There’s an old political saw about how a White House candidate believes firmly in his or her foreign policy views – until that first top-secret briefing. In his recent book, former CIA Director Michael Hayden says these revelations are known as “aw s—” moments – as in, “Aw s—, wish we hadn’t said that during that campaign stop in Buffalo.”
If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, much of the intelligence information she receives probably will sound familiar. As secretary of state until 2013, Clinton was one of President Barack Obama’s senior advisers who were privy to the President’s Daily Brief – the highest level intelligence document prepared in the United States.
The intelligence briefings could be eye-opening for New York businessman Donald Trump. The Republican’s loose-lipped campaign remarks have left some intelligence and foreign policy officials worried about whether he can keep the nation’s secrets. Trump has said in interviews that he’s looking forward to the briefings.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose office arranges the briefings, was asked recently what he would want to say to Trump to help educate the political newcomer about foreign policy and perhaps even counter some of his ideas, such as temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.
Clapper bristled and said the question falsely implied that the U.S. intelligence agencies would have a separate message for each candidate.
“There’s a long-standing practice of briefing each of the candidates once they are officially designated. And that sort of shifts into higher gear, in terms of detail, after the president-elect is known,” Clapper said. “It’s not designed to shape anybody’s world view. We just brief as we normally would – each of them – and they (the briefings) have to be exactly the same.”
But Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he believes many people share his deep concern about Trump’s inexperience with handling classified information.
“I would have to imagine that those concerns are fairly broadly held, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the intelligence briefings received by both candidates – which will be identical – will be at a more generalized level than they might otherwise be,” said Schiff, D-Calif.