The President's Book of Secrets (2010) Movie Script

Narrator: He is the most
powerful person in the world.
He commands the greatest
military in history.
And every public move he makes
is recorded and analyzed.
(Richard Nixon) I shall resign
the Presidency effective at noon
Narrator: But in an era where
almost nothing can be kept
private, does the President of
the United States have secrets--
information so forbidden, so
potentially dangerous that it
must be kept hidden from the
(Dan Rather) There are some
things that you don't want to
put in writing any more than you
have to.
(Whispering voice)
(Newt Gingrich) We keep lots
of secrets, we keep an amazing
number of secrets.
(Allan Lichtman) There are
absolutely presidential secrets
that have never been revealed.
Narrator: But if there are
secrets, where would they be
kept-- in a computer, a safe, a
locked briefcase-- and who else,
if anyone, could be trusted to
share them?
(Dan Quayle) There are things
that George Bush 41 and I know
that not too many other people
Narrator: There are those who
believe in the existence of
book-- a book that contains the
topmost secrets of the united
States of America, a book passed
down from one President to
another in a nearly unbroken
chain that extends all the way
back to the beginning of the
nation's highest office and
whose content is known to only
five living persons.
But does such a book exist?
Is there really a President's
Book of Secrets?
(John Roberts) Are you
prepared to take the oath,
(Barack Obama) I am.
Roberts: I, Barack Hussein
Obama: I, Barack Hussein
Obama, do solemnly swear...
Narrator: On January 20,
2009, Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court John Roberts
administers the oath of office
to President-elect Barack Obama.
Roberts: So help you God?
Obama: So help me God.
Roberts: Congratulations,
Mr. President.
(Cheering and applause)
Narrator: Later that day,
upon arriving in the oval
office, the nation's 44th
President discovers a single
envelope atop his desk.
Addressed to "44," it contains
a personal message from the
outgoing President, George w.
But when asked about the letter,
President Obama declines to
reveal its contents.
But why?
What could have been so
important, so confidential that
only another President's eyes
could behold the letter's
Did it involve matters of
national security?
Did it contain critical
information about the economy?
Or much, much more?
Some have even speculated that
there is, in fact, an entire
book filled with such secret
information, a so-called book
of secrets passed on from one
President to another.
If so, what would be in it?
From election to inauguration,
President-elect Barack Obama had
only 78 days to prepare himself
to take office.
But how did he get up to speed?
Did he have he from a secret
book left behind by his
predecessor, or was the
intelligence he received from
less audacious and more
conventional sources?
Rather: A lot of it is told
orally, and understandably and
rightfully so.
There are some things that you
don't want to put in writing any
more than you have to.
Quayle: The ones that were
probably the most interesting,
ones where they said, "Okay,
well, let me just tell you some
other things that we know."
They didn't really want to put
that down on paper.
Narrator: In the weeks before
the inauguration, former CIA
Director Michael Hayden briefed
President-elect Obama regarding
ongoing covert activity by the
United States against its
foreign enemies.
(Michael Hayden) I began by
saying, "Mr. President-elect,
these have all been personally
authorized by the presidents.
But they are not authorized by
the person of the President.
They are authorized by the
office of the President.
So Mr. President, unless you
tell us to stop something, the
afternoon after you've been
sworn in, we'll still be doing
all of the."
That's called the attention-
getting step...
(Laughing): ...When you do the
And, and then I, then I walked
him through it.
(Ron Kaufman) Quite frankly,
you know things from briefings
that you didn't know before--
the size of the debt, the threat
from overseas, the amount of
terrorists that may be in the
Things that you know on the
surface from your briefings, but
when you get down to the depth
of it, you say, "Holy smokes,
wish I had known that during
the campaign."
It's one thing to be the
It's another thing to have your
finger on the button,
as they say.
Narrator: But no matter how
well-briefed or thoroughly
informed, few incoming
presidents are prepared for
just what they will learn on
inauguration day.
Only then will he or she have
unlimited access to all
classified documents, answers to
almost any national security
question they might have.
But how might this new secret
knowledge affect the President's
policies and priorities?
And could this be the real
reason for the marked
differences between the rhetoric
of a presidential candidate...
George H.W. Bush: Read my
lips: No new taxes.
Obama: We will start getting
to work.
We will close Guantanamo.
Narrator: ...And the rhetoric
of a President who now has
access to more sophisticated
government intelligence?
Hayden: You elect a President
because of vision.
He has a view of the world and
he has a view of where he wants
to take the world.
Okay, sometimes that view is not
consistent with the intelligence
officer's view of the world as
it is.
(Clay Johnson) The greatest
example I can imagine is a
person who ascended to President
by death-- Harry Truman-- who,
upon becoming President, learned
that there was an atomic bomb.
Gingrich: Harry Truman as
Vice President did not know that
we had built the atomic bomb.
When he became President and was
being briefed on the scale of
the weapon and the potential
power it had, and he literally
knew nothing about it.
Johns: You think it changed
his thinking about how he waged
the war?
You bet.
Rather: I often wonder what
he said to his wife when he went
back in the family quarters,
just after he learned of that.
Narrator: Today the President
has a unique handle on the
nuclear arsenal.
Everywhere he goes he is
accompanied by a military aide
who carries a 45-pound briefcase
known as the "nuclear football."
(Peter Metzger) It's seen in
pictures all the time.
It's a black kind of doctor-
looking briefcase that I used to
say contained a tuna sandwich
and a Playboy magazine.
What's in it is highly
classified, but what it does is
allows the President, as the
commander in chief, to be
connected to the national
military command center and
those force commanders who must
respond to an order to initiate
a nuclear action.
Narrator: Officially known as
the President's emergency
satchel, the nuclear football
was initiated in the 1950s by
President Dwight Eisenhower.
(Michael Bohn) The Cold War
drove a lot of things that the
President did over the years.
One of them was dealing with a
surprise attack by the Soviet
Union-- the bolt from the blue.
Missiles on the way.
Our retaliatory strategy was
massive retaliation during most
of that time-- mutually assured
Metzger: According to the
Constitution, the President of
the United States is the person
who would make that decision,
and so there was a notion that
something that the President had
to have the capability to make
that decision anywhere and
everywhere and at all times.
Lichtman: Forget about
togetherness between the
President and his wife.
The real togetherness is between
the President and the carrier of
the nuclear football that
contains the nuclear codes.
Narrator: During his
transition, the President-elect
is briefed on how to use the
Then, during the inauguration,
the military readies two cases--
one each for both the outgoing
and incoming presidents.
This serves to both immediately
transfer power and to deter any
surprise attacks.
Lichtman: Let's say there's a
report of some kind of a nuclear
attack on the United States.
They open the football, there is
this complicated list of all the
various options the President
has, from all-out launching
everything and destroying the
world to a surgical attack to
using tactical weapons, and the
President has got to absorb all
this information in literally a
matter of minutes and decide
what to do.
Narrator: But while a new
President comes into office
knowing he will receive the
nuclear codes, is he, in fact,
the only person who can
authorize a nuclear attack?
(Edward Luttwak) In theory, no
nuclear weapon, in theory, could
be launched without the
President's say-so
in practice, there was
delegation in the case of the
ballistic missile submarines.
Because submarines could not be
reached all the time reliably,
had authority to act
independently, in reality,
although this was a very
delicate subject.
Narrator: Fortunately, since
World War II, no President has
authorized the use of nuclear
weapons against an enemy target.
But what if the unthinkable does
happen and the military is
caught off guard?
Just what are the President's
plans for his and the country's
Could they be found in an actual
book of secrets?
