This volume was produced while I served a one-year assignment with the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence. I am grateful to the Agency for that opportunity. The resulting study, needless to say, is my work alone; the opinions offered are not those of the Central Intelligence Agency nor the US Government.

To the maximum extent feasible, contemporaneous written records have been used to construct the account of developments presented. For the earlier presidential transitions, it has proved possible to declassify all relevant documents. Among the numerous individuals who helped search for source materials, a few were especially helpful and deserve special thanks: CIA officers Janet Platt, Becky Rant, Emma Sullivan, and Michael Warner; Andrea Mehrer at the Library of Congress; and Dwight D. Eisenhower Library archivist David Haight.

Interviews with former presidents, CIA directors, and numerous others involved in the nine presidential transitions provided invaluable additional material with which to flesh out the sparse written record. I deeply appreciate the honor and time granted me by Presidents George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford in agreeing to be interviewed. Similarly, I am grateful to the CIA directors who were most involved in the transitions--Robert Gates, Stansfield Turner, William Colby, and Richard Helms--for sharing their recollections. Former Agency officer Meredith Davidson provided invaluable assistance in reconstructing the events of the early 1950s.

CIA protects carefully the confidentiality of comments made to its officers by serving presidents, and I have continued that tradition in this account. Readers will find neither exposes of our presidents' private moments nor specific descriptions of what they said during briefing sessions, especially regarding sensitive policy issues of continuing relevance and importance. Similarly, it would not be appropriate to use this volume to offer judgments about how well the various presidents used the intelligence they were provided.[1] Nevertheless, I have been able to recount in unclassified form the circumstances under which the Agency established its relationships with successive presidents and to discuss, in general terms, the subjects about which they were briefed. None of those interviewed showed any reservation in speaking about the relationship between the President and the CIA during the period of their personal involvement.

I thank David Peterson, Richard Kovar, and Judith Van Roy for their editorial assistance and, most of all, Harriet Malone for her superb work in producing countless drafts of this study.

John L. Helgerson


[1] In the author's judgment, the most comprehensive and objective account of how presidents have used intelligence throughout their terms of office is Christopher Andrew's For the President's Eyes Only (London: Harper Collins, 1995).



Central Intelligence Agency
CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates
22 May 1996

Historical Document
Posted: Mar 16, 2007 02:56 PM
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2008 01:15 PM