Progressives Attempt to Debunk GAI Report on Obama's Skipped Intel Briefings

Progressive outlets like The Washington Post and ThinkProgress are still trying to discredit a factual Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report that found President Barack Obama had missed nearly half of his daily intelligence briefings, instead opting to read those reports on his iPad. They are doing so even though the White House essentially conceded these reports were true when Obama changed his schedule to attend the briefings in person in recent weeks. 

Breitbart News wrote about the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) study which revealed Obama had missed nearly half of his daily intelligence briefings, known has “PDBs.” A followup revealed there was no record of Obama having attended his daily intelligence briefing in the week leading up to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya that resulted in murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. Former Bush administration official Marc Thiessen first reported the GAI findings in his column at The Washington Post.

After these stories put pressure on the White House, Obama attended the live briefings seven days in a row for the first time in seven months. As Breitbart News’ Wynton Hall aptly wrote, Obama finally “ditched his iPad” and instead “opted for the live briefings.” 

And yet, The Washington Post, which publishes Thiessen's column, “fact-checked” his claims and tried to say they were bogus even though its “fact-checker” could not contest the GAI's numbers. Instead, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “fact-checker,” said Thiessen was wrong because presidents in the past “have structured their daily briefing from the CIA to fit their unique personal styles.” “Many did not have an oral briefing,” he argued, while others “preferred to deal directly with a CIA official.”

Kessler’s basic claim is Thiessen is wrong because reading an intelligence briefing on an iPad instead of attending the briefing live is just a difference in "personal style;" therefore, it does not affect the quality of the briefing or the level of the president's comprehension. 

“Obama appears to have opted for a melding of the two approaches, in which he receives oral briefings, but not as frequently as his predecessor,” Kessler wrote. “Ultimately, what matters is what a president does with the information he receives from the CIA.”

After Kessler's "fact-check," former Washington Post writer Dan Froomkin, who now writes for the Huffington Post, took a swipe at Thiessen on Twitter by tweeting, “WaPo op-ed page is a facts-optional zone. Shame on them.” And the liberal ThinkProgress, which is funded by liberal financier George Soros, jumped into the debate and called Thiessen’s claims “bogus.”

In response to Kessler’s “fact-check,” Thiessen noted that when he asked National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor if there had been instances where Obama attended the PDBs that did not appear on the White House’s official public calendar, Vietor could offer no examples. 

Thiessen also said neither Vietor nor White House officials have challenged the numbers the GAI reported. 

“So, as a factual matter, Kessler offers no evidence that the information I presented on Obama’s PDB meeting attendance is wrong,” Thiessen wrote. “Perhaps Obama does not feel he needs such daily interaction. But the fact that he has not been having it is indisputable.”

Thiessen asserted that “comparing lax presidential briefing habits before and after 9/11 is like comparing lax presidential security habits before and after the Kennedy assassination.”

“If live briefings are no better than paper briefings, why has Obama suddenly begun receiving briefings in-person?,” he asked.

As Thiessen wrote, attending the daily intelligence briefings is important because it offers the president “an opportunity to ask questions of the briefers, probe assumptions and request additional information.” According to Thiessen, the briefings are also important for those preparing the brief because “meeting with the president on a daily basis gives them vital, direct feedback from the commander in chief about what is on his mind, how they can be more responsive to his needs, and what information he may have to feed back into the intelligence process.”

“This process cannot be replicated on paper,” Thiessen wrote. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney initially dismissed Thiessen’s original report as “hilarious,” but what is more laughable are the attempts by these so-called "fact-checkers" to debunk a report that even the White House has essentially conceded was true. 


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