15 September 2020 Blogs

Nixon, Ford’s Daily Intelligence Briefs Provide a Fascinating Look into a Tumultuous U.S. Era

Now declassified, these briefs were once called “the most highly sensitized classified document[s] in the government.”

Editor’s note: A longer version of this post was previously published in the DNSA’s blog, Unredacted.

With a U.S. presidential election pending, many have their eyes on America’s highest office. ProQuest and the National Security Archive (DNSA) have shed new light on the role of the U.S. president by publishing new collection of declassified President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Nixon and Ford administrations.

The collection, The President’s Daily Brief: Nixon, Ford, and the CIA, 1969-1977, offers researchers an unparalleled look into daily intelligence briefings provided to the White House by the CIA from 1969 to 1977.

The 28,300-page collection adds more than 2,500 documents to the Digital National Security Archive’s ongoing procurement of PDBs, which are top-secret documents containing the most current and significant intelligence information that the CIA believes that the President needs to know. The PDBs are so sensitive that CIA Director George Tenet once claimed they could never be released for publication “no matter how old or historically significant it may be,” and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described the brief as “the most highly sensitized classified document in the government.”

PDBs highlighted in this collection provide insight into the development of U.S. policy in response to major world events, security threats, and geopolitical conflicts of the Nixon-Ford era, many of which continue to influence global politics half a century later. Topics covered by the newly declassified documents include:

    • The prosecution of the Vietnam war, evolution of the Paris Peace talks, U.S. withdrawal, and the fall of Saigon
    • The Laotian civil war
    • The Cambodian civil war
    • Leadership changes in the Soviet Union and China
    • Détente and arms control negotiations, such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
    • Richard Nixon’s visit to China
    • Soviet military aid to the Middle East and Africa
    • The 1973 Arab-Israeli War and Middle East peace negotiations
    • The Jordan crisis
    • The Lebanon civil war
    • The escalation of international terrorism
    • The Cyprus crisis and aftermath
    • Elections, coups, and civil unrest in Latin America, including the Chilean coup d’état
    • The Carnation Revolution in Portugal and its impact on decolonization of Africa
    • The Sino-Soviet dispute
    • The Bangladesh revolution and the India-Pakistan war
    • Independence movements in Angola, Rhodesia and Zimbabwe
    • …and the space race.

The dynamic collection showcases how the intelligence community fulfilled its most critical task: keeping the President informed. The documents were released by the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California in 2016, but only after years of litigation with the CIA. Despite the impetus of disclosure, the CIA took nearly eight years to make the PDBs available to researchers – and whole documents, passages, and pages remain heavily redacted.

The President’s Daily Brief: Nixon, Ford, and the CIA, 1969-1977 compliments the substantial collection of DNSA documents from the Nixon-Ford era. Previous DNSA collections on the Nixon-Ford presidencies include The Kissinger Transcripts: A verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1976, The Kissinger Telephone Conversations: A verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977 and The Kissinger Conversations, Supplement: A Verbatim Record of U.S. Diplomacy, 1969-1977.

Get more details about these and other DNSA collections.

Learn more about ProQuest's Global Challenges initiative.