Former North Bergen resident John Brennan has much to be proud of. After 25 years with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Pres. Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court to serve as director of the agency on Monday, Jan. 7.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic that a citizen in our community has risen to such heights,” said Commissioner Frank Gargiulo, who taught Brennan at St. Joseph’s of the Palisades High School in West New York decades ago.
He believes that if the Supreme Court approves Brennan for the job, it might be appropriate for the town to hold a parade or a ceremony of some sort, perhaps with Brennan’s attendance if he’s willing.
Meet the possible top spy
Brennan, 57, grew up in North Bergen and stumbled upon his career with the CIA when he found an ad in the New York Times, according to a 2009 interview with The Record. The ad said the agency was “looking for a few good people.”
Brennan graduated Fordham University with a degree in political science and obtained a Master’s degree in government with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas. Brennan has been the counterterrorism and homeland security advisor to President Obama for the last four years. Back in 2008 he had the opportunity to become the head of the CIA, but he withdrew when the CIA was criticized for controversial interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects, such as waterboarding.
“I'm very proud to see someone from North Bergen be considered for this vitally important position.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
Obama said Brennan is “one of our nation’s most skilled and respected intelligence professionals – not to mention that unique combination of smarts and strength that he claims comes from growing up in New Jersey. John knows what our national security demands – intelligence that provides policymakers with the facts, strong analytic insights, and a keen understanding of a dynamic world.”
He added, “John is legendary, even in the White House, for working hard. I’m not sure he’s slept in four years. In Director John Brennan you will have one of your own; a leader who knows you; who cares for you, deeply; and who will fight for you every single day.”
Brennan said the following about his nomination:“It is indeed a tremendous honor to be nominated to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Leading the agency in which I served for 25 years would be the greatest privilege as well as the greatest responsibility of my professional life. If confirmed as Director, I will make it my mission to ensure that the CIA has the tools it needs to keep our nation safe, and that its work always reflects the liberties, the freedoms and the values that we hold so dear.”
Although Brennan is no longer a part of the township, some of his many supporters are from his hometown.
“We in North Bergen and myself in particular wish him the absolute best and we’re proud of his accomplishments,” said Gargiulo.
Garguilo remembers Brennan as a red headed all around athlete. Gargiulo looked back at Brennan’s yearbook the year he graduated St. Joseph’s and agreed with the quote that said he was destined for great things.
“What makes these people successful is what they think success is,” said Gargiulo. “John [Brennan] was driven, he got into the White House, which was terrific, and while he was there, he impacted the president in such a way that the president’s elevating him now.”
Mayor Nicholas Sacco also weighed in on the nomination.
“I’m very proud to see someone from North Bergen be considered for this vitally important position,” said Sacco. “Although I personally don't know Mr. Brennan, everyone who does says that he is an outstanding person, and I congratulate him on his nomination and wish him the best.”
Gargiulo noted that North Bergen and St. Joseph’s have another alumnus who has worked high up in national security: former Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) Director Louis Freeh. Freeh now has his own investigative firm and law practice.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org