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Shortly After 8:00 a.m. September 11, 2001: President Bush Receives His Daily Intelligence Briefing

Mike Morell.Mike Morell. [Source: CIA]President Bush receives his daily intelligence briefing in his room at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where he has just spent the night (see September 10, 2001), but the briefing includes nothing about terrorism. The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is a summary of the most current intelligence reports from around the world. It is delivered to Bush each day by Mike Morell, a CIA analyst. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Bowden 2012, pp. 4-5; Graff 9/9/2016) It usually includes seven or eight items. Fifteen minutes are usually allotted for the briefing, although it often lasts longer than this.
Brief Arrived Late - The PDB today was, unusually, late to arrive. It was going to be sent from CIA headquarters, via the White House Situation Room, to the White House Communications Agency command post at the resort at 3:30 a.m. But at 4:30 a.m. it had not arrived and so Morell called CIA headquarters to see if there was a problem. He was told there wasn’t and the material had been sent at 3:30 a.m., as planned. He then phoned the command post and was assured that the brief would be brought to him soon. Morell therefore received the PDB after 4:30 a.m., which left him less than three hours to master its contents and select supplementary materials to show the president.
CIA Briefer Met the Situation Room Director to Prepare - Morell met Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, at 7:30 a.m. to compare the information they each planned to show the president during the briefing. At 7:55 a.m. the two went up to Bush’s suite. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. they enter the president’s room to give the briefing, and find Bush seated at a table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, is also in the room for the briefing. Bush puts down his newspaper and asks, “Anything of interest this morning?”
Brief Includes No Terrorism-Related Items - Loewer goes first. She spends a couple of minutes updating Bush on the Middle East peace process. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 45-46; Priess 2016, pp. 238-239) Morell then goes through the PDB with the president. The information in it today covers Russia, China, and the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Bush 2010, pp. 126; Bowden 2012, pp. 5; Priess 2016, pp. 239) There is nothing in it about terrorist threats. (Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 46; Graff 9/9/2016) “On arguably the most important day in President Bush’s tenure, his intelligence briefing was uneventful,” Morell will later comment. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file) It takes Morell less than 10 minutes to go through the PDB with Bush, according to author David Priess. Bush then talks on the phone for a couple of minutes with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in a call he has requested in response to some of the news Loewer has given him. (Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 46-47; Priess 2016, pp. 239) He asks Rice to follow up on a few points. (Kessler 2004, pp. 136; Graff 9/9/2016)
Briefing Lasts 15 to 25 Minutes - The briefing is over by 8:25 a.m., according to Morell. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 47) It ends “close to 8:30,” Loewer will say. (Priess 2016, pp. 239) But according to other accounts, the briefing lasts 15 minutes and so is over by around 8:15 a.m. (see 8:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Kessler 2004, pp. 136; Bohn 2015, pp. 213) After leaving Bush’s suite, Morell and Loewer will head down to take their places in the motorcade that is going to transport them to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, which the president is scheduled to visit this morning. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 47; Priess 2016, pp. 239)


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