Narrator: In the event of
a national emergency, it is
likely that a President's book
of secrets would contain
information concerning hidden
bunkers, secret escape routes,
and destinations designed to
protect the chief executive,
his family and key members of
his administration.
Such information would have
been essential on September 11,
2001, when a team of terrorists
hijacked four airliners,
piloting two of them into the
towers of the World Trade Center
in New York...
...A third into the Pentagon...
And a fourth allegedly
targeting the capitol building
in Washington, DC.
The last two planes were still
in the air when President
George W. Bush, while visiting
with schoolchildren in Florida,
was informed of the attack and
soon after escorted
to Air Force One.
(Brian Montgomery) I was
traveling with President Bush,
all day on September 11, as
And we took off, probably
the quickest takeoff I'd
ever experienced on Air Force
Tech: Clear for takeoff.
Montgomery: Suffice it to say
that there are plans and
protocols for a lot of
So we knew that we were going
to one of several places.
Narrator: With the
government of the United States
apparently under siege, staff
at the White House also
responded to the news.
(Anita McBride) I was having
breakfast with a colleague in
the White House mess, in the
basement of the West Wing lobby.
At that point, then we gathered
the staff, evacuated, just told
them to run, run out of the
complex as fast as you can.
Narrator: But while the
staff were ordered to evacuate,
Secret Service agents quickly
escorted Vice President Dick
Cheney and several high-ranking
officials to a hidden bunker
below the White House, known as
the President's emergency
operation center, or PEOC.
Bohn: It's in the East Wing
It's an old World War II bomb
shelter with a great big, heavy
door, full of bunks and
canned foods and canned water
and all that.
Cheney and Condi Rice and a few
other people rode out the storm
on 9/11 in the PEOC.
Narrator: But what if the
President's home and office had
been threatened?
Are there methods or avenues of
escape from the White House
And could this information be
outlined in a book of secrets?
(Karen Keller) I was very
surprised to learn the quick
routes that needed to be taken
in case of an emergency.
And not something that I can
discuss, but there are ways
that the President can be moved
from point A to point B very
quickly, in an emergency
(Susan Ford Bales) There is a
back staircase from the second
floor of the White House to the
third floor of the White House,
and the door was hidden and
painted into the wall.
There was no doorknob, you just
touched the door and it opened.
And then there's also tunnels
from the White House under the
Treasury building to get out on
the other side, and so I would
use the tunnels and get out
that way so I didn't have to go
out the front gate.
(Natasha Neely) There were
evacuation plans.
They'd give you a yellow pouch
probably about yea big.
And it actually turns into
gas mask in case if there's any
type of chemical attack or
biological attack-- anything
that's airborne, that could
threaten the individual.
So they give you that; It's
supposed to help you breathe for
long enough to get out of
the city.
(Dana Perino) We were all
responsible for knowing what we
were supposed to do in an
And you had regular briefings
and updates to make sure that
you knew.
Because it could happen.
It could happen any moment.
Bohn: There are other places
around town.
But it's pretty sensitive.
Their location and their
capabilities, I really can't
talk about.
Lichtman: We know that
not far from Washington DC,
there are major underground
(Indistinct radio communication)
There's one in Virginia in the
Shenandoah Mountains known as
the Mount Weather Facility
which apparently is an entire
underground city.
And of course there is another
command post in Colorado.
And I would guess there are
probably hundreds of these
secure locations around the
country to which the President
could be brought.
Narrator: Could there really
be hundreds of these secret
bunkers, spread out across the
United States,
and, if so, are they all kept
ready to secure the President's
safety at a moment's note?
(Al V. Corbi) The very first
thing you need is isolation.
You need to be isolated from
the threat.
If the threat gets to you, the
facility is of no use.
Once you've isolated the
person, the very next thing you
need is purified, clean air.
If you have enough food and
enough water, and enough
utilities, then you can last
The safety isn't in the
fortress, the safety is in
no one knowing where you are.
Narrator: But no matter how
safe these bunkers are,
according to security experts,
the book of secrets would
probably indicate that it is
even safer for a President to
stay on the move.
(Brad Patterson) Part of the
getting ready for any terrible
occasion like that, it means
getting transportation plans
Those are all scheduled ahead
of time.
It's all classified.
Th should not be discussed
But the systems are there.
They have to work perfectly and
work immediately.
Bohn: So I can tell you with
firsthand experience, because
I stood in for the President on
one of those drills.
I got into the Presidential
helicopter and flew to a secret
location in the mountains near
Camp David.
We landed, and refueled the
helicopter by hand.
We had a crank pump and a
55-gallon barrel of avgas.
And then we took off again.
And we circled around and
finally landed at the airport
at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
And the tower had closed the
And sitting at the end of the
runway was this big white 747.
And we scrambled up the nose
wheel ladder into the main
And I sat down on this great,
big leather chair with
"President" on the back.
And they said, "What are your
orders, Mr. President?"
I said, "Well, let's get out
of here."
And I'm telling you, they hit
the thrust on those engines,
and we took off like a rocket.
And it was great fun, and we
landed at Andrews Air Force
Base, and I went back to my
office, and my illusions of
grandeur sort of faded away.
Narrator: But what if,
despite the existence of
emergency escape plans and
regular drills, neither the
President nor the Vice President
survive a catastrophic attack
on America?
What happens to the government
of the United States if
Washington, DC, is actually
wiped out?
Most likely, The President's
Book of Secrets would contain
a chapter on a top-secret
emergency program known as the
"Continuity of Government,"
designed to ensure that someone
is always in charge.
Gingrich: It starts with a
very simple premise, which is:
What if there is a nuclear
event, or a biological event,
and you eliminate the leadership
of the U. S. government?
What happens?
I mean, how you deal with it?
In a modern, real-time world,
with missiles and everything
else, how many minutes can
you spend not having somebody
in charge?
Quayle: It's the continuity
of government.
It's the President,
Vice President, Speaker.
Those are the three key people,
but there's a lot of others--
continuity of government.
You've got the Congress.
You've got your Cabinet.
You've got the military.
We have be at 1,000% contact,
every single moment of every
single day.
That's the way it works in all
Narrator: However, there are
even more secret parts of this
strategy that insiders refer to
as "The Doomsday Plan."
In the event of a nuclear
attack, three teams of
government officials would be
sent out from Washington to
different locations.
Each team would be prepared to
assume leadership of the
country, and would include a
Cabinet member who was prepared
to become President.
Lichtman: So the Executive
Branch has ten it upon itself
to develop plans for a doomsday
scenario that are not based in
the Constitution.
There are plans to keep the
government and the country
going under martial law.
They're all extra-constitutional
'cause there's nothing in the
Constitution and there's
nothing in the laws of the
United States to govern what
would happen under these kinds
of doomsday scenarios.
Gingrich: The Reagan
Administration, in particular,
invested a great deal of money
in maintenance of continuity of
government-- but that was
against the Soviets.
We found, all a sudden, in
2001, that we were up against a
much more complex opponent, who
was much more likely to use a
chemical, or biological, or
nuclear weapon, in a way that
we had never really thought
about before.
And so, under President Bush,
there was a very serious effort
at rethinking continuity of
government, and putting money
into it.
Montgomery: Well, I held
several positions working for
President Bush.
After Director of Advance,
I ran an office of Cabinet
And part of that was
interacting with the President's
Cabinet, who were all in the
line of succession for the
And part of that is getting read
into all those programs and
having the security clearance
to do that.
And there were many times during
the course of my work in the
White House that I would have a
hard time going to sleep.
