David Priess

Dr. David Priess worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer, a manager, and a daily intelligence briefer and has written two books about US presidents, including the breakout book “The President’s Book of Secrets” about how US intelligence officials brief the commander in chief on the most sensitive information in the world.

Priess served at the CIA during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, earning many awards and commendations. During the Bush administration, he personally delivered the President’s Daily Brief for more than a year to Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller—two of the few officials that President Bush had designated to receive his book of secrets—and even into the White House itself! 

He then became the first author to interview, for one book, every living former President, every former living Vice President, and every living CIA director from previous administrations. They gave him stories and perspectives never heard before.

Priess appears often in national media like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR to discuss intelligence, the presidency, and national security issues -- most notably as the premier expert on how presidents and other senior U.S. officials receive and use Top Secret intelligence. His writings appear in the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, the Daily Beast, Lawfare, Politico, The Cipher Brief, Foreign Policy, and the Houston Chronicle. Priess has a PhD in political science from Duke University and speaks at venues ranging from the National Archives to colleges and universities, from Presidential Museums nationwide to corporate retreats—but he saves his best stories of history-changing intelligence for Spy Museum audiences.

Presentation Topics

The President’s Book of Secrets

Priess provides a rare window into the most exclusive daily newspaper in the world: the President’s Daily Brief—which contains the most sensitive intelligence reporting and analysis in the world. The Central Intelligence Agency’s spies, the National Security Agency’s listening posts and the nation’s reconnaissance satellites gather secrets for the PDB, while America’s enemies send undercover agents to try to unearth its classified content. Every working morning, intelligence briefers fan out from the CIA headquarters to deliver copies of “The Book” to the president and the handful of senior advisors he has designated to see its Top Secret pages. Telling tales from his own experience and those of the former Presidents, Vice Presidents and CIA Directors, he worked or spoke with, Priess brings alive 60 years of espionage and history-changing analysis.

Leadership Lessons from Presidents and the CIA

Every business faces high-stakes decisions. The Intelligence Community of the United States of America is no exception—and, in this case, the choices it informs can save or cost lives. Priess shares jaw-dropping stories about successes and failures in leadership from a half century of Presidential decision-making and CIA service to the nation. Using his own experiences and input he received directly from the former Presidents, Vice Presidents and CIA Directors he worked with and interviewed, he reveals how leaders in the most trying times have gotten the most from their information sources and their subordinates to inform their toughest decisions.

Top Secret Customer Service

For 50 years, the CIA has tailored delivery of its daily intelligence report to each President’s personal style and preferences. The CIA’s briefers have used creative means to appeal to each Commander in Chief, and to ensure that their key messages about the world’s most sensitive issues remain absolutely clear. With stories from his own experience and directly from the former Presidents, Vice Presidents and CIA Directors he worked with and interviewed, Priess tells investigators the best and the worst of White house and CIA relationships to illuminate enduring best practices for learning leaders’ needs—and for meeting them.

The Spy Museum does not endorse, approve, or support the opinions stated by the speakers. Statements made by presenters do not represent the position or opinion of the International Spy Museum.