As his top national security advisors gathered for an urgent Saturday meeting to discuss the terrorist threat that has forced the United States to close embassies overseas, President Obama was at Camp David celebrating his birthday with friends.
Sixteen senior officials participated in the unusual gathering, according to the White House. Among them were National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who chaired the session, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Obama was briefed after the session by Rice and Monaco, according to the White House. The White House said Obama has “received frequent briefings over the last week” on the threat.
Obama, whose birthday is today, was already celebrating at least a day early, playing golf in the morning with 11 longtime buddies and then traveling with them to Camp David, where the party continued. The president is scheduled to return to the White House today.
The White House didn’t say where the meeting took place, though such a session would presumably be held at the White House in the Situation Room. The White House labeled the gathering a “principals meeting,” which may be an attempt to excuse the president’s absence by suggesting that only the top officials of various agencies were meant to be present. But it’s unclear why Obama wouldn’t have wanted to directly participate in such a vital discussion.