But I remember probably the
hardest time I had going to
sleep was the night after I had
spent two and a half hours
being read into that program.
And thinking, you know, "Look,
I'm but a staff person."
I just couldn't imagine being
the President and having to be
in charge of all this.
It was, uh, pretty sobering.
Narrator: But underground
bunkers and doomsday plans only
serve as defensive strategies.
What about the President's
military options?
What kinds of super-secret
weapons does he have at his
And could a book of secrets
suggest when and how the most
powerful man in America might
unleash the world's deadliest
Narrator: In writing an
entry into a book of secrets,
would a President include
information about secret
briefings by intelligence
agencies, in which covert
operations and highly
classified weapons systems
might be revealed?
Six days a week, the nation's
chief executive chairs the
National Security session, where
he is briefed on all of the
intelligence issues threatening
the United States.
At each of these meetings, CIA
officers pass along the
President's daily briefing, or
This top-secret document
recounts and analyzes what
intelligence agents are doing
around the world.
(Michael Chertoff) You might
think of it a little bit like a
magazine, a small loose-leaf
book. Maybe 15 or 20 pages,
not necessarily each page a
full-length page, different
articles, that covers various
And, I think, depending on the
day of the week, there would be
an emphasis on one kind of topic
rather than another.
Hayden: It is not
relentlessly negative, but it
rarely celebrates life.
It's a book about the issues
and the problems of the day.
Chertoff: It can be anything
from a very specific tactical
issue that arises imminently,
to something that's a somewhat
more long-term strategic look
at a particular problem.
Hayden: Every Thursday,
I went to see the President.
In addition to the PDB, I gave
the President an operational
briefing on what CIA was doing.
The majority of that was covert
action-- that's activity
designed to influence foreign
political, military,
economic events.
Occasionally, I would actually
talk about espionage.
"Mr. President, we are now able
to do this.
We now have access to that."
(Peter Earnest) Those of us
who worked in the field, during
the Cold War, and I spent over
10 years in the field, were
aware that it was quite
possible, and in some cases
likely, that the intelligence
that we were collecting might
well be on the President's desk
the following morning and affect
the course of foreign affairs.
Narrator: To combat potential
problems, the President has, in
his arsenal, a wide range of
secret intelligence weapons.
Among the most effective and
deadly of these in recent years
have been the drones.
These small remote-controlled
planes have been used
extensively during the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Drones have served both as
reconnaissance tools and,
because they can carry a
weapons payload, as killing
Bohn: In fact, it can get
quite exotic.
Nowadays they can look at the
feed from a drone over
Afghanistan in real time.
The military can pipe that back
to the White House, and you can
sit there in the sit room, and
watch what the operator's
Man: It just detonated.
Narrator: But in addition to
secret weapon systems, wouldn't
The President's Book of Secrets
also include information about
top-secret agencies--
organizations that are so
clandestine that just
mentioning their names could
get a government worker
(Trevor Paglen) We've all
heard of NASA.
Well, it turns out there's
another space agency as well
which is called the National
Reconnaissance Office.
Was started in the early
1960s, and the fact of its
existence wasn't made public
until 1992.
So, over 30 years, we had a
secret space agency whose very
existence was secret.
Narrator: The National
Reconnaissance Office develops
and operates a series of spy
satellites that fly in low
earth orbit and use advanced
space and imaging technologies.
Paglen: There's a class of
satellites descended from
something called keyholes
which are, essential,
photographic reconnaissance
satellites-- giant cameras
taking pictures of the ground.
There's another class of
optical reconnaissance!
Satellites called the Onyx
And what that does is something
called synthetic aperture radar.
It shoots radar beams down to
the surface of the Earth and
collects them back to create
maps and images.
It allows you to see through
It allows you to see into the
ground, and it allows you to
see at night.
And, indeed, military personnel
assigned to the Onyx program
wear patches that say, "We own
the night."
Alter: Oftentimes, the
intelligence is very limited.
But there are other times when
they have what's called
actionable intelligence, which
means, intelligence of a quality
that it allows you to use a
predator drone to target a
member of the al-Qaeda
President Obama has acted on
actionable intelligence
numerous times and actually,
ordered the killing of al-Qaeda
Narrator: The National
Reconnaissance Office also
operates massive eavesdropping
satellites that can actually
listen in to international
phone calls or intercept
computer communication.
Paglen: These satellites
suck up all of the information
that is being routed through
communication satellites.
Zaid: Years ago, when I was
representing Mohammad al Fayad,
dealing with Princess Diana's
death, NSA supposedly picked up
surveillance of the ambassador
to the United States from
Brazil's wife talking to
Princess Diana about certain
sexual dalliances that Princess
Diana was engaged in.
Now, the NSA was not secretly
monitoring Diana for the
purpose of trying to find out.
Apparently, they were monitoring
Brazil because of sensitive
negotiations that were going on
with U.S.-Brazil issues in the
rain forest.
The fact that information was
picked up by the NSA, that
information is some of the most
closely guarded secrets and
it's the method of communication
or signals intelligence that
really is at the heart of some
of the most key, fundamental
secrets the United States has.
Narrator: But perhaps the
President's most valuable
intelligence tool isn't located
in space or across the
Potomac River.
Just one floor below the Oval
Office sits a room that is the
heart of the President's
intelligence operations.
Bohn: Most people think of
the situation room as a meeting
room, but it's really the
President's intelligence center.
And it was started in 1961 by
John Kennedy to allow him to
know what the rest of the
government knew at the
same time.
Previous presidents had been
hostage to the State
Department, or Defense, or
Intelligence for information.
And he realized during the
Cuban missile crisis that he
couldn't really run the
government unless had a more
rapid arrival of information at
the White House.
Today, the President could not
do his job without the White
House situation room.
Narrator: For decades, the
situation room consisted of two
or three rooms crammed with
people and equipment.
But in 2007, during the
administration of George W.
Bush, was expanded to 13
rooms, filled with the ultimate
in high-tech, top-secret and
super-secure communication
Patterson: The largest of
those rooms has walls called
whisper walls, to disallow
ambient noise.
It has, at the end, a knowledge
wall, on which can be projected
pictures and satellite pictures,
surveillance pictures and
so forth.
Man: Throughout the white
house situation room, we have a
number of phone tubes, or
call them "Superman tubes," with
the capability to have
unclassified telephones as well
as top secret telephones.
Bohn: If the President
needs a private moment, or
anyone else, he steps into the
Director's office and they flip
the switch, and it instantly
fogs the glass, so it gives him
more privacy.
Narrator: The situation room
also contains a secret and
secure video-conferencing
system that allows the
President to communicate
face-to-face with international
leaders, ambassadors, and
military commanders.
Perino: Every Wednesday,
President Bush met by secure
Prime Minister Maliki, or
President Karzai of Afghanistan.
President Bush used to like to
say, "I don't want to talk
to him on the phone.
I want to look him in the eye."
And then he was able to do that
in the new situation room.
Narrator: Today, the
situation room functions as the
President's global information
and response center.
It's manned by military aides
24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Bohn: 95% of the information
that goes to the President on
a daily basis is funneled
through the sit room.
When the oil spill in the Gulf
started, the sit room probably
became engaged immediately.
And reporting on that routinely.
Even though it's not in their
portfolio, the staff knows that
it's important to the
Narrator: But who or what
determines if something is a
crisis, and would the protocols
r that decision be contained
in a book of secrets?
