Murphy's Law: About Those Mysterious Canadian Coins...

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May 9, 2007: Earlier this year, there were reports that Canadian coins had been fitted with location monitors, and passed on to people entering U.S. defense related facilities. This turned out to be a self-inflicted hoax. An Urban Legend, so to speak. The "spy coin" was actually a Canadian 25 cent coin with the red image of a poppy inlaid over a maple leaf. The "suspicious coating" was actually a protective coating applied, during the manufacture of the coin, to prevent the poppy's red color from rubbing off. Some 30 million of these commemorative coins were minted in 2004, to honor Canada's 117,000 war dead.

Late last year, the outlook was quite different. It was believed than an espionage operation, based in Canada, was planting location monitors on American defense contractors who were visiting Canada. It was believed that electronics were hidden in Canadian coins, which the contractors had passed on to them innocently during some commercial transaction.

What kept the story going was the fact that a bugged coin is actually possible, because of improvements in miniaturizing electronic components, and the growing use of wireless devices. Each such coin could have a unique ID. Similar electronics can be placed in just about anything, and often is, when you want to track someone without being detected. But you can detect these transmitters with the right equipment, and that's how this kind of coin could be discovered. In the case of the Canadian coin, it was the red color inlay, which is an unusual feature in coins, which got imaginations in the security services going. At the time, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Defense had earlier (in 2005 and 2006) found American defense contractors carrying coins with radio frequency transmitters on them. The Department of Defense now says its earlier warnings were a mistake, but refuses to provide any additional details. Not exactly a confidence building exercise.

 


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