- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

Foreign spies are literally following the money to keep a close eye on Pentagon contractors, who are reporting that Canadian coins with Radio Frequency Identification chips have been planted in their clothing.

“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,” according to a report by the U.S. Defense Security Service titled “Technology Collections Trends in the U.S. Defense Industry.”

Martha Deutscher, a spokeswoman for the security service, confirmed the report and said it was intended to notify security officials, defense contractors and Pentagon policy-makers of spy technology being used.

“We want people to be aware of new technology and that there are all kinds of ways to collect information,” Miss Deutscher said.

The Washington Times reported last week that officials think China, Russia and Iran are leaders in using the technology to spy. The security service report said recent cases of spies targeting contractors include a foreign national attempting to hack a computer system and a woman who tried to seduce a contractor into giving up a password.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips transmit information to a portable device and are used for tracking. They often are implanted in pets so the animals can be tracked if they are stolen or lost.

The Times reported in December 2004 that badges worn by high-level attendees of the World Summit on the Information Society were affixed with the chips without their knowledge.

Gary Fowlie, a spokesman for the International Telecommunication Union, which hosted the Geneva event, scoffed at concerns by privacy advocates that the technology could be used to monitor a person’s movement.

The revelation of the chips in the badges “sent off a shot heard around the world,” said Katherine Albrecht, director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a leading opponent of RFID technology.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service told the Associated Press it has no knowledge of who is distributing the coins or planting the objects on U.S. officials, and rejected any assertion that Canada’s government is spying on Americans.

“It would seem unthinkable,” said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian service. “I wouldn’t expect to see any offensive operation against the Americans.”

The CIA has developed a U.S. silver-dollar coin in which film or other tiny objects can be hidden. Canada’s largest coin is more than an inch wide.

“I’m surprised this is getting so much attention. We fell into the middle of a hot technology debate,” Miss Deutscher said.

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