Bohn: It varies with
President to President, but it
all boils down to recognizing
what's a big deal and what's
Reagan asked that only two
people contact him after hours,
and that was his Chief of Staff
and his National Security
advisor-- whereas other
presidents are much more willing
to talk to most anybody.
Perino: I remember that
President Bush was awakened when
Chief Justice Rehnquist died,
and you would think that that
might be something that you
could wait until the morning to
tell him, but the Supreme Court
plays such an important role in
the structure of our country
that President Bush had to be
told right away, and so the
Chief of Staff has to make that
decision on whether or not they
were going to be awakened.
Narrator: Although the White
House has had decades to learn
how to deal effectively with
traditional threats, in the 21st
century, the nation's enemies
are not so easy to detect
or deter.
A cyber attack could
seriously compromise the
nation's financial,
communications, and military
But does the President have
any secret means to protect
our most classified
information, and could that
knowledge be found in the pages
of a book of secrets?
Narrator: In the age of
smartphones, iPads and Kindles,
might the information contained
in a President's Book of Secrets
now be stored, retrieved and
even carried around digitally?
Could this be the reason why
President Barack Obama is rarely
seen without his BlackBerry, and
if so, might the highly
sensitive communications
contained within it be
vulnerable to leaks or even a
cyber attack?
Chertoff: You could do it on
an iPad or something like that.
Then you'd have a security issue
because you'd want to make sure
nobody penetrated it.
I mean, I like technology,
but sometimes the plain,
old-fashioned pen and paper
actually work pretty
(David Gewirtz) He is a very,
very connected President.
It's part of what got
him elected, and he insisted on
keeping his portable
communications device with him.
Earnest: As with any cell
phone, the moment he speaks on
it to whoever it is and about
whatever the subject is, that
can be intercepted by people
doing intercepts of electronic
communications, and therefore
you have the possibility, indeed
the probability, that the
conversations of the President
of the United States would be
picked up by someone that we
don't want to pick it up.
Gewirtz: Eventually, as you
might imagine, the new President
of the United States telling
you to do something-- they
figured out a solution, which
was to build an NSA-secured
version of this device so he's
able to keep in touch with a few
Narrator: Although President
Obama and others in the White
House staff received secured
phones, the threat of these
devices falling into the wrong
hands is still a problem which
plagues the White House.
Gewirtz: An iPhone like this,
and I'm just holding it in my
hand, has the capacity of
approximately 1,750 copies of
all seven Harry Potter novels.
It is an astonishing amount of
storage information.
If you start to think about
how much secret government
information could be kept on
one of these devices, it starts
to be astonishing.
You could have secret access
You could have directions to
undisclosed locations.
You could have so much
information, and that's just if
you got ahold of the device.
Now, there is a second and much
more scary issue if it falls
into enemy hands and then is
returned back to its owner
There is the ability to put onto
a smartphone, in about 15
minutes, a piece of software
that runs undetectably and turns
a BlackBerry or other smartphone
into a very dangerous
surveillance device.
For example, there was a recent
theft of White House
Blackberries in New Orleans
during the recent leaders'
These phones were returned
eventually to their owners, but
before they're returned to their
owners, they must be wiped
completely and zeroed out and
rebuilt because the potential of
having basically a piece of
software hidden in the
background that's doing very,
very dangerous things exists.
And this is not science fiction.
The thing about these security
breaches is that they seem
incredibly benign, they seem
really simple, but when you're
talking about the Executive
Office of the President of the
United States, we all care.
Bohn: Every telephone, every
bit of electronic gear can be a
transmitter and a receiver.
And so it's feasible that a
telephone can pick up certain
RF emanations within the Oval
Office and transmit it.
We've certainly done it.
We've stood outside foreign
embassies and followed IBM mag
typewriters, and could replicate
everything that was typed on
that machine that way.
Narrator: When Michael Bohn
became the Director of the White
House situation room, he noticed
a similar vulnerability.
Bohn: When I got there, there
were no RF shields on the
windows, and I said, somebody
could sit at the Hay-Adams
Hotel across the street and
pick up conversations from the
Oval Office.
And I threw a fit.
And the Secret Service said,
"Don't worry about it, we got
it covered."
But I had the sit room windows
covered with a fine metal mesh
that would stop certain kinds
of radiation from coming in or
going out.
Narrator: In July 2009,
computer systems in the White
House, the Pentagon and the
New York Stock Exchange began to
Three days later, State
Department and Homeland
Security web sites disappeared,
and servers at the Treasury,
National Security Agency and
even the Pentagon, came under
The strikes were the work of
computer hackers, sending out
coded messages from somewhere
in North Korea.
Earnest: These attacks
amount to an intelligence
It is probing your defenses.
And some would say, preparing
the battlefield in case there
were a cyber war.
Narrator: The damage was
eventually contained, and the
evidence showed no attempt to
gain control over any government
systems, but the cyber attack
revealed a vulnerability that
has existed since 1985, when
e-mail was first used in the
White House under President
Ronald Reagan.
Gewirtz: When you or I send
an e-mail message, nothing
really is gonna go wrong if
somebody sees it.
If somebody in the White House
sends an e-mail message, and it
gets intercepted before it
should be, people could die.
Earnest: The United States
is subjected to thousands of
cyber attacks every single day.
Will some of those places where
they penetrate lead to
information which is
classified, sensitive, or
information they don't have?
Can they get far enough to,
perhaps, take over a computer,
to create a trojan horse out of
it, a so-called bot-net, in
which, in the event of conflict,
a number of our computers could
be used against us, or to stop
Narrator: Ironically, in the
months prior to the July 2009
cyber attack, President Barack
Obama had ordered Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates to create
Pentagon-based cyber command
division, with both offensive
and defensive capabilities.
Obama: Cyberspace is real,
and so are the risks that come
with it.
al-Qaeda and other terrorist
groups have spoken of their
desire to unleash a cyber attack
on our country.
Narrator: But just how
vulnerable are the nation's most
vital computer-stored secrets?
Earnest: In the event of a
cyber attack that brought down
all or part of our power grid,
our electrical power grid, what
would be the consequences
of that?
Quite clearly, the consequences
would be a very high degree of
chaos throughout the country.
Narrator: While the
information age has ushered in a
new generation of high-tech spy
gear, the Cold War-era methods
of the past century also
continue to threaten the
Might a President's Book of
Secrets contain information
about spies who have
infiltrated the White House?
Earnest: I'm not aware of
any listening device found in
the Oval Office or the
situation room, which does not
mean it might not have happened.
We certainly recall within the
period of the '90s, there was
an instance where a Russian
military intelligence officer
had managed to get a listening
device into the State
Department, so that's
getting close.
Luttwak: The KGB tried
very hard to put people into
the White House, but as far as
I know, no cases were discovered
in the Cold War, and then when
there was a brief moment in
Moscow when the secrets were
out, between the old Soviet
system and the arrival of
Mr. Putin's rebuilding of the
Soviet style, in between there
was a gap when people talked a
lot, and we never heard of
anybody during the Cold War who
managed to get a spy into the
White House.
Narrator: Often the biggest
reason classified information
and communication becomes
compromised or enters the
public domain isn't due to any
foreign espionage agents, but
rather because of those working
closest to the President or
within the government
Alter: All presidents go
crazy over leaks.
It's the one thing that is sure
to irritate or enrage an
American President, and there's
not a single one of them who
has been immune to this.
It's actually a colossal waste
of the President's time, because
it's very hard to track leaks.
Nixon set up the plumbers'
unit, they called it, to try to
plug the leaks, and it didn't
It contributed to the Watergate
scandal, and all of the efforts
that Presidents, right through
Obama, try to guess who might
be leaking, get mad at
their staff over leaks.
