President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will begin receiving the nation’s most sensitive secrets Monday as they prepare to assume office on Jan 20.
The pair are to receive the highly classified Presidential Daily Brief, a summary of the most important information collected across the US intelligence community that is prepared and delivered by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Outgoing President Donald Trump approved the briefings for Biden last Tuesday, a day after his administration approved the formal transition process to his successor.
It was not immediately clear how Biden and Harris would receive the briefing, which is tailored to the needs and interests of its top recipient. For Trump, that has meant a focus on visuals and a preference for paper. His predecessor, Barack Obama, came to embrace the briefing being presented on a modified secure tablet. Given its sensitivity, the leather-bound briefing is usually delivered in person by a career member of the intelligence community, though Trump has increasingly let that process lapse.
“On a given day, I might read about terrorist cells in Somalia or unrest in Iraq or the fact that the Chinese or Russians were developing new weapons systems,” Obama wrote in his memoir. “Nearly always, there was mention of potential terrorist plots, no matter how vague, thinly sourced, or unactionable—a form of due diligence on the part of the intelligence community, meant to avoid the kind of second-guessing that had transpired after 9/11.”
He added that his wife, Michelle, called it “The Death, Destruction, and Horrible Things Book.”
Much of the information in the PDB requires no immediate response, Obama wrote, “The goal was to have a continuously up-to-date sense of all that was roiling in the world, the large, small, and sometimes barely perceptible shifts that threatened to upset whatever equilibrium we were trying to maintain.”
The PDB, as it is known, is just one component of the intelligence briefings presented to an incoming administration. Biden and Harris will also be able to receive in-depth subject matter briefings from intelligence experts, as well as a run-down of extremely classified covert operations underway during the Trump administration, the latter necessary to determine if they want to maintain or modify those operations once they assume office.