19 October 2015


Finally, the CIA are showing us Presidents Kennedy and Johnson's PICLs...

"For the President Only, Top Secret"

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently released loads and loads of "The President's Intelligence Checklists" or PICLs (later renamed "President's Daily Briefs") from the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, following a long legal FOIA battle.

From the CIA website:
"The CIA’s Historical Review Program on 16 September 2015 released a collection of presidential briefing products written during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations. This large-scale release of The President’s Intelligence Checklists (PICLs) [an acronym pronounced “pickles”] and The President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) includes almost 2,500 documents exclusively written for the president each day except Sunday. They summarized the day-to-day intelligence and analysis on current and future national security issues. President Kennedy received the first PICL -- a seven-page 8 ½- by 8-inch booklet -- on Saturday, 17 June 1961 at his country home near Middleburg, Virginia. The PICL was replaced by the PDB on 1 December 1964, during the Johnson administration. In addition to the PDBs and PICLs, the collection includes The President’s Intelligence Review and its replacement, Highlights of the Week, as well as ad hoc supplemental products and annexes that featured topics of presidential interest. The CIA originators of the PICL, and later the PDB, strove to craft a daily current product that was true to sensitive source reporting and yet was easily readable by the president and his advisors."
There's plenty to read in the briefs themselves, but make sure also to read the "brochure" that provides rather detailed background, as well as in depth interviews, all about what essentially was the most important twitter feed of its time.

President Kennedy's administration set the precedent - in one too many ways* - and this Executive Branch tradition continues; and continues to evolve according to the way our president wishes to consume his - or her - global intelligence updates.

Of course, it was in one of these daily intelligence briefings - on 6 August 2001 - that President George W. Bush was warned, "Bin Laden determined to strike in US."

*This is a page from the first PICL issued for President Johnson, on 22 November 1963, which contained only a quote of a quote from President Kennedy: