Copper Coins, Tinfoil Hats
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Copper Coins, Tinfoil Hats

Danger is my middle name If you’ve noticed a dearth of cheap tinfoil at Dollarama recently, it could be due to a warning this week from the U.S. Defense Department stating that certain Canadian coins contain tiny radio transmitters that may have been intended to mark or track American defense contractors. The report states:

On at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006, cleared defense contractors’ employees traveling through Canada have discovered radio frequency transmitters embedded in Canadian coins placed on their persons [report PDF].

Since the coins were likely modified outside the Royal Canadian Mint and since Canada is not known for its spy operations on the U.S., it’s been suggested that other countries like China or Russia could be the culprit. We helpfully suggest any country where funny mustaches and trenchcoats are still in fashion.
There are more salacious incidents in the report than tracking coins, however. Apparently, an American male translator was seduced by a foreign national, causing him to blurt-out his password. While probably telling ‘tang-blinded Studley McStupid he was the best she’s ever had, she then spread a different kind of virus than the sexually-transmitted kind throughout the computer system. Oh, behave.
As the TTC would know from studying options for their new tokens, the utility of an RFID transmitter inside a coin is very limited. The coin would have to have an extremely close proximity to the receiver, and probably wouldn’t be very helpful other than telling those sleeper beagles which soft drink machines are the most popular at defense seminars down at the Metro Convention Centre.
David Harris, a former CSIS officer and security spokesperson told the media how something as obscure as passing the coin could even mark an unwitting recipient for assassination or kidnapping. The report doesn’t state which coins were found with transmitters, though one would assume that dual-disk toonies would be the easiest to hide something in.
UPDATE: The Defense Security Service has curiously retracted its claims, stating that the allegations of transmitters embedded in Canadian coins were “found later to be unsubstatiated following an investigation into the matter.” The DSS also said that the cleared report should not have included this information in the first place.