Thursday, November 6, 2008



(From November 5,2008, President-elect Barrack Obama started receiving from the Director National Intelligence (DNI) a daily brief on thestate of the world the previous day called the President's Daily Brief (PDB). A background note on the PDB carried by the BBC online onNovember 6,2008, is annexed. The CIA would do well to incorporate the following in its PDB to Obama)

There is amazement ---- and confusion--- in India over reports that one of the first acts of the President will be to appoint Bill Clinton as hisSpecial Envoy on the Kashmir issue to facilitate a settlement between India and Pakistan

2.Well-informed sources in India say that if the President-elect wants to severely damage the developing Indo-US relations he could nothave thought of a better idea than to meddle in Kashmir. So many Americans----Presidents, Presidents-elect and defeatedPresidential-aspirants---- thought they could help in finding a solution to the Kashmir issue and burnt their fingers and damaged Indo-USrelations.

3. This started from Adlai Stevenson, who after losing the election to Gen.Dwight Eisenhower, proceeded to Srinagar ostensibly for ahouseboat holiday on the Dal Lake and tried to meddle in the affairs of the State by suggesting to Sheikh Abdullah, the then Chief Minister ofJammu & Kashmir, that he should seek independence and promised that the US would support him. When the Indian Intelligence Bureauinformed Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, of Stevenson's secret discussions with Abdullah, he sacked Abdullah. Adlai Stevensonbecame persona non grata with the Indian political class and public.

4. When Clinton became the President in 1993 he could not resist the temptation to have a go at settling the Kashmir issue. He chose as hissecret emissary not a distinguished American, but an old college mate of his called Robin Raphael, who was posted as a junior diplomat inthe US Embassy in New Delhi. Her American colleagues in New Delhi used to allege that after Clinton took office, she used to go aroundprojecting herself as if she was a trusted adviser to Clinton, who took her into the State Department.

5. Our Indian sources say that she had two "achievements" to her discredit. She instigated the formation of the Hurriyat , a hotch-potch ofanti-New Delhi Kashmiri personalities, which added to the existing mess. She also encouraged the formation of the Taliban in 1994 with thehelp of her close personal friends Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, and Asif Ali Zardari, the present President of Pakistan. She evenmet Mullah Mohammad Omar, who subsequently designated himself as the Amir of the Taliban, secretly and sought his help for a project ofthe Unocal for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via the Herat area of Afghanistan.

6. According to the sources, her misadventures in Kashmir further damaged Indo-US relations and her godmothering the Taliban inexorablyset in motion the train of events that led to Osama bin Laden shifting from Khartoum to Jalalabad in 1996 and launching from Afghanistanthe terrorist strikes outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in August 1998, the attack on USS Cole off Aden inOctober,2000, and the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland.

7. Our Indian sources say that in the history of Indo-American relations since India became independent in 1947, there have been moreinstances of meddling by Democrats than by Republicans. They feel that Democrats seem to think that they understand sub-continentalaffairs better than anybody in the US and find it difficult to resist the urge to meddle. According to them, that is why Indian security agenciesfeel uncomfortable when the White House has a Democrat as incumbent. They say that if one draws a graph of terrorism in J&K, one wouldfind that it tends to go up when a Democrat is the President.

8.At a time when India and Pakistan are on the road to slowly mending their bilateral relations, Indians are amazed that the President-electoblivious of the past misadventures of the US in the sub-continent should be thinkig of one more. (6-11-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStrudies, Chennai. E-mail: )


Eyes only: Obama's spy briefing

By Adam Brookes BBC News, Washington

The President's Daily Brief (PDB) occupies a fabled place in American politics.
It is an ultra-secret compilation of the latest intelligence presented to the President every morning.

And later on Thursday, Barack Obama will start to receive the PDB as president-elect.

Every evening, reports over the years tell us, the PDB is roughed out by intelligence officials.

Its contents tend towards the very topical:

The latest signals intercepts from the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland

The latest human intelligence relayed to the CIA's case officers by their agents, or to the operatives of the Defense Intelligence Agency

Satellite images garnered by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Bethesda

Perhaps most importantly, the PDB sums up the conclusions about the state of the world as reached by analysts from across some 16 USintelligence agencies.
Dynamic process

The President could not possibly absorb the sum of the information gathered by the huge American intelligence apparatus.

FBI information indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks

The PDB must synthesise and distil key conclusions from a mass of data.
So the PDB is a highly selective document. And it must be written very carefully.

Intelligence staff continue to work on it overnight, as fresh reporting comes in.

In the morning the final version is reviewed by the Director for National Intelligence (DNI), or one of his staff.

The current DNI, Mike McConnell, likes to take the PDB to the White House and present it to the President, sources say.

He takes with him staff members who are specialists and can answer questions the President might have.

"It's a dynamic process," says Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

"The President hears what the intelligence people want him to know, and the intelligence people learn what the president is interested in."

There are only a few PDBs - or portions of them - in the public domain. And those are mostly associated with highly controversial topics. George Bush (C) may have passed over PDB warnings of al-Qaeda threats

Here is an extract from a 1998 PDB given to President Clinton. It is often used to illustrate that the US clearly understood the al-Qaedathreat years before President George W Bush took office:

"SUBJECT: Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks

"Reporting [-] suggests Bin Laden and his allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release ofShaykh 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq 'Awda.

"One source quoted a senior member of the Gama'at al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for anoperation in the US on behalf of Bin Laden, but that the operation was on hold.

"A senior Bin Laden operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps includingan aircraft hijacking."

There is a lot of detail here, and references to individual items of HUMINT (human intelligence), though President Clinton was renowned for his love of just that.

But note the caveats: reports do not "tell", they merely "suggest".

Perhaps the most infamous PDB also concerns al-Qaeda. It went to President Bush on 6 August, 2001 - just over a month before the 11September attacks on New York and Washington.

It contained the headline: "Bin Ladin determined to strike in the US".

It reads: "FBI information indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other typesof attacks."

Extraordinarily prescient? Or vague and unhelpful?

The Silberman-Robb report on US intelligence capabilities of 2005 found "deficiencies" in the PDB. Its authors were scathing. The dailyreports seemed to be "selling" intelligence - in order to keep its customers, or at least the First Customer, interested

They alleged that the format of the Brief and the way in which it was delivered helped inflate the sense of the threat posed by Iraq.

The "river of intelligence that flowed from the CIA to top policy makers over long periods of time" through the PDB was "misleading", said thereport.

"The PDBs… with their attention-grabbing headlines and drumbeat of repetition, left an impression of many corroborating reports where infact there were very few sources", it read.

"The daily reports seemed to be "selling" intelligence - in order to keep its customers, or at least the First Customer, interested."

Since then, there have been changes.

The PDB now looks less like a newsletter, sources say. It may include graphics and photographs.

Gone are those pithy headlines. And it is written in a way to reflect uncertainty or disagreement within the intelligence agencies.

So what might Barack Obama's first PDB have in it?

Well, it is not hard to imagine that there would be an evaluation of Russia's intentions regarding the positioning of its missiles, givenPresident Medvedev's recent belligerent statements.

The latest from the Afghan-Pakistan border, intercepts and photographs from drones which reveal what militants are where, and the plans US intelligence has to target them, perhaps.

And did US warplanes really kill 37 civilians at a wedding party, as the Afghan government alleges?

And plenty more - that we will never know.