As part of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council and its membership, you are able to have the opportunity to listen monthly to excellent authors and/or business leaders through ‘Cover to Cover’ calls or webinars with the World Affairs Councils of America and Global Ties U.S.
In the month of January, Dr. David Priess took the time to speak on his recent book, “The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to American Presidents from Kennedy to Obama.”
Dr. David Priess served during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations as an award-winning intelligence officer, manager, and daily intelligence briefer at the CIA as well as a desk officer at the State Department. He obtained his Ph.D. in political science from Duke University.
Dr. Priess appears often on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News and has been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today. He has written about the presidents, intelligence, and national security for Foreign Affairs, The Cipher Brief, and Foreign Policy online as well as Security Studies, the Houston Chronicle, and Skeptic.
He has shared with audiences nationwide previously untold stories from America’s presidents and the top tier of national security and intelligence officials, giving dramatic insights into leadership at all levels, customer service under difficult circumstances, and effective communication practices.
Dr. Priess joins the World Affairs Council of America to discuss his book which was published last year and the paperback edition comes out this month.
In his discussion with the council, Dr. Priess discussed the daily briefings and the history of the daily intelligence briefings given to the president. John F. Kennedy began these daily personalized intelligence briefings in an effort to make the intelligence more digestible, concise, and journalistic in style. By and large Kennedy kept these personalized briefings to himself. When Johnson became president he was unaware of this daily documents and quickly had these daily briefings tailored to his specifications. Ever since the daily briefings have been designed specifically for each president.
In addition, Dr. Priess answered some questions posed by council members like: is it unusual for a president to have an adversarial relationship with the intelligence agencies supplying him with daily briefings? Priess mentioned that strained relationships between presidents and the intelligence community like those shown by the incoming Trump Administration are not totally without president. That the Nixon administration also had a contentious relationship with the CIA in particular.
Concluding his talk with the council Dr. Priess recounted what he considered one of the more interesting stories to come from Presidents Daily Briefings. This was when Bill Clinton was able to use information that was supplied to him in his daily briefing to help resolve a military conflict between India and Pakistan, which was particularly troubling with both countries being nuclear powers. While Pakistan had started the military engagement it was apparent that continued fighting would be devastating. The Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time had rushed to Washington to try to persuade the U.S. to bring India to the table in order to save face and broker a peace agreement. However, from his daily briefings Bill Clinton was able to realize that India and Pakistan had incomplete information on each other’s military and nuclear capabilities and was able to persuade the Pakistani Prime Minister of the urgency of disengaging and not seeking a lengthy discussion around a conditional ceasefire.
Many more fascinating stories and anecdotes regarding the U.S. Presidents and their daily briefings are available in this riveting book. Dr. David Priess’ book is available in paperback later this month or ordered in a hardcover edition from Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or Amazon.com.
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Written by James McManus, GCWAC Programs Associate
James McManus is a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Public Administration program with a focus in community development.