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At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert 242

An anonymous reader writes with this interesting story about what it's like to work at “Store Number 1,” the CIA's Starbucks. The new supervisor thought his idea was innocent enough. He wanted the baristas to write the names of customers on their cups to speed up lines and ease confusion, just like other Starbucks do around the world. But these aren't just any customers. They are regulars at the CIA Starbucks. "They could use the alias 'Polly-O string cheese' for all I care," said a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that his identity remain unpublished for security reasons. "But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn't work for this location."
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At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert

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  • by Chromium_One ( 126329 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:01PM (#48015461)
    ... tradition of ticket numbers?!
  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:06PM (#48015483)

    Yet the government (FBI) objects to our desires for privacy (Apple & Google on-phone encryption).

    • by VanGarrett ( 1269030 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:13PM (#48015527) Homepage

      Ah, but they know why they want their privacy, and are concerned that you might want yours for the same sorts of purposes.

    • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:42PM (#48015659)

      Hypocracy? That's awful. I'd hate to be ruled by hypos.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Well, we've tried the elephants and the donkeys so far. I don't see how the hypos would be any worse.

  • Yeah So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by p0p0 ( 1841106 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:06PM (#48015487)
    Okay, and what? Is that it? Starbucks at the CIA doesn't use names for customers, just like any other coffee shop in the world, or any shop for that matter.

    News for nerds = Nope.
    Stuff that matter: = Negatory.
    • by mrxak ( 727974 )

      Yeah, this is a pretty pointless article, and the same stuff is talked about in every CIA TV documentary and news article anyway.

  • Well they can be like rest area places where it has the name but other stuff in under control of a overall vendor.

    If not for that then the Manger will have to answer to Starbucks and not the CIA.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:11PM (#48015511)

    my local SB even if they know you by name (I have long histories with a lot of coffee shops around here, most of them know me by name and how I like my coffee), none of them write names on cups. They all, for large orders (more than 4 cups) write what's actually in the cups.

    • It started a year or two ago IIRC. Basically many starbucks ask for your name, and write it on the cup. That way you know the venti cappuccino is indeed for you, and not the guy next to you. (They also write the order)

      I travel a lot and I've had the fortune of going to many starbucks, globally. I'd say maybe 50% use names, but it hasn't been implemented everywhere.

  • Regular coffee is too cheap for them?

  • Maybe it's to give undercover agents in training some semi-real-world experience with giving false names with confidence?

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Correct answer should be - use a code name.

      Or just change the way of working - give a number. Today I'm number 42.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:51PM (#48015689)

    I thought that was a Pike's Place in Seattle?

  • by mjwalshe ( 1680392 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:55PM (#48015711)
    Use Pike or Howard :-)
  • I thought undercover agents would be trained to conjure up a fake identity on the spot, even under duress, and keep it consistent with any information the interrogating party may have.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @05:59PM (#48015745)

    I can actually understand this - suppose I was an agent and I made up a random name, like 'Polly-O string cheese'. If I used it consistently, a spy for the other side could do traffic analysis - things like " 'Polly-O string cheese' always gets a coffee, except for 2 recent periods of about a week each. Suspected agent X was reported as being in country Y, an ally of ours, during those 2 periods, and at no other time. Next time 'Polly-O string cheese' doesn't get a coffee, if X is in country Y, get the Y state security to arrest him.

    If I were agent X, I would be very nervous at having to give any name, even if I could make one up each time. Humans are not very good at making up random things...

    • I can actually understand this - suppose I was an agent and I made up a random name, like 'Polly-O string cheese'. If I used it consistently, a spy for the other side could do traffic analysis - things like " 'Polly-O string cheese' always gets a coffee, except for 2 recent periods of about a week each. Suspected agent X was reported as being in country Y, an ally of ours, during those 2 periods, and at no other time. Next time 'Polly-O string cheese' doesn't get a coffee, if X is in country Y, get the Y state security to arrest him.

      If I were agent X, I would be very nervous at having to give any name, even if I could make one up each time. Humans are not very good at making up random things...

      If a nefarious entity has access to detailed records of what names are written on the plastic cups, as an intelligence agency you're already well-screwed.

      Y'know, I wonder if they scrub the money involved for DNA before handing it over to the clerks...

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      That only works if you give a consistent code name.

      Act random style and you will confuse even the best statistician.

    • Your entire attack vector is obviated by the fact that these people are probably mostly paying with plastic. If so, you have their real names anyway. Attack there rather than some esoteric sampling attack based on the analysis of called names.

      Besides, if you're going so deep into pattern analysis that you fear the effects of calling a pseudorandom name, I *guarantee* you there are better identifier proxies... most notably time of day/order type correlation, which is likely to be far more stable and restrict

  • I'm a little surprised that they don't accept the rewards cards.

    Why not have it randomly select a Starbucks store ID from the POS every time it processes a transaction at that location?

    • Another intresting fact: My (europa based) rewards card was sent by international mail from Seattle. But is not accepted in the united states.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @06:25PM (#48015851)

    James Bond. And I'll take that shaken, not stirred.

    What was I thinking? I'll just send Moneypenny down to fetch the coffee.

  • Let's not lose sight of the fact that they're mostly psychopathic mercenaries and murderers -- on behalf of Big Bucks, not Starbucks.

  • Is this connected with the transition from Phase Two to Phase Three? Presumably it must have helped with recruitment:

    "Though the coffee chain's specific plans are not known, existing Starbucks franchises across the nation have been locked down with titanium shutters across all windows. In each coffee shop's door hangs the familiar Starbucks logo, slightly altered to present the familiar mermaid figure as a cyclopean mermaid whose all-seeing eye forms the apex of a world-spanning pyramid...Remaining Starbuck

  • by ArieKremen ( 733795 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @07:18PM (#48016075)
    but they all use their loyalty program cards tied to their personal credit cards....
  • Capacity planning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Sunday September 28, 2014 @07:23PM (#48016101)

    "Because the campus is a highly secured island, few people leave for coffee, and the lines, both in the morning and mid-afternoon, can stretch down the hallway."

    What a waste of time and resources!

    For a group of people who likes to give the impression they are all super geniuses (and by extension deserve X 100 billion a year in funding), I would expect at least one person could have done some capacity planning and figured out how big the Starbucks need to be for that location. How about some accountability? Fire the person who planned this coffee shop. His/her mistakes cost the country the hourly rate of each person in line * the time they waste standing around.

    • If they were smart enough to figure that out then they would probably just make their coffee flavored milkshakes at home and put it in a thermos. Or get one of those single cup coffee machines.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    1) Every agent give the name "John Smith." Duh.

    2) You take the supervisor to the basement and put one in his ear. Also duh. God damn are we running an intelligence agency or a kindergarden?

  • I started using the name 'Bob' at the local Starbucks because of the pronunciation issue, not to mention I am a wee bit paranoid.

    Just because I am paranoid DOESN'T mean they aren't after me.

  • then they have nothing to worry about!

  • So you're telling me that "security" people are self-important asshats? Who knew?

  • I've had lunch there, and it is pretty surreal how they have this normal mall food court in the middle of one of the most secure places on the planet.

    But I guess everyone needs a slice from Shapiro pizza now and again.

  • Star Bucks

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