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Bush prefers CIA intelligence briefings face to face

Clinton liked written summaries

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even before Vice President Gore congratulated George W. Bush on his victory in the election, a long tradition quietly resumed: the Central Intelligence Agency started briefing Bush, every day, face to face.

Everywhere Bush has gone since then, from Austin, Texas, to Florida for a fishing vacation, a CIA briefer has been there to meet with him each morning, officials said.

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President-elect George W. Bush and CIA director George Tenet, seen in recent photos  

That was the way his father, former President George Bush, preferred it too. But for eight years, President Clinton only wanted the "PDB" -- the CIA daily briefing -- in writing, leaving it to his national security advisor to talk directly with CIA analysts each day.

The PDB is a six- to 12-page daily summary of intelligence prepared for the president and his top national security advisors.

The president-elect has made it clear, officials said, that he wants to receive the 'president's daily briefing' in person from a senior analyst, six days a week, usually first thing in the morning.

CIA officials said to be pleased

U.S. officials said they expect Bush and his team to be "pretty darn demanding" of the intelligence community -- seeking as much clear, concise intelligence as they can get -- and that pleases officials at the CIA.

Bush and his national security team have already asked for some shifts in the intelligence they receive each day, though officials decline to say on what topics they have been asked to provide more detail.

One likely topic of particular interest to the new administration since it has publicly said it wants a tougher policy toward Iraq: everything to do with Saddam Hussein's activities, ranging from weapons programs, to his personal whereabouts.

'We get more direct feedback'

Though CIA Director George Tenet has told others he has always had as much access to President Clinton as he needed, other officials privately argue that his administration did not always pay as much attention to what U.S. intelligence was gathering as it should.

"We like it" said an official, that the new president wants to resume face to face briefings. "It means we get more direct feedback and can tailor the product" better to the customer, the official said.

Early in the Clinton administration, then CIA Director James Woolsey found it almost impossible to get an appointment to see Clinton. When a private plane crashed on the White House grounds, there were jokes at the CIA that it was Woolsey trying to get a meeting with the president.


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Thursday, January 18, 2001

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