(Lanny Davis) Every President
of the United States, probably
going back to George Washington,
uttered those silly words:
"There will be no leaks."
Narrator: In the summer of
2010, some of the United States'
war plans became public when the
web site WikiLeaks published
tens of thousands of classified
reports and private e-mails.
The documents, which contained
intricate details of military
operations in Afghanistan,
appeared to have been leaked
from a source within U.S. Army
If so, could the highly
sensitive information contained
within a President's Book of
Secrets be similarly
Earnest: People feel you
can't keep a secret in
I have found that that's simply
not the case.
There are many, many secrets
that have never seen the light
of public knowledge.
Lichtman: There are
absolutely Presidential secrets
that have never been revealed
from the White House.
Let's not forget-- a lot of what
happens in government happens
in what we call the
invisible government--
the intelligence agencies,
secret military operations--
about which we may know nothing.
Narrator: But in the age of
cyber-terrorism and
whistleblowers, is it really
possible that there is a
Presidential Book of Secrets
containing information that has
never been disclosed or leaked?
If so, what might a curious
President find out about some
of the long-held myths,
mysteries and scandals locked
away in the White House?
Narrator: If a President's
Book of Secrets exists, some of
the chapters would likely be
devoted to the many long-held
Presidential myths, mysteries
and conspiracy theories.
Zaid: I think anyone who
would have the opportunity to
say, "Well, if I had the choice
of knowing some of the most
closely guarded secrets of the
United States, what would they
And probably in the current
era, one would think about the
same things that President
Clinton allegedly came up with
when he came to the Oval Office:
Who actually killed President
Are there UFO aliens living
among us or somewhere secreted
away in a chamber that no one
knows about?
How did our technology come
Did velcro actually come from
aliens-- which has been an
allegation in some classified,
so-called classified books?
Narrator: But with a book of
secrets, could the President
find out the truth about
anything he wants to know-- even
the nation's most top-secret
information-- simply by asking
for it?
Can he even open files that
have been ordered sealed?
Gingrich: Technically, he
has the ability to learn
everything, but as a practical
matter, a lot of agencies do
keep the secrets.
And frankly, sometimes the
President doesn't want to know.
Luttwak: Once you get to
become U.S. President, you don't
have to have a clearance, you
don't have to follow any rules,
and there's no classification.
I've never been a President,
but as I understand it from
Presidents, they're very keen
to know what their predecessors
(James Lesar) Since World War
II, we've been enveloped in
Everything is kept secret.
The public knows very little.
The National Archives is
currently saying that it has a
backlog of 408 million pages of
classified records.
Despite the fact that Congress
passed a law trying to get all
of the Kennedy Assassination
records out, there are still
about 50,000 pages of CIA
records relating to the Kennedy
Assassination that are being
withheld today.
Narrator: If a President's
Book of Secrets does exist,
might it silence once and for
all those conspiracy theorists
who maintain that President Bush
had advance knowledge of the
terrorist attacks on September
11, 2001?
Lichtman: There are those who
believe the Bush presidency was
Bush's approval ratings were
fairly low, and he needed an
He needed to kind of recreate
the Cold War with a new enemy,
and that new enemy would be
That there was an intelligence
report warning about an attack
on the United States using
That Bush knew about this, and
let the 9/11 attack take place
in order to get his enemy.
There are even more lurid
versions of the Bush conspiracy
theory that, in fact, the
attackers on 9/11 were U.S.
Intelligence operatives.
Narrator: But if such
audacious claims were even
partially true, wouldn't
President Bush's political
rivals have eagerly exposed it?
Lichtman: I always go by the
Pennsylvania Avenue rule, which
is: Never say anything unless
you expect it to be shouted in
the middle of Pennsylvania
Avenue, 'cause everything leaks.
And I guarantee, if the
President had tried to
orchestrate something like 9/11,
there would have been
catastrophic leaks.
Luttwak: A lot of people
believe in conspiracy theories,
because they're not close to the
government, and they don't see
that this bumbling, noisy, leaky
structure is incapable of
Gingrich: This is an
enormously energetic, complex
system, and different agencies
have different habits and
different patterns.
And so, there's too much chaos
in the American stem to have
a big fat conspiracy secret.
But as a species, we've had
conspiracy theories from the
very beginning.
It frightens people to believe
that the world could be large,
random and uncaring.
Narrator: One of the most
enduring conspiracy theories
that surround the office of the
President first took root in
1947, when the U.S. military
reported that an alien spaceship
had crash-landed outside
Roswell, New Mexico.
Although the government quickly
revised its initial report,
according to believers, the
remains of the ship and possibly
even its alien crew, were
whisked off to a secret military
air base in Nevada called
Area 51.
Paglen: There is nothing
around Area 51 for hundreds of
miles, really.
I mean, you drive on a long,
long dirt road, and there are
ground sensors in that road, so
that base security know that
you're coming.
Eventually you arrive at just
really at a series of signs--
there's not really even a
clearly-defined border--
and that's the point that you
don't want to go beyond.
There are contractors that show
up in pickup trucks, and they
kind of watch you and
surveil you.
And of course, what that means
is, you have people that are
devoted to trying to figure
out whether or not there were
aliens there.
Narrator: But could such a
fantastic claim be true?
And, if so, wouldn't the U.S.
President know about it?
O'Brien: I think it depends
on the sense of humor of the
President, but I can't help but
think that some of them, upon
assuming the office, ask their
predecessor, "All right, come
on, what's the deal with alien
Quayle: The alien situation
is very interesting, because we
had the same issue.
I mean, there are people out
there, uh, that really believe
that there are these aliens.
And we literally spent some
time looking at this, but there
was nothing conclusive that came
of it.
Lichtman: In truth, though,
the reason why there's so much
secrecy about Area 51 is, that
is where the Air Force develops
its most secret and sensitive
planes, including its
high-flying surveillance planes
and the stealth fighters.
They also, apparently, develop
weapons systems there.
At least, according to the
But, hey, there are plenty of
people who believe that's an
elaborate cover-up for a
storehouse of an alien ship,
alien bodies, and maybe even
live aliens.
Narrator: Over the years,
presidents have unintentionally,
or perhaps deliberately, helped
fuel the debate.
O'Brien: In 1969, Jimmy
Carter was on his way to a
Lion's Club meeting, and he and
a dozen other people witnessed
what, at least a bunch of them
thought, was clearly an
unidentified flying object.
It was a very bright light, it
turned colors, and it advanced
toward them and stayed just
beyond a copse of trees.
Carter was shaken.
He was struck by it.
He remembered it.
But not until 1973 did he report
it to an international UFO
agency, by which time he was
governor of Georgia.
Lichtman: There was an
investigation into Area 51
during the Clinton
There are also some lawsuits
involving Area 51.
And the Clinton Administration
invoked executive secrets, and
did not release any information
about Area 51.
And by the very fact that it's
been kept so secret, that spawns
all kinds of rumors and all
kinds of speculations.
Narrator: In later
interviews, President Clinton
admitted the investigations
never found any evidence of
aliens or alien technology.
Paglen: But he said that even
though he didn't find any
evidence of it, well, it
wouldn't have been the first
time that bureaucrats have lied
to a President.
Narrator: Government
cover-ups about assassinations
and alien invasions may be
far-fetched, but this isn't to
suggest there aren't real-life
dangers facing the leader of the
free world.
