In Michael Moore's 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11 a person named Dan Briody says the following:

George H.W. Bush is a man who has obviously incredible reach into the White House. He receives daily CIA briefings, which is the right of any ex-president, but very few ex-presidents actually exercise that right, but he does.

If it's true, what's the supposed reason for this given that the ex-president doesn't hold the office of president anymore? I mean what practical purpose does it serve for a former president to have this sort of information made available to him/her? Does this mean that, for example, former presidents Obama and Trump will have the right to daily CIA briefings for the rest of their lives after leaving the presidency?

  • 3
    given that Osama was thrown out of his family for his ideals well before 9/11, the phrasing of this statement is suggestive to say the least.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 7:09
  • 4
    Might be worth noting that H.W. Bush led the CIA himself for a time before becoming president.
    – bobsburner
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Do former US presidents have the right to receive daily CIA briefings?

In Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham, published in 2015, there is a statement,

Bush inhaled the daily CIA briefings sent to former presidents, ...

There is reason to accept that former presidents have received daily CIA briefings, at least as a courtesy.

However George H. W. Bush left office on January 20, 1993. On April 22, 2005, the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created. The CIA reports to the DNI and the "daily CIA briefing" became the President's Daily Brief (PDB).

The PDB contains intelligence analysis on key national security issues for the President and other senior policymakers. Only the President, the Vice President, and a select group of officials designated by the President receive the briefing, which represents the Intelligence Community’s best insights on issues the President must confront when dealing with threats as well as opportunities related to our national security. — CIA

Currently, whether any briefings, for former presidents, occur, or are daily or as needed, is subject to the approval of the president. As mentioned below, briefings concerning activities with which the former president was aware could be significant.


Why do former presidents and officials continue to receive intelligence?

In addition to meeting with foreign leaders, former presidents and intelligence officials are expected to receive intelligence briefings for a number of other reasons.

One of the most obvious reasons is so that they can continue to advise the sitting administration and officials on incidents that may either be ongoing or reflect those of the past.

"Having former senior officials hold active security clearances can be critically important for those currently charged with defending our nation," Jamil N. Jaffer, who was associate counsel to President George W. Bush and founder of George Mason University's National Security Institute, told The Washington Post in a recent interview.

"It allows them to turn rapidly to people with significant experience, context and contacts to help interpret the activity of our opponents and to provide wise counsel and guidance, whether that's in the terrorism, foreign policy or any national security context," he said.

The current authority for former presidents to access CIA information is given as:

32 CFR § 1909.1 - Authority and purpose.

(b) Purpose. This part prescribes procedures for waiving the need-to-know requirement for access to classified information with respect to persons:

(3) Requesting access to classified CIA information as a former President or Vice President.

32 CFR § 1909.5 - Requirements as to who may apply.

(c) Former Presidents and Vice Presidents. Any former President or Vice President may submit a request for access to classified CIA information. Requests from former Presidents or Vice Presidents shall be in writing to the Coordinator and shall identify the records containing the classified information of interest. A former President or Vice President may also request approval for a research associate, but there is no entitlement to such enlargement of access and the decision in this regard shall be in the sole discretion of the Senior Agency Official.

CFR refers to Code of Federal Regulations. These authorities are derived "pursuant to Sec. 4.4 of Executive Order 13526".

Concerning "daily CIA briefings" for former presidents:

During December 2006, the term "daily CIA briefings" was added to the Wikipedia page, President of the United States, then marked as "[citation needed]", and subsequently removed. Other fora have been asked a similar question, but none of the responses cited any authority.

That the CIA does brief former presidents is established:

That former presidents have the "right" to receive "daily CIA briefings" (or Presidential Daily Briefings} has not been verified.

  • 1
    Okay, that makes sense, I guess former presidents are valuable for their experience and "wise counsel" I guess. Thanks.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 12:31
  • 25
    I wonder how often Trump has consulted Obama for his "wise counsel". Or Obama consulted Bush for that matter. Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 18:29
  • 16
    @DJClayworth As far as the President himself, probably not often outside of the transition periods. However, I wouldn't be surprised if various parts of the administration and intelligence communities consulted them on a more regular basis.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:16
  • In a phrase, "continuity of government"
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 15:06
  • @DJClayworth Your comment inspired me to ask a more general question here: politics.stackexchange.com/q/49612/10172
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 18:34

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