Sunday, January 14, 2007

Question Of The Week, 1/14/07

Good morning. I got the idea for this weeks Question Of The Week from a January 10, 2007 article by Ted Bridis. I won't post a link to the article because the last time I got a question ready ahead of time and saved it as a draft the article expired before Sunday rolled around. According to the article someone is using hollow coins as a tracking device to follow some of our defense contractors. No one seems to know who is behind this. Or their not saying if they do.

Defense Workers Warned About Spy Coins
Wednesday January 10, 11:46 pm ET
By Ted Bridis, Associated Press Writer
U.S. Defense Workers Warned About Canadian Spy Coins With Tiny Radio Frequency Transmitters

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Can the coins jingling in your pocket trace your movements? The Defense Department is warning its American contractor employees about a new espionage threat seemingly straight from Hollywood: It discovered Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

In a U.S. government report, it said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

The U.S. report doesn't suggest who might be tracking American defense contractors or why. It also doesn't describe how the Pentagon discovered the ruse, how the transmitters might function or even which Canadian currency contained them.

Further details were secret, according to the U.S. Defense Security Service, which issued the warning to the Pentagon's classified contractors. The government insists the incidents happened, and the risk was genuine.

"What's in the report is true," said Martha Deutscher, a spokeswoman for the security service. "This is indeed a sanitized version, which leaves a lot of questions."

Top suspects, according to intelligence and technology experts: China, Russia or even France -- all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said it knew nothing about the coins.

"This issue has just come to our attention," CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said. "At this point, we don't know of any basis for these claims." She said Canada's intelligence service works closely with its U.S. counterparts and will seek more information if necessary.

Experts were astonished about the disclosure and the novel tracking technique, but they quickly rejected suggestions Canada's government might be spying on American contractors. The intelligence services of the two countries are extraordinarily close and routinely share sensitive secrets.

"It would seem unthinkable," said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "I wouldn't expect to see any offensive operation against the Americans."

Harris said likely candidates include foreign spies who targeted Americans abroad or businesses engaged in corporate espionage. "There are certainly a lot of mysterious aspects to this," Harris said.

Experts said such tiny transmitters would almost certainly have limited range to communicate with sensors no more than a few feet away, such as ones hidden inside a doorway.

"I'm not aware of any (transmitter) that would fit inside a coin and broadcast for kilometers," said Katherine Albrecht, an activist who believes such technology carries serious privacy risks. "Whoever did this obviously has access to some pretty advanced technology."

Experts said hiding tracking technology inside coins is fraught with risks because the spy's target might inadvertently give away the coin or spend it buying coffee or a newspaper.

They agreed, however, that a coin with a hidden tracking device might not arose suspicion if it were discovered loose in a pocket or briefcase.

"It wouldn't seem to be the best place to put something like that; you'd want to put it in something that wouldn't be left behind or spent," said Jeff Richelson, a researcher and author of books about the CIA and its gadgets. "It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense."

Canada's physically largest coins include its $2 "Toonie," which is more than 1-inch across and thick enough to hide a tiny transmitter. The CIA has acknowledged its own spies have used hollow, U.S. silver-dollar coins to hide messages and film.

The government's 29-page report was filled with other espionage warnings. It described unrelated hacker attacks, eavesdropping with miniature pen recorders and the case of a female foreign spy who seduced her American boyfriend to steal his computer passwords.

In another case, a film processing company called the FBI after it developed pictures for a contractor that contained classified images of U.S. satellites and their blueprints. The photo was taken from an adjoining office window.

This weeks Question Of The Week is. Who, or what country is using hollow coins to track defense contractors? I'll post my answer in the Comment Section Monday night.

Thanks go to:

The Associated Press
Ted Bridis
God Bless America, God Save The Republic.


Blogger Always On Watch Two said...

Top suspects, according to intelligence and technology experts: China, Russia or even France -- all said to actively run espionage operations inside Canada with enough sophistication to produce such technology.

Of those choices, it might be China.

But, truly, I have no idea.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Who knows? It could be other defense contractors trying to get inside information.

I'd go with China out of those choices as well, but Russia would be a close second.

4:04 AM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

I want to thank you for stopping by to answer this weeks question. I'm a little late and my mind is somewhere else right now. I got off work last night, came home and took a shower.
Thats when I found out my shower drain was frozen. It is zero in Saint Joseph right now (2:03 AM Tuesday) and I'm still trying to get it thawed out. I pluged in the heat tape for the first time in five years. It has started to drain. Now that I have that bit of news out of the way."This weeks Question Of The Week is. Who, or what country is using hollow coins to track defense contractors?" I'll be the third to say China. I'll also say it could be other defense contractors.I'll mention names because of something that happened a few years ago ( Space Technologies and Hughes Communications come to mind, but thats just a guess.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Katherine Thayer said...

One of the elderly residents of told me that may be China or Russia is responsible of using hollow coins.

3:40 AM  

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