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Numismatists On The Block

« May 2007 »

Memo to military contractors and the Defense Security Service: YOU ARE DUMB.

We are so lucky that the terrorists suck. Seriously. This is what cracks me up about the whole "they'll follow us home" canard. Nothing's stopped them from coming here in the last six years - nothing on our end, in any case. For proof of this, look no further than the case of the Canadian Spy Coins.

Back in January, a report on security threats from the Defense Security Service, a subset of the Defense Department showed up. In it, it said that U.S. contractors had fallen victim to Canadian coins with electronic trackers implanted in them. Seemed a bit odd, but also a bit cool. When our head spies are people like George Tenet, I think we all want to believe in a James Bondian Mountie with access to nanotechnology.

Of course it wasn't true. And the way in which it was so startlingly not true should give anyone pause who thinks the War on Terror is going to be fought by the brave, smart men and women of the United States Governement and the vast cadre of private individuals they've outsourced to. The coins turned out to be ordinary Canadian "poppy quarters", notable only because the poppies were painted red - Canada's first color coins.

So why did the contractors think the coins were bugged? ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket." - one unidentified, and presumably anal-retentive and germophobic, contractor. Another contractor found one of the coins in the cup holder of a car he rented. Coat pockets? Cup holders? Next you'll be telling me you were "handed" one of the "coins" by a Canadian "cashier".

"[The coins were] anomalous... filled with something manmade that looked like nanotechnology" - Let me get this straight. We are paying lots of money as defense contractors to people who think they know what nanotechnology LOOKS LIKE. Oh, and also think that if spies were going to be sneaking nanotech coins into people's pockets, they'd make sure to PAINT THEM RED.

One contractor actually looked at the coins under what he claimed was a high-power microscope, finding what he claimed was "several layers of clear but different material, with a wire-like mesh suspended on top." And of course he went straight for a microscope, without once stopping to ask any Canadians what the deal was with the red coins, because foreigners are useless in this new age of American unilateralism.

So the contractors report the coins to the DSS, and the DSS investigated. Well, OK. They didn't investigate. But they did examine... actually, they didn't examine the coins either. But they DID put it in a report without questioning it. So either Judith Miller is moonlighting, or the DSS is full of idiots. But it's OK, the DSS is performing an internal review process! Yay! Don't you feel better? If not, here's DSS spokeswoman Cindy McGovern to tell you why you should.

"We know where we made the mistake. The information wasn't properly vetted. While these coins aroused suspicion, there ultimately was nothing there."

Vetted? Ultimately? A guy found a red quarter in a rental car's cup holder and you told the world it was a secret plot to track our personnel. The "mistake", then, is assuming that at any given moment, the people allegedly in charge of keeping us safe have the slightest fucking idea what they're doing. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to call the NSA and report a ring full of strangely-shaped metal objects I discovered in my pocket this morning. I'm concerned they might be utlized to subvert basic automotive or home security measures.

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