Each morning before dawn, a secret print shop at the CIA's Langley, Va., compound produces a handful of copies of the nation's most closely guarded document, the President's daily brief. The PDB, as it is known, is meant to apprise the President of the latest, most crucial intelligence on threats to the nation's security. But the document, which for years has been produced by the CIA, came under much criticism during the investigations of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Now the PDB is in the midst of its biggest reform ever, as the new Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, takes over as its editor in chief.
Negroponte is making sure that, for the first time, other U.S. intelligence agencies are getting a regular say in what the President hears. Top FBI officials last week received what one told TIME was a highly unusual call from Negroponte's office, seeking information for an upcoming PDB. It was the first time in at least two years that the FBI was asked to contribute information to the brief, a senior official said. Negroponte has also asked 13 other agencies to submit items for the report.
The changes are overdue. "If this is the crown jewel of our intelligence system, it was a pretty shoddy product," says Tom Kean, who reviewed Bush and Clinton Administration briefings as chairman of the 9/11 commission. Bush has had his own problems with the PDB. Last year, an expert he was consulting on Iraq complained that the CIA spent too much time providing updates for the PDB on relatively obscure matters. Bush's response: "So that's why those bastards keep telling me about Mozambique." The new approach is getting some good reviews. State Department intelligence officials have been pleased to see "divergent viewpoints" included in the report, an official says. And Negroponte's new involvement should free CIA Director Porter Goss--who has lamented that preparing the presidential briefing can take up to six hours of his workday--to spend more time running the country's biggest human spy machine. --By Brian Bennett and Timothy J. Burger. With reporting by Matthew Cooper and Elaine Shannon