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Thursday, March 20, 2014

How the President Makes a Phone Call

Oliver Knox writes at Yahoo News:
Before Obama calls another world leader, an aide brings him a specially prepared National Security Council dossier. The package includes a closely held American intelligence portrait of the person he’s going to call — including highly personal information about their personality, their health and their loved ones. “Are they cool-headed? Or the opposite? Do they like to joke?” said one source familiar with the contents of the dossier.

“The world leader profiles include basic intel, idiosyncrasies, personal political pressures, whether any close relatives are seriously ill, girl- or boyfriend problems, personal health issues,” said another official.


If the president chooses to make contact through a secure videoconference — a system called Secure Video TeleConference, but known by its acronym SVTC, pronounced "CIV-its" — he can do so from the Situation Room. Another option is the Roosevelt Room, a large windowless rectangular meeting room on the ground floor of the White House. Most visitors note the painting of Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, but they ignore the large cabinet on the opposite wall that houses the necessary equipment to get presidents face to face with people halfway around the world. The Camp David retreat nestled in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains can also host secure videoconferences.

Secure video has a few advantages over the traditional phone call. “You can really read the body language,” one source said. And because several people can be seen and heard, videoconferences are useful for conducting long-distance meetings.

But just a handful of world leaders have that capability (and most of them only thanks to help from the U.S., which set it up for them).