Observations on the world today.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Update on Yesterday's Blog: ABB or ADD, That is the Question 

Yesterday, I posted a suggestion that Bush's PDB might actually be dumbed down for his benefit. I noted that I had never seen another PDB and therefore had nothing to compare it against. Well, now I have. Ten Johnson-era PDBs have been declassified and are avaiable online from the National Security Archive here. Johnson's PDB's were all current intel presented in a very dry, matter-of-fact, conversational style. For example, a PDB from May 16, 1967 was presented as follows:
Nasir is going all out to show that his mutual security pact with Syria is something which the Israelies should take very seriously. Large troop contingents were seen moving through Cairo yesterday and there are other signs of a wide-scale mobilization.
Contrast that with:
Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
I get the impression that when the CIA was talking with Johnson, they felt they were talking with someone who could put together the pieces, but with Bush they had to spell everything out in short, easily remembered factoids. Of course, one could chalk that up to the writing style of the person presenting the brief, but as the CIA points out in chapter 7 of their own description of how the briefings are designed:
The obvious but sometimes elusive key for the CIA, and particularly its director, is to grasp each new president's needs and operating style and accommodate them during the transition and beyond.
So one has to wonder if perhaps all of the current president's PDBs are written as historic primers leading up to the significant and pertinent information contained at the bottom of the page -- the single page I might note. Johnson's briefings sometimes went on for pages.

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