The President’s Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to the First Customer

CIA Releases Previously Classified Presidential Briefings at LBJ Presidential Library

Sep 08, 2015

CIA’s Daily Briefings to the President Shed New Light on Johnson and Kennedy Administrations

AUSTIN, September 16, 2015 – At a symposium at the LBJ Presidential Library today, the Central Intelligence Agency released nearly 2,500 previously classified daily briefings it gave to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. The documents—called PDBs, or the President’s Daily Brief—include a once top-secret update on President Kennedy’s assassin and classified briefings on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and other pressing national security concerns.

"The declassification and release of years of top-secret PDBs from the Kennedy and Johnson era represent a treasure trove for historians," said Mark K. Updegrove, Director of the LBJ Presidential Library. "The PDBs provide fresh context for some of the most tumultuous and significant foreign events in our history, including the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall and other world changing crises."

  • In a Top Secret PDB from November 25, 1963, just three days after President Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA informed President Johnson: "Press stories to the effect that Lee Harvey Oswald recently visited Mexico City are true... Oswald visited both the Cuban and Soviet embassies on 28 September."
  • On October 26, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Top Secret PDB for President Kennedy warned: "Photographs taken yesterday indicate there has been no slackening in the pace of construction work at the missile sites..."

CIA Director John O. Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper delivered remarks at the public event, titled “The President’s Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to the First Customer.” Director Brennan released the documents on the CIA’s website, at http://www.foia.cia.gov. The online collection includes early PDBs, called the President’s Intelligence Checklists, from June 1961 in the early years of the Kennedy Administration to November 1964, and PDBs published from December 1964 through the end of President Johnson’s term in January 1969.

The President’s Daily Brief contains intelligence analysis on crucial national security concerns. Only the President, Vice President, and a small group of officials designated by the President receive the briefing, which one historian has described as the world’s smallest circulation, most highly classified newspaper.

"The PDBs provide a window into the presidents," Updegrove said. "President Kennedy desired something concise that could fit into his coat pocket. President Johnson was a man in a hurry and, early on, wanted his intelligence condensed into terse sentences. But as the Vietnam War raged on, LBJ demanded much longer and more complex PDBs."

The collection was assembled as part of the CIA’s Historical Review Program, which identifies, reviews, and declassifies documents on historically significant events.

For more information, please visit http://www.lbjlibrary.org/mediakits/pdb/.

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