Monday, December 26, 2016

The Last Time We Had a President Bored by Intel Briefings, We Got 9/11

Former CIA head and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said that if President-Elect Trump refuses intelligence briefings and something bad happens, he would be responsible. These are ominous words.
I just finished Panetta’s memoir, Worthy Fights. Two things stood out. First, that much of good government consists of being on top of situations, managing issues very carefully to make sure they do not go wrong, and making sure your subordinates know you expect them to be on top of their jobs. For a couple of chapters I thought the memoir was going to be boring but Panetta was considered one of the best administrators in Washington and I realized that boring is what successful governance is all about.
The second thing that leapt out was Panetta’s discussion of the Benghazi attack, when the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans were killed. Congressional Republicans spent years “investigating” Hillary Clinton for this, even asking her whether she slept alone the night of the attack. It was shameless. Panetta does not even mention Clinton in his discussion. As far as he was concerned, he was Secretary of Defense and the responsibility was his. He addressed the accusations that somehow the military had been held back from a rescue. He described how several teams were scrambled for rescue operations and then he said, “The people who make these accusations do not understand how the whole military responds when American lives are at risk.” His comments dripped with contempt.
Back to these briefings. Every morning someone from the CIA appears outside of the President’s office. The public never knows this person’s name. The person has a folder with briefing documents. This is called the PDB, the President’s Daily Briefing. The intelligence community has been up all night preparing these materials. The PDB contains everything the intelligence community has found out in the last 24 hours that the President needs to know. Read full story here 

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