Intel community preps briefings for presidential nominees

Story highlights

  • The U.S. intelligence community is now laying the groundwork for briefing nominees
  • President Barack Obama will have the final say on what information the candidates receive

Washington (CNN)The presidential nominees, including the one who won't be occupying the Oval Office next January, will by summer be privy to some of the nation's most sensitive secrets and intelligence analysis.

The U.S. intelligence community is now laying the groundwork for briefing nominees from both political parties after the nominating conventions on crucial intelligence issues.
It happens every four years, and this year will be no different, said a U.S. official familiar with the current planning. The Republican and Democratic nominees will be offered the briefings so they will be better informed during the general elections. The briefings specifically do not include any advice to the candidates.
Some candidates, such as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have been used to receiving intelligence briefings -- albeit not at the presidential level -- as U.S. senators (and, in the case of Clinton, secretary of state). Others will be new entirely to the practice, but that won't affect the nature or scope of the information they receive. Everyone, the official said, will get the same briefings.
The planning for briefings, including assembling teams of briefers, is already underway, according to several officials CNN has spoken to. Because of the sensitivity involved in the matter, none would agree to be identified.
Ultimately, President Barack Obama will have the final say on what information the candidates receive. The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, will oversee the effort.
As in the past, if a nominee asks for an intelligence briefing on a particular subject, the other nominee will automatically be offered the same information.
An official wouldn't say if the nominees will get temporary security clearances. But the level of information will be "something more than what is publicly available," the official said.
But the candidates will not be briefed on the most highly classified intelligence, because the government does not want a losing candidate to have that level of information.
Several officials familiar with the planning said the candidates' existing level of knowledge about U.S. intelligence won't affect the type of briefing received.
But some candidates do come into the process with more knowledge of how it works. In particular Clinton, as a former secretary of state and Cruz, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have existing knowledge. And the best-informed potential nominee could be Rubio, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and receives intelligence-related briefings already.
He has, however, come under attack for missing intelligence briefings, committee hearings and even votes because of his time on the presidential campaign trail.
Under the briefing process, it is not until after Election Day that the president-elect begins to receive the most highly classified intelligence and military briefings, including information on covert intelligence operations -- some of the government's most closely held secrets.
When Obama received his first briefings after being elected, he reportedly told an adviser, "I'm inheriting a world that could blow up any minute in half a dozen ways," according to an account in journalist Bob Woodward's book "Obama's Wars."