World Threats: Obama Gets His First CIA Threat Briefing at Chicago FBI Building

NOV 06 2008 — President-elect Barack Obama received a CIA briefing on al Qaeda, Iraq, and Iran Thursday at a Chicago FBI building. FBI field offices are equipped with eavesdropping-proof chambers called “SCIFs,” or Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, where Obama can get the same secret briefing President Bush receives every day.

The CIA still has no specific information on the whereabouts of bin Laden, but probable locations are described and a much better set of leads on the location of bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahari will be described. Iraq and Afghanistan are top on the agenda.

Nuclear counterproliferation in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran also explained to Obama. Obama is not given nuclear missile launch codes until Jan. 20, when he’s sworn into office, but Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and his team from the nation’s spy agencies gave Obama a laundry list of foreign threats and details about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs.

As incoming president, Obama receives the “threat matrix” — information of countries around the world known as the President’s Daily Briefing Book (PBD). The briefing book consists of a “series of analytic reports,” with items of special interest tabbed, and information custom-designed for the recipient (president, vice president, etc.). Historically, George W. Bush preferred maps and biographical pictures of subjects. Vice President Dick Cheney preferred detailed answers to his own questions with answers that went “deep in the weeds,” according to Craig Schmall — a CIA officer who briefed Vice President Cheney six days a week during 2003.

Top Obama advisers are eager to begin a strategic shift in counter-terrorism policy with a much greater focus and commitment of resources to going after al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani tribal region.