Nearly every day, assassination
plots against the President or
a member of his family are
But just how are these schemes
And what might a President's
Book of Secrets reveal about
the undercover plans and
methods that are used to
protect the most powerful
person on Earth?
Narrator: They follow him...
they watch him...
and they protect him...
with their very lives.
They are the Secret Service,
and if the President has or
keeps a book of secrets, they
would know about it.
And they are sworn to silence.
(Joseph Petro) When the Secret
Service begins to protect
someone, there's a briefing
provided and, certainly for a
new President, the briefing's
fairly extensive.
I can't talk about some of the
things that are discussed,
but, you know, the President is
given an overview of what his
life is gonna be like.
(Ron Kessler) When a person is
under protection, of course,
they're being shadowed,
basically, all the time, except
when they go to the bathroom
and when they sleep at night,
when they're in their private
But even then, of course,
they're watched from the
Keller: There were monitors
that we had which would tell us
at any given time where any
member of the first or second
family were.
So you would either see "Potus,"
President of the United
States, and it would say "Oval
Or "Potus Marine 1,"
or "Potus Camp David."
So you always had an idea of
where he was going and where he
Not everybody had those
monitors, just obviously people
who needed to know.
Neely: There is a peephole
that leads into the Oval Office
from the area where the
President's personal aide
and the President's personal
secretary sit, and it's used to
see how meetings are going, to
see if things are running on
schedule, to make sure the
President's okay.
Alter: Clinton and Obama
both said the same thing.
They feel like they're in a
gilded cage, almost in a prison,
in some ways.
Once you lose your anonymity,
you appreciate more, um, the
values of privacy.
Bales: It's a very isolating
There was not a lot of young
people, and so the staff and the
Secret Service, all of us
younger people, hung out
Quayle: My oldest son
remarks to this day, he said,
"Well, it was really great.
I'd be driven home in a black
sedan, and these great big iron
gates would open up, and they'd
let me in, and then they would
slam them shut, and I felt like
I was coming home to jail."
Now, that's a rather dramatic
I told him I don't believe that
it was quite that bad.
But clearly, it was tough on
Narrator: The Secret Service
was set up by the Treasury
Department in 1865 as an
investigative agency working
financial crimes.
But after the assassination
of President William McKinley
in 1901, the Secret Service was
brought in to function, in
effect, as the President's
official bodyguard.
Now under the umbrella of the
Department of Homeland
Security, the ranks of the
Secret Service include
thousands of uniformed and
undercover agents, all tasked
with keeping the President
secure from outside threats.
Petro: And what a lot of
people may not realize is that
there is a core of people who
threaten the President all the
They're well known.
And it doesn't matter who the
President is.
What the Secret Service worries
more about are the people they
don't know, who don't threaten
the President overtly.
(Crowd cheering, whistling)
Narrator: But would a book of
secrets help the President
prepare for the kind of security
procedures that he would have to
observe while holding the
nation's highest office?
Petro: I'll use a rope line
as an example, 'cause that's
more or less the more dangerous
times, when he's shaking hands
in a rope line.
The Secret Service works very
hard on developing training and
having agents able to react to
issues in a rope line.
I think what's interesting is
how the agents look at people
differently, because you don't
have one technique that's being
My own was, you know, you looked
at eyes.
(Camera shutter clicks)
When you look in their eyes, you
can get a sense of whether they
belong there or not... what
their state of mind is.
I think all the agents look for
You know, what's not right in
this crowd?
People with hands in their
People who are not engaged in
the event.
You know, things that don't
(Camera shutter clicks)
Kessler: Also, in a crowd...
Obama: Hello, Ohio!
Kessler: ...The Secret
Service will have agents who
don't appear to be agents, who
are not wearing the traditional
squiggly earpiece.
And they will circulate in the
crowd and get a feel for anybody
who might be a possible threat.
Lichtman: The size of the
team is very large, certainly
in the hundreds.
What you see is absolutely the
tip of the iceberg.
Petro: There are so many
people that really have to go
with the President wherever
he travels.
There's going to be a 26-car
Because there's not just the
the security that has to go with
him, and the police, the
motorcycles, medical assistance,
the staff has to be there, and
the press.
When you add it all up, it takes
a lot of vehicles to do this.
Kessler: They'll have
three-dimensional mock-ups of
the routes.
They'll plan where
counter-sniper teams will be.
The Secret Service will
actually take away any
mailboxes on the route, because
they could have explosives.
They will seal, by welding, the
manhole covers, so that nobody
can plant explosives in the
manholes and blow up the
When Barack Obama was
inaugurated, he and Michelle
got out of the limousine twice,
and they are told where is the
best place to get out.
Petro: Whether it's a planned
event or an unplanned event,
every step is choreographed.
It has to be.
Narrator: The massive
protection surrounding the
President can turn a simple
trip across town into an
enormous and complex operation.
Even a casual visit to a
friend's house warrants the
full Secret Service treatment.
Kessler: Before President
Bush and Laura were gonna have
dinner at Clay Johnson's and
Anne Johnson's home in Spring
Valley, Washington, the Secret
Service showed up and did their
usual advance work and checked
it out, set up an operations
center in the basement, put
cones in front of the house so
that other people would not
park there, and asked Anne
Johnson what closet they could
use in case there was an attack.
Johnson: They put some extra
special lights in there, and I
asked him what he was doing.
He said, "Well, that's where
we'll take the President in
case there's an incident here."
And I said, "Well, it's a very
small closet-- you really can't
get very many people in there,"
and he said, "We only have to
get me and the President in
And I said, "Well, what happens
to the rest of us?"
And he looked at me with...
Kind of the... "You're on own,
Narrator: A President's Book
of Secrets might also have to
include information about what
the Chief Executive needs to
know in the event of an attack
on his life.
For example:
Who's in charge...
...The President...
or his guardians?
Petro: Ultimately, the
President's in charge.
That's basically the law.
But I think as a practical
matter, the President looks to
the Secret Service for guidance
in a crisis.
If there's a shooting or, you
know, some major event, the
Secret Service just reacts and
doesn't ask permission, and just
basically moves the President.
Quayle: The Secret Service
is there all the time.
They know where the President
is, they see him, they know
who's with him, they're
observing him all the time.
They know what's going on.
Narrator: Of course, while
the Secret Service never leaves
the President's side, its agents
do not have access to the same
classified data as he does.
But could there be information
that even the President doesn't
Information about secret
programs and institutions so
highly sensitive, that whether
in a file, a program or a book
of secrets, it cannot even be
shared with the nation's highest
elected official.
And if the President of the
United States doesn't know...
Who does?
(Crowds cheering, whistling)
Narrator: A President's term
in office usually lasts between
four and eight years.
Because of this, many suspect
that long-time Washington
powerbrokers, intelligence
officers or military commanders
might keep secrets from the
But could this be true?
Could there be information so
important or so vital to
national security that even the
President cannot know of it?
Secret disclosures that would
not even be recorded in a
President's Book of Secrets?
Chertoff that's an
interesting question to ask:
If the President can ever be
denied access.
I think the answer to that must
be no.
It would hard to imagine how
that would be legally possible.
But that's not to say that the
President does or is advised to
get into the details of all
kinds of classified information.
Some of it he may need to know.
Some of it, it may be better
for him not to know.
Rather: We need to think
very carefully about whether
some secrets are not even
shared with the President, and
who decides that those secrets
should not be shared with our
elected, not only Commander in
Chief, but head of state and
head of government.
And if so-- italicize, all caps,
underscore-- if so, then who
decides that the President is
not to know, and on what basis
did they make that decision?
Is that constitutional?
Is it legal?
