United States President-elect Donald Trump has begun getting intelligence briefings known as ‘the book’. National security experts say that most President-elects go into the briefing rooms looking fairly confident but once they are informed about all intelligence operations that the US is currently engaged in, the threat perceptions, and about the nuclear code, most men look ‘ashen faced’.
During the campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were getting partial intelligence information but now the briefings are enhanced, so that when the US President takes oath of office on January 20th, he would be ready to hit the ground running. The White House said that the meetings are to “inform and familiarise the incoming administration on domestic incident management practices used by the current administration.”
There is a lot of speculation on who Trump will pick as his team for National Security Affairs. In the past few months Trump’s top advisor on national security has been retired US Army Lt Gen Michael Flynn. Media reports indicate that he could either be Trump’s national security advisor or secretary of defence. On Friday Trump put vice presidential running mate Mike Pence in charge of a White House transition team that also includes three of his children.
While General Flynn is still a favourite for NSA, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions could be picked as Defense Secretary and former House speaker Newt Gingrich could become Secretary of State. These are people who share Trump’s vision of a ‘New America’.
How that fits in with the intelligence agencies plan of action and existing operations is anyone’s guess. Dozens of Republican leaders had some time ago said that Trump would be a national security risk. Today they have to come to terms with the changed ground situation, as do the intelligence agencies tasked with having to brief the President elect on a daily basis.
These briefings are considered to include the ‘crown jewels’ of the US intelligence paradigm: the most secretive intelligence gathering programmes. He will be informed about how the US gets information via its agents and operatives overseas. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently said, “Any presidential transition is a very vulnerable time for the country.”
The Mumbai terror attack in 2008 took place during the transition period of President Obama who had just started getting intelligence briefings. In a manner of speaking, President Obama hit the ground running on South Asia politics in his first term.