Why the CIA destroys $10,000 watches agents receive as gifts from foreign officials

Trending 4 weeks ago

The CIA put 4 bottles of "vintage wine" and a handbasket containing vino and cognac fixed by undisclosed overseas parties to "official use," while destroying different items for illustration wristwatches fixed arsenic gifts to agency employees.

Because nan CIA is simply a clandestine intelligence service, galore of nan specifications astir gifts fixed to CIA labor from overseas dignitaries and sources are kept secret. But a overseas gift disclosure archive released by nan State Department Thursday shows gifts galore CIA labor received were destroyed, including watches ranging successful worth from $500 to $10,000.

Gift-giving is simply a awesome portion of overseas relations, a motion of respect and relationship betwixt nations. The White House, State Department, embassies and various different authorities offices show gifts from overseas heads of state, and location are immense authorities storerooms lodging different items. 

But the U.S. government has strict rules astir what officials tin do pinch nan gifts to debar evident aliases existent bribery from overseas governments. Federal labor are not allowed to judge gifts complete a definite worth unless "refusal of nan gift would origin discourtesy aliases embarrassment aliases would different adversely impact nan overseas relations of nan United States," according to U.S. law. Such a gift, assuming it is "tangible," whitethorn beryllium accepted and must beryllium handed complete to go spot of nan U.S. government.

Putin and Biden

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin get to meet astatine nan Villa la Grange successful Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File / AP Newsroom)


Those accepted gifts must beryllium disclosed, and nan State Department released a list of gifts from overseas officials earlier this week. 

President Biden received a lacquered pen and table group from Russian President Vladimir Putin weighted astatine $12,000 successful 2021, months earlier Russia invaded Ukraine. It was transferred to nan National Archives and Records Administration for storage. The defense curate of Qatar gave U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin an $8,000 curved-blade saber, which is connected show successful his office. 

Even gifts of vino and intoxicant are not uncommon. Pope Francis gave Secretary of State Antony Blinken a vessel of Salento Primitivo wine, on pinch a dove sculpture, a book and 7 Apostolic Exhortations. Vice President Kamala Harris received 2 bottles of rum, among different gifts, from Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei successful 2021.

Pope Francis meets pinch U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken astatine nan Vatican June 28, 2021. | Reuters Photos

When it comes to nan CIA, definite gifts are marked arsenic placed connected display, for illustration a $1,110 silk rug and an $800 group of Virginia Woolf pens fixed to CIA labor by unnamed persons. Others were not handed complete but simply marked arsenic destroyed. 

Jewelry, watches, sculptures and different items talented to CIA labor were marked arsenic being destroyed. One of nan watches received by a CIA worker and past destroyed was weighted astatine $10,000. Other destroyed items see iPad minis, jewelry, a frosted solid eagle sculpture fixed to CIA Director William Burns and a $680 container group of fragrances. 

Not destroyed, however, were respective consumable gifts of precocious value. One CIA worker successful nan past fewer years received a group of 4 bottles of "vintage wine" weighted astatine complete $1,100 from an unnamed overseas entity. The gift study notes it was put to "official use."


A container of "High-end Davidoff Royal Release Cigars" weighted astatine $800 was likewise consumed aft it was fixed to a CIA employee, arsenic was a gift handbasket containing vino and cognac weighted astatine $590. 

The CIA did not disclose specifications of nan charismatic usage of nan alcoholic gifts but told FOX Business nan agency "handles gifts lawfully and responsibly."

There could beryllium respective reasons gifts for illustration cigars and vino are put to "official use," while non-consumable gifts are destroyed. Since nan gifts are often from overseas officials, they whitethorn person been talented to CIA labor stationed overseas, wherever location whitethorn not beryllium a peculiarly easy aliases inexpensive measurement to manus complete nan items to different authorities agencies for storage, which is nan destiny of nan costly gifts handed to nan president, ambassadors aliases nan caput of state.


Wristwatches connected display. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters Photos)

"When an agency receives overseas authorities gifts, location are respective options for disposing of nan gift permissibly," a CIA spokesperson said. "When an worker receives a overseas authorities gift exceeding minimal value, nan agency whitethorn make charismatic usage of nan gift aliases whitethorn show it. Examples of charismatic usage could see utilizing a gift for creator display, re-gifting to authorized recipients aliases different utilizing a gift successful an charismatic function. The agency whitethorn waste nan gift to nan employee. Or an agency whitethorn dispose of nan point arsenic excess property."


As an intelligence agency, nan CIA withholds nan sanction of nan recipient and nan gift giver if specified accusation "could adversely impact United States intelligence sources aliases methods," according to U.S. law.