|The Secret is out!|
Priess traces the origins and history of the PDB. Why is there is PDB? The simple answer is...to avoid future Pearl Harbors. This book was not really initiated by the intelligence community until the Kennedy administration. Today the PDB is delivered on a secure IPad to President Obama.
Different Presidents have used intelligence in very different ways. Nixon was deeply suspicious of the CIA, suspecting that is was an elite East coast institution that was hostile to his interests. Stacks of the reports piled up unread. Nixon relied upon Kissinger for foreign policy expertise and Priess notes one CIA analyst noting that "Kissinger didn't give a crap about the PDB."
|Two Bush Presidents, Dallas, TX|
Priess, a former CIA briefer himself, managed to get amazing access to many powerful officials on both sides of the aisle. George H. W. Bush wrote a Foreword to the book praising "the remarkable men and women who make up our intelligence community."
Some of the books most interesting details concern the Gulf War of 1990-91. The Bush administration decided not to the kick off the ground war in Kuwait until half of Saddam's tanks had been destroyed from the air. But CIA and Defense department assessments of the number of tanks destroyed by enemy air power differed. CENTCOM tended to overestimate the number of tanks destroyed versus the CIA. President Bush ascribed the difference to "pilot euphoria" with which he was personally familiar from his service as a naval aviator in World War II. When Operation Desert Storm, the ground campaign, was eventually ordered to begin in 1991 it only took one hundred hours to liberate Kuwait. Coalition casualties were much lower than the bloodbath that had been widely predicted by the punditry.
|James Bond for liberals|
Entertainment NOT Reality
Priess's book is an antidote to the popular and grossly distorted view that so many Americans hold of the CIA and our intelligence services.
Intelligence gathering is an art rather than a science. No one bats a thousand and no one can get it right all the time. The CIA has had many failings over its history. They failed to warn about the coming of the Iranian Revolution in the Carter years. Their database supplied the wrong coordinates which led to the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999. They failed to adequately warn President George W. Bush about the intentions and capabilities of Al Qaeda prior to the devastating 9/11 attack.
Nor is the imperfection of intelligence services anything new. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before archaeologists working near the site of ancient Troy find an inscription documenting that King Priam's chief of intelligence informed him that it was a "slam dunk" that the wooden horse brought by the Greeks was empty!
But the intelligence services do get it right more often than not. The CIA is a well funded organization staffed with thousands of dedicated and talented translators, engineers, analysts and some field agents. Everyone hears about their failures. But their many successes go unheralded and unacknowledged. Priess's important and timely book is an attempt to redress this imbalance.
Special thanks to the FDR Library's Roosevelt Reading Festival which takes place every June in Hyde Park, NY (www.fdrlibrary.org). This June I had the pleasure of meeting David Priess in Hyde Park where both of us gave presentations on our books.
You can find signed copies of our books at
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Listen to my interview with Bob Cudmore...http://bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/tracks/ChristopherKelly(August2017)(29)(mp3).mp3