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Chaotic Transition Leaves Pres.-Elect Biden Without Intel Briefings

Many security experts point out that in 2000, a delayed transition for George W. Bush affected the 9/11 response.
Posted at 7:13 PM, Nov 11, 2020

National security experts say that in 2000, a delayed transition for George W. Bush affected the 9/11 response.  

"If you look back at the 9/11 Commission report, one of the criticisms they found was that the Bush administration was not well-prepared and they blamed a shortened transition for that," says Larry Pfeiffer, the CIA's former chief of staff, now a director at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security.

These same people now say President-elect Joe Biden could be playing catch up the day he becomes president on January 20th. Because President Trump is denying him intelligence in the transition.

"There's no logical reason to be doing this," former daily CIA briefer David Priess says.

It’s a tradition and courtesy the president is upending, as he refuses to concede the election.

"Access to classified information is useful but I’m not in a position to make any decisions on these issues anyway... It would be nice to have it but it’s not critical," Biden told reporters.

But every day that goes by matters.

"Every delay decreases the amount of time they have to deal with everything that's going on in the world," Pfeiffer says.

"I would become overly worried if we get to Thanksgiving or after and without any logical path to victory, Trump and the administration continue to deny an avenue into things like intelligence and the president's daily brief," says Priess, author of “The President's Book of Secrets.”

A spokesperson with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence tells Newsy they won’t contact the transition team until notified by the General Services Administration, an agency led by a Trump political appointee. The country’s top diplomat had his own response:

"There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration. We're ready," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A member of the Trump administration who resigned in April says the task ahead for the president-elect is daunting.

"There's going to just be a backlog of policy decisions that should have been addressed in the last few years that didn't get addressed. And I think, sadly, that the administration is probably going to be a little surprised at the workload that they have to deal with in the next few years," says Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary for counterterrorism & threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security.

Security experts are also asking whether President Trump is a security risk amid the transition. 

"Clearly, we haven't had anybody with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt walking, walking freely with the classified information in their head that this president has and the president who may leave office with a grudge against the government," Pfeiffer says.

They say Biden’s national security officials may need to consider the possibility that a foreign leader could offer to alleviate the president’s debt. But first, there’s about 70 days remaining, when President Trump can declassify any secrets.

"What's more dangerous, clearly the situation now is, because the president of the United States can get any information he wants from the U.S. government at any moment. All he has to do is request it and it will be provided to him. That's different January 20th and onward, because then he has to rely on what he remembers," says Priess.

The White House didn’t respond to Newsy’s request for comment on the transition. But calls for intelligence-sharing have become bipartisan