President Barack Obama receives the Presidential Daily Briefing from Robert Cardillo, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Intelligence Integration, in the Oval Office, Jan. 31, 2012. Part of the briefing was done using a tablet computer. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) ()
Since 1961, sitting presidents have received a presidential daily brief (PDB), a top secret update from the Director of National Intelligence that outlines the nation’s most critical and pressing intelligence matters. That hasn’t changed for 60 years, but the technologies behind the information continue to evolve.
The PDB originally came from the CIA, and that legacy remains in the push to use high-end technology as part of the process in presidential intelligence briefings, according to one government official. That process is moving forward, but not as quickly as some may prefer.
“It’s been an interesting evolution. On the CIA side, they have strong technological capabilities. So we got pitched early on to move the process to the digital environment and embrace capabilities we can do in soft copy,” said Robert Cardillo, deputy director of intelligence integration in the Office of the DNI. “And we were open to that. But I don’t think we were confident enough in the substance of our job, one, to be walking in [to the president’s office] going, look at all the gee-whiz ideas. We wanted to take the time to do our own studies and do our own baseline education.”
Cardillo, speaking to reporters April 17 at the GEOINT conference in Tampa, Fla., said he hopes that process moves even faster in the future – especially as the demand for intelligence only continues to grow. Competing policy decisions, “tiers” of information-sharing levels between certain countries, risks involved in handing over sensitive intelligence – all are issues as the U.S. contends with geopolitics such as the current Ukraine-Russia crisis.
In a photo published in January 2012, Cardillo is sitting in the Oval Office with the president, demonstrating a briefing via tablets in both men’s hands. Cardillo noted the significance of the photo, symbolically and otherwise.
“My motivation was twofold – our job is to tell stories crisply, cleanly and effectively, and I thought we could potentially do it better” with the tablets, he said. “I also wanted to a send a message to our workforce: Look, I know a few of you might be struggling with this transition from our historic comfort zone, which is prose, the written page, and the way our profession is built upon structuring an argument and laying out the events. Some people were worried that this was just glitzy and we were going to lose our way and forget our tradecraft. But on the other hand … up to two-thirds of our workforce is post-9/11, new generation, new message. The message I wanted to send to our workforce is both: Obviously we never can trade in or compromise our tradecraft [or] our profession, but if the real measure of merit of our business is alerting, informing and providing insight so you can make a decision, then the tablet is a way you can open up possibilities to do that.”
See all of our GEOINT 2013* coverage at the GEOINT 2013* Show Reporter .