Books Monographs

Getting to Know the President

Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect 1952-2012, Third Edition

Publication Details

Published October 2019

By: John L. Helgerson

Since 1952, CIA, and now the Intelligence Community, have provided presidential candidates and presidents-elect with intelligence briefings during their campaigns and transitions. These briefings have helped presidents be as well informed as possible on international developments from the day they take office.

In addition to their central, substantive purpose, these briefings usually have also served as the IC’s introduction to the “First Customer,” the individual who, more than any other, determines what place intelligence will have in the national security hierarchy. They have been crucial in giving an early sense of the personalities of the candidates and presidents-elect, their knowledge of world affairs, and their views of how intelligence and the IC can best support national security decisionmaking.

Getting to Know the President by John Helgerson makes a singular contribution to the literature of intelligence by describing this important process of information sharing between the IC and the chief executive. First published in 1996 and now revised and updated for the second time to include accounts of intelligence support to candidates and presidents-elect in the five elections between then and 2012, Helgerson’s study provides unique insights into the mechanics and content of the briefings, the interaction of the participants, and the briefings’ effect on the relationships presidents have had with their intelligence services. His observations on how and what to brief during the campaign and transition periods are essential reading for members of the community charged with that responsibility in the future and seeking to learn from the best practices of their predecessors.

This Third Edition covers the election of and transition to the Barack Obama administration during 2008‚Äì2009 up through the 2012 election. Readers familiar with the earlier edition may skip to the Obama period, which is covered in chapter 8. The concluding observations, in the “Afterword” have also been updated to reflect that experience, which was the first managed by the Director of National Intelligence.