Schar School Adds Intelligence Expert, Author, TV Commentor David Priess to Faculty

David Priess
David Priess joins the Schar School faculty. Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Originally published on January 13, 2021

Former CIA officer David Priess, the chief operating officer of Washington, D.C.'s Lawfare Institute and a prolific writer and speaker on intelligence and the presidency, joins the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University as Visiting Professor and Senior Fellow at its Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security.

Priess will instruct intelligence courses in the Schar School’s top-ranked security studies program and Master’s in International Security program, with a concentration on intelligence and the presidency, as well as teach a graduate course on intelligence analysis. Priess will also act as moderator for Hayden Center events and panel discussions.

“David Priess' scholarship at the intersection of security studies and the presidency makes him an ideal addition to our international security studies program faculty and to the Hayden Center,” said Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell. “We look forward to his contribution of his experience and expertise and welcome him to an already stellar faculty.”

"David will be an outstanding addition to the Schar School and the Hayden Center,” said Gen. (retired) Michael V. Hayden. “No one better knows the history of the Intelligence Community’s President’s Daily Brief—he literally wrote the book on it—and his knowledge of intelligence analytic tradecraft will prove invaluable to our students. His joining me, Michael Morell, Andrew McCabeEllen LaipsonRobert DietzRonald Marks, and James Danoy sets up the Schar School as among the best in intelligence-related education.”

Director of the international security program, Ellen Laipson, former Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council, said students will benefit from Priess’ breadth of experience.

"Our students in the Master’s in International Security program, and other Schar School public policy degree programs, will benefit from David's ability to put intelligence in the context of how national security decisions are made, from the White House to the inter-agency process," she said.

Priess served at the CIA during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as an intelligence officer, manager, and daily intelligence briefer. 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 and occasionally into the White House. Priess later served in management roles in the private sector and taught courses related to intelligence analysis and management at numerous government agencies and departments. For the past two years, he has served as a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute of Mason's Antonin Scalia Law School.

Priess has written two well-received books about U.S. presidents. The first, The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents, relates how intelligence officials have used the President's Daily Brief to provide commanders in chief with the most sensitive information and analysis in the world. With a foreword by President George H. W. Bush, this book is the first to feature input from every living former president, vice president, and CIA director from previous administrations. Last year Priess hosted a Hayden Center discussion examining how and why the Presidential Daily Briefing is important; the discussion, which included Distinguished Visiting Professor and former acting director of the CIA Morell, was one of the most popular Schar School events of the year. (View the discussion.)

His most recent book is How To Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide To Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives. Covering American political history from the Constitutional Convention through the election of Donald Trump, it stands as the definitive survey of how 44 presidents have left office. Priess was interviewed by CNN’s Susan Glasser in a 2019 discussion about the book at the Schar School.

Priess appears often on national media including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and NPR to discuss the presidency, national security, and intelligence issues. His writings have been featured in the Washington PostLawfareThe BulwarkForeign AffairsThe Daily BeastPoliticoThe Cipher BriefForeign Policy, and the Houston Chronicle. He graduated summa cum laude from Illinois Wesleyan University and received his master’s degree and PhD in political science from Duke University. He has taught undergraduate classes at Duke University, the George Washington University, and George Mason University.

Schar School note: A generous gift from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation provides $450,000 in new 2021 scholarships for master’s students enrolled in the Schar School's security studies programs.