May 7, 2007

Canadian "Poppy Coin" Alarms U.S. Defense Department

Left: 2004 25-cent piece with image of a red poppy commemorates Canada's war dead

A Canadian coin with a bright red poppy was the focus of a U.S. Defense Department espionage warning earlier this year about mysterious coin-like objects that supposedly contained radio frequency transmitters.

"It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who found the poppy coin in a rental car. "Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top."

The silver-colored quarter features the red image of a poppy inlaid over a maple leaf, and the coin is identical to those described as "suspicious" in the reports of defense contractors.

Canadaian intelligence officials expressed annoyance with the American "spy-coin" warnings over the poppy coin.

"That story about Canadians planting coins in the pockets of defense contractors will not go away," said Luc Portelance, deputy director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "Could someone tell me more? Where do we stand and what's the story on this?"

The Associated Press reported that intelligence experts were "flabbergasted" over the warning when it was first publicized, especially with the concept that hidden transmitters could be employed to track the movements of people carrying the poppy coins.

This, of course, is the federal agency responsible for protecting our nation. It is mind-boggling that so much effort was expended by government adminstrators over an issue that could have been cleared up with a few phone calls, or by referencing a numismatic reference text.

And - just for grins - if I were to design a secret spy coin, wouldn't it make sense to color the coin, oh, SILVER or something? The whole point to espionage is to collect information without detection, right?

Wake me when it is Tuesday, please.

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