When the UAE donated a bonsai tree to the CIA

The CIA has donated this unusual gift to a specialised bonsai museum in Washington DC

The bonsai tree has now been given to a specialised museum in the United States. Courtesy CIA
The bonsai tree has now been given to a specialised museum in the United States. Courtesy CIA

The CIA is known for clandestine operations, its shadowy agents - and even possibly investigating flying saucers.

So it may seem understandable if caring for a bonsai tree is not high on its list of priorities.

The agency has revealed on Twitter that it is donating a bonsai tree, received as a gift from the UAE, to a specialised museum so it can be viewed by the public.

"While CIA officers have many specialised skills, the art of bonsai maintenance is admittedly beyond the scope of our training," it said.

The tree that ended up in the CIA director's office began life in the swamps of Florida.

It came into the possession of Bill Jagoe, an American enthusiast who began to train it into a bonsai, the Washington Post reported. It was eventually purchased by a mystery buyer earlier this year and was donated to the CIA by the UAE as a gift of friendship.

“It is not uncommon for us to receive gifts from foreign countries,” CIA spokeswoman Chelsea Robinson, told the newspaper.

“In this particular case it was just in honour of our country’s close partnership with the UAE.”

But is it OK for the intelligence agency to receive gifts?

“Our security had to check the tree to be sure there was nothing in it,” said Ms Robinson. “I will say - it’s pretty funny - when we were moving the tree we did discover... a praying mantis in it. So, technically, we were bugged.”

The tree is now at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum in Washington DC.

In a letter to the museum, CIA director Ms Haspel wrote: “While the CIA has many talented officers, we are not skilled in the art of bonsai maintenance, and so we are incredibly grateful that the tree will be preserved in the museum’s celebrated collection and that it is in such expert hands.”

Updated: October 3, 2019 02:21 PM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one