And perhaps most importantly,
is it healthy for the country?
Reagan: First, let me say I
take full responsibility for
my own actions and for those
of my administration.
As angry as I may be about
activities undertaken
without my knowledge, I am
still accountable for those
Narrator: But while it's hard
to prove that government secrets
might be deliberately withheld,
the fact is that a President
cannot possibly be told
everything that is going on.
Gingrich: Technically, he has
the ability to learn everything.
But as a practical matter,
somebody has to sort it out.
Somebody has to say, these are
important, these aren't.
These are urgent, these aren't.
There's too much information
Somebody once figured out that
the amount of information in
the Sunday New York Times was
larger than the amount of
information a villager in
England in the 16th Century
would have received in their
Lichtman: A lot of what
happens in government happens
in what we call the invisible
government-- the intelligence
agencies, secret military
operations, about which we may
know nothing.
A lot of that information has
come out in a lot of books
written about covert operations.
But I guarantee there is a huge
amount of information about
covert operations abroad and
about the extent to which the
intelligence agencies of the
United States have manipulated
and controlled the American
people in this country that
have never come out.
Lesar: In the early 1960s,
the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew
up a plan called "Operation
North Woods" in which they
planned a series of attacks
against American civilians in
the hijackings of planes so
they could blame it on Cuba as
a pretext to an invasion against
We didn't learn about that
until the 1990s, more than 30
years later.
That secret was kept.
Narrator: But just how are
these secret military operations
and research programs financed?
And wouldn't the means of
securing financing have to be
detailed for the President--
perhaps in a book of secrets?
Information, for example,
concerning the President's
black budget?
Paglen: The black budget
is the secret part of the
federal budget.
It's a part of the federal
budget that Congress is
actually not able to see.
You can find a lot of the black
budget in a section of the
defense budget called research
development test and evaluation.
This is a document you can
download from the Internet from
the DOD Comptroller's web site.
If you open that up and start
to look at the line items,
you'll find some very curious
You'll find strange code names
like "Pilot fish" or "Retract
There will be millions of
dollars allocated to these
programs and there will be no
corresponding justification for
Narrator: Many of the
projects funded by the
President's black budget
involve secret government or
military facilities located
around the United States.
In Utah, the Dugway Proving
Ground is rumored to be a
testing facility for biological
and chemical weapons defense
In California, the Vandenberg
Air Force Base is thought by
many to be the launching site
for spy satellites.
Paglen: In terms of what
goes on at one of these black
sites, of course it has to do
with what kinds of programs are
being run there.
At a place like Area 51 of the
Tonopah Test Range there will
be people conducting flight
test operations, evaluating
different kinds of experimental
technologies, and forward that
information on to
the intelligence community
for analysis.
Narrator: Incoming
presidents no doubt understand
that there are many ongoing
secret military experiments and
research programs that they are
not fully briefed on
but what they might not realize
is the size and extent of this
shadowy black budget world.
Lesar: In theory, the
President may have access to
all of it, but as a practical
matter, he doesn't.
Zaid: It's not as much that
presidents wouldn't be told,
but there's so much out there
that is secret and so much
planning at all the agency
levels, that it might not
percolate up to the President's
level until, perhaps, the last
Paglen: I think a lot of us
have this sense that, "Oh,
yeah, sure-- the government,
they do some secret stuff.
There's a couple of secret
They do this and that."
But when we look at the scale
of the black budget, we're
talking about, you know, $30 to
$50 billion annually.
The scale of this is enormous.
Alter: On his first day
in office, President Obama
signed an executive order
saying that the burden
of proof should be on those who
want to keep secrets, not on
those who want to classify
information, the way it's been
in the past.
The President recognizes that,
that the government is
keeping too many secrets.
Narrator: But if the
President's Book of Secrets
doesn't contain information
concerning all of the
government's covert operations,
where, or to whom, might the
President look to find it?
Or is it possible that there is
an individual, or a group of
individuals, that has a
hidden agenda for the United
States of America?
An agenda so secret that it
dare not be written about--
even in a President's Book of
Narrator: The Freemasons...
The Council on Foreign
The New World Order...
...Skull and bones.
There are many who believe that
the nation's business is run by
secret societies.
Cabals run by shadowy figures
who operate according to hidden
agendas and secret rules.
If so, wouldn't information
about these so-called secret
alliances, and their purpose,
have to be shared with each
President in a book of secrets?
Perhaps the answer can be found
by examining those closest to
the President.
Those advisors, often
unelected, who wield both
power and influence.
The power, as it were, behind
the throne.
Rather: The President has to
trust a large number of people.
And a new President knows I
can't trust, really trust that
many people, but I have to know
that sooner or later at least a
few of them are gonna prove not
worthy of that trust.
Kaufman: People in politics
all have a big piece in their
brain that says there's a
There's a conspiracy against us.
There's a conspiracy against
And I remember when I first got
into politics, helping 41,
people were really afraid of
several international groups.
The Council for Foreign Affairs
was some evil force of bad guys
trying to take over, make this
whole world a one-world
Luttwak: The President
knows he can't trust anybody.
If he wants to trust somebody,
he has to get a dog.
Every possible person who has
access to a candidate or a
President is continuously
trying to influence him.
So, each time somebody
approaches the President with
some information, that
information is usually wrapped,
or is part of, or justifies
something that somebody wants.
Gingrich: If you centralize
this much power in one city,
and you centralize this much
money in one city, uh, you're
gonna have a huge number of
people who try to shape it.
Alter: No matter how
much President Obama says that
he doesn't want to be
surrounded by yes men, as he
told me in an interview that I
did with him, he said a lot of
times, they won't say it to me
directly and I'll only find out
later that they object.
So a lot of times the President
doesn't get the information
that he needs because people
feel intimidated or they don't
want to be argumentative with
the President.
Narrator in Washington, the
fact that the President is
often isolated both socially
and informationally is known as
being "Trapped inside the
To combat this problem,
presidents often turn to
unofficial advisors outside the
White House.
Luttwak: The term used is
Kitchen Cabinet, that is to
say, people the President has
not appointed to office, who
have not been confirmed by
Congress, and who are
nevertheless very powerful and
influential with him.
Ronald Reagan, for example, who
became President when he was
not young, had lived a long
life, had many friends, close
friends, a lot of people were
very intensely loyal to him.
Only a handful of them came
into the presidency as
the Secretary of Defense
Weinberger or Secretary of
State Schultz.
The others would come and visit
them, and they were his
kitchen cabinet.
And every President has
such people.
Sometimes it causes a problem
because, whereas his formal
adviser-- the people he names
to important positions-- are
examined by the public and
examined by Congress and have
to be confirmed and backgrounds
checked and their
histories known, these are
the people, are private people,
who have the right to privacy
and are usually very private.
Narrator: But where do
presidents make these alliances
that become so important when
they are in office?
Very often they stretch back to
their days in college, where
lifelong friendships
could be forged.
Lichtman: Of course,
Yale is a citadel of the
Many American Presidents have
gone there...
including George H.W. Bush
and George W. Bush.
Davis: George W. Bush
was a good friend when I
was an undergraduate at Yale.
In fact, we were fraternity
brothers and did fraternity
parties together.
And John Kerry, future Senator
and Presidential Candidate, was
a year ahead of me, President
of the Yale political union.
Joe Lieberman, Senator from
Connecticut was three years
ahead of me, Chairman of the
Yale Daily News.
And then I went to law school,
and in my third year, I met
Hillary Rodham.
