WASHINGTON - 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 US government report, it said the mysterious
coins were found planted on US contractors with classified security clearances
on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as
the contractors traveled through Canada.
This photo released by the Central
Intelligence Agency shows a hollow container, fashioned to look like an
Eisenhower silver dollar, which is still used to hide and send messages,
or film, without being detected. Because it resembles ordinary pocket
change, it is virtually undetectable as a concealment device. [AP]
The US 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
Further details were secret, according to the US 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
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
"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 US 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."