when he chose Negroponte to be intelligence chief that he would handle the briefing. It's not clear whether Negroponte alone presented the information this week or shared the task with other intelligence officials.
In the past, the briefing has been a matter of presidential preference.
A former senior intelligence official said Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, had his briefings delivered by a senior analyst. President Bill Clinton generally got his briefings in writing and would send them back with notes in the margins.
In 2001, then-CIA Director George Tenet went to the first couple of briefings when Bush took office, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy which surrounds the briefing. Bush liked the interchange with the Tenet and let it be known that he wanted the director or his deputy present as often as possible for the President's Daily Brief, or PDB in Washington-speak.
"It takes a lot of time, but the president is the most important customer and if he wants you there and values your input ... you want to comply with his wishes," the official said.
Laurence Silberman, the Republican and senior appellate judge who co-chaired the commission, said at a recent American Bar Association breakfast that Bush was surprised to learn that when he asked a question, "There is an enormous amount of effort that goes into answering that question."
Porter Goss, the current CIA director, seems to agree. Goss, who delivered the reports after taking the post in September, told an audience in California last month that he spends five hours a day preparing for the briefing.
"I'm a little amazed at the workload," Goss said.
A great deal of what is said to Bush is wasted breathe. If he'd listened, he'd have been more than a C student at Yale. But no. Wasn't then, isn't now, won't be in the future. There's a lesson in there....Never elect a C student to the Presidency.