The Ticket

José Cuervo Platino, Swiss bell: gifts for John Brennan

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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John Brennan, nominee for CIA Director, arrives at a meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne …

What do you get the chief architect of America’s expanded drone war, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan? The governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco gave a bottle of José Cuervo Platino, a high-end tequila. Elias Murr, described only as “foreign official,” gave a “crystal clock in the shape of a horse jumping over an obstacle.”

Those are some of the stand-out gifts listed on the questionnaire Brennan—President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA—had to fill out for the Senate Intelligence Committee that will grill him on Thursday. The 25-year CIA veteran also had to disclose information about any candidacies for public office (“none”) or any lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign governments (“none”).

But perhaps the most interesting section required Brennan to list all gifts valued at more than $100 given over the past five years to him, his wife or his dependents. Presents from relatives did not need to be listed unless he had reason to believe they were offered because of his official position. Government officials—including presidents—typically turn over such offerings to the National Archives, or they can keep them if they pay fair market value.

So what else did Brennan get?

The director of Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, gave Brennan what is described as a “silver and gold standing plaque.” Murr (a quick online search suggests that he is Lebanon’s former defense minister) provided the clock. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez provided not just the tequila (which Bloomberg BusinessWeek glowingly describes as “peppery…hot citrus at first, and followed by some floral botanicals at the finish”) but also a “green lacquered wood plate.”

Perhaps sensing that Brennan wasn’t really the tequila-sipping type, the head of Lebanon’s internal security forces, Ashraf Rifi, gave him an 8-piece serving bar utensil set. Switzerland’s intelligence chief Markus Seiler presented Brennan with a “Swiss bell with leather strap.”

Hakan Fidan—described only as “foreign official” but apparently Turkey’s intelligence chief at the time—gave Brennan a “green glass and hold plate” as well as a “circular decorative metal dish.” The deputy national security adviser of India, Alok Prasad, presented Brennan with a “white marble bowl,” as well as a “paper mache container with gold color inlay, and floral design on lid.” Angelino Alfano—he’s described in the questionnaire as “minister of justice – India,” but he actually held that post in Italy (whoops!)—gave Brennan a “navy blue tie.”

Gen. Ahmed Al-Ashwal of Yemen, where America’s drone war has sharply escalated, gave Brennan a “jewelry set of necklace, bracelet, earrings, and a ring.”

So just how much was all of this worth? Well, it wouldn’t be the CIA without a few secrets. The questionnaire released by the committee notes under “gift appraisal” the mention “column data redacted.”

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