CHICAGO – Barack Obama will begin receiving highly classified briefings from top intelligence officials Thursday, as the rush of his campaign gives way to intensive preparations to take over as commander in chief and build a Democratic administration.
The briefings typically last 45 minutes to an hour, but Obama’s initial one is expected to be longer. A U.S. intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity said Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, also will begin receiving briefings this week.
The president’s daily brief that Obama will receive is mostly written by the Central Intelligence Agency and will include the most critical overnight intelligence for the president. They sometimes dig deeply into a specific topic to give the president an in-depth understanding.
Obama began his first full day as president-elect with the simple pleasure of having breakfast with his daughters, the type of everyday activity with his family that he often said during the nearly two-year campaign was his greatest sacrifice.
Later in the morning, Obama left the house alone, clad in workout clothes, a ball cap and sunglasses and carrying a newspaper on his lap. He ducked into a friend’s apartment building where he usually uses the gym while in Chicago. About a dozen onlookers expecting his arrival had gathered with cameras and cell phones to get a glimpse of him.
He planned to go straight to his campaign headquarters after the work out to thank his staff.
Obama planed to stay home at least through the weekend, spending more time with his family turning to the business of the transition in earnest. Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but they said he wasn’t focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.
A top priority, the advisers said, would be picking a White House chief of staff to help manage the selections to come. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel appeared headed for the job, said Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement, expected as early as Wednesday.
National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell will launch the intelligence briefings. CIA Intelligence Director Mike Morell will be Obama’s prime contact with the intelligence community throughout the transition, according to a message CIA Director Mike Hayden sent to agency employees that was obtained by The Associated Press. Obama’s two principal daily briefers also will be from the CIA.
Obama will have access to vastly more intelligence, including ongoing covert operations, than he was privy to as a senator, said Hayden’s message.
“Through expanded access, greater than what he had in his briefings as a candidate or as a Senator, he will see the full range of capabilities we deploy for the United States,” Hayden wrote.
CIA officials were meeting Wednesday to discuss the transition.
“The goal today is to review what has been done and to ensure that every part of the agency is well-placed to contribute in the weeks ahead,” he wrote.
Hayden also encouraged employees to ignore the chatter in political circles in Washington about who will take over the agency under the new administration.
“I certainly have,” he said. “Those privileged to lead this organization understand that they serve at the pleasure of the president.”
In a congratulatory call to Obama Tuesday night, President Bush pledged to make a smooth transition and extended an invitation to the Obama family to visit their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Obama had personal decisions to be make, too, like when to move his family to Washington and where his 10- and 7-year-old daughters will go to school. Obama also was expected to take time to mourn his grandmother, who died Sunday before she could see the grandson she helped raise achieve his dream. Obama could be considering a return to his native Hawaii for the small private ceremony that she requested be held later.
And then there was the matter of choosing the family pet. “Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House,” he told his daughters in his victory speech.