And then after I graduated Yale
Law School, she introduced me
to somebody that she was quite
interested in, thought had a
great political future.
His name was Bill Clinton.
Narrator: But do these
connections really mean that
there are hidden requirements
to hold the nation's top office?
And might a President's Book of
Secrets contain information
about a secret organization
that is pulling the strings in
the White House?
Paglen: Secrecy is a
very, very powerful tool of
wielding power, right?
If you're able to do things and
not tell other people about it,
this represents an enormous,
really kind of monarchical
Narrator: But there is one
clandestine fraternity in
particular that attracts more
suspicion than others.
Skull and Bones has become
renowned perhaps as the most
elite and powerful of all the
secret societies.
Headquartered in a crypt-like
building in the middle of the
Yale University campus in New
Haven, Connecticut, it claims a
long list of influential alumni.
(Alexandra Robbins) Skull and
Bones has counted among its
members Presidents, Senators
Congressmen, CIA officials,
the list goes on and on.
Members get power.
They can get money.
They can get connections.
All because they share this
one tie.
Rather: One of the things
that feeds the legend about
Skull and Bones is that,
particularly in recent years,
presidents have tended to
get around themselves a very
large number of people who come
from the northeastern part of
the United States and/or the
financial world, Wall Street
and and/or Ivy league schools.
Robbins: Skull and Bones
exists only to get bonesmen
into those positions of power,
and then to have those
powerful men then elevate
other bonesmen into positions
of prestige.
But is there a secret world
agenda, or do they want to
dominate everything just for
the sake of world domination?
No, that's just a conspiracy
Narrator: But conspiracy
theories notwithstanding, the
fact is presidents-- just like
everyone else-- are made of not
only skulls and bones but also
flesh and blood.
And, for this reason, it is
likely that one of the most
important chapters within the
book of secrets would concern
not only the presidency, but
the physical, emotional and
mental stability of the
President himself.
Narrator: Perhaps the final
chapter in the President's Book
of Secrets would cover the most
carefully guarded issues related
to the United States' Chief
Executive... including
information related to the
President's physical and
mental health.
Lichtman: There's a
confidence factor for the whole
country, if people doubt that
their President has the health
and vitality to do the job.
That's gonna cause Wall Street
to plummet, that's gonna have
an effect on the economy, it's
gonna encourage al-Qaeda and
other enemies to do whatever
harm they could do to the
United States.
So one could argue there is a
national security and economic
reason to conceal the
President's health.
No other leader has the power
to project the kind of
force and influence around the
world that an American
President does.
Reagan: Mr. Gorbachev, tear
down this wall!
(All cheer)
Lichtman: Health is relevant,
but Presidents have been as
unforthcoming as they possibly
can about their health.
Narrator: The responsibility
of protecting, and if necessary,
concealing the President's
health falls to a private
physician who travels with the
Chief Executive 24 hours a day.
(Dr. Connie Mariano) This is
one of those rare jobs, if the
President is sick, it is the
doctor's problem.
The staff will come to you and
say, you know, "the President
looks tired.
You need to take care of that."
One of the challenges of White
House physician is dealing with
the legacy that you've inherited
from the prior administrations,
meaning there were medical
issues that you did not reveal
to the press, that you hid,
that you even denied.
Narrator: In the past, some
Presidents have gone to great
lengths to hide illnesses from
the public.
In 1919, Woodrow Wilson
suffered a stroke, and his wife
was said to have been running
the White House in his
last days.
While in office, FDR concealed
not only his paralysis caused
by polio, but also the heart
disease that ultimately led to
his death in 1945.
Kennedy: Let the word go
forth that the torch has been
passed to a new generation
of Americans.
O'Brien: JFK was in
constant pain.
He suffered, from childhood,
from Addison's disease.
His back was giving him so much
pain on a regular basis that if
he didn't receive pain
medication every day, on a
regular schedule, he'd be flat
out on his back.
And consequently during his
Presidency, he was either a
little bit doped up or in
excruciating discomfort.
Nobody knew about it at
the time.
I mean, a very small clique of
people, very few friends,
and those reporters who knew
about it didn't talk about it.
Narrator: So would a
President's Book of Secrets
detail for the
Commander in Chief the
extraordinary means by which his
or her health is to be
maintained, all while insuring
the utmost in national security?
Mariano: We do have some
equipment that we can't talk
about in detail, such as for
biochemical warfare.
There is a private suite in
Bethesda Naval Hospital that is
armored, that has its own air
supply, its own water system;
that is bombproof and
it's locked.
It's called the METU, which
stands for Medical Evaluation
Treatment Unit.
The beauty of the suite, it is
On a regular day at the
hospital, you don't even know
the President's there.
The hospital goes on, business
as normal.
And the President could
be there, and he's totally
Narrator: But what if
a President fails to heed his
doctor's advice?
Are there any secret methods of
persuasion used by a White
House physician?
Mariano: One of the
secrets that White House
doctors have kept over the
years is, if the President
doesn't want to follow your
orders, you have no other
recourse but to resort to
higher authority, and that is
to appeal to the First Lady of
the United States.
You get pretty good compliance
after that.
Narrator: For the men and
women who actively seek the
nation's highest office, it is
certainly no secret that the
physical changes from
inauguration to departure
can be startling.
Even the heartiest and
most fit will retire from office
looking noticeably grayer
and more careworn.
So why do it?
Is it for power, accomplishment,
Or is it for ultimate knowledge;
the type of knowledge contained
within a President's Book of
of Secrets?
On January 8, 2009, during the
last days of his Presidency,
George W. Bush invited
four men to a private reunion
at the White House.
George W. Bush: I want to
thank the President-elect
for joining the ex-presidents.
Alter: President Bush
had a lunch with his father
George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama,
Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
It's such a small club of
people who have been President
of the United States--
and only a handful still
living-- that they do have a
connection to each other, even
if they're from different
They're in the same club.
George W. Bush: To the extent
we can, we look forward to
sharing our experiences
with you.
All of us who have served in
this office understand that the
office itself transcends
the individual.
Kaufman: Former Presidents
talk more than people realize.
They don t advertise it.
But each President, I think,
uses the former Presidents,
'cause who better can explain
what it's like to be in some of
these circumstances?
Quayle: They're able to give
a unique perspective because
they've been there.
They know what the
pressures are,
they know what the issues are.
And to have a President-to-
President discussion, you
understand the entire situation
and you're able to give
some insights.
Narrator: Five men.
Five out of 44 in an
unbroken chain that stretches
back to George Washington and
the founding fathers.
Only five... who would know the
possible contents of
a President's Book of Secrets.
Corbi: The problem with
putting that kind of
information together in one
journal is that it can be
stolen, copied, compromised.
I'd be very nervous if I were
the President and I knew some
other people had access to that.
Gingrich: I can't quite
imagine what the handbook would
look like.
But we keep lots of secrets.
We keep an amazing number
of secrets.
Rather: Well, if there is
such a book, I'm not
aware of it.
I have my doubts that there is
such a book.
But there are deep and
abiding secrets.
Zaid: Presidents themselves
certainly keep secrets.
Secrecy is power.
Knowledge is power.
And the more knowledge that is
secret, the more powerful you
perceive yourself to be.
Kaufman: The coin of the
realm in this town is not money.
It's not even power, per se.
It's information.
Those that have it are in power.
And those that don't have,
Narrator: But is there really
a President's Book of Secrets?
Or is it simply the collective
knowledge that only the
surviving presidents share?
One thing is certain:
They're not telling.
Quayle: I'd say that
there are things that George
Bush 41 and I know that not too
many other people know.