At CIA Starbucks, even the baristas are covert
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.CIA and coffee shops? Fandom, you disappoint.
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for all I care,” said a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that his identity remain unpublished for security reasons.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.”
This purveyor of skinny lattes and double cappuccinos is deep inside the agency’s forested Langley, Va., compound.
Welcome to the “Stealthy Starbucks,” as a few officers affectionately call it.
Or “Store Number 1,” as the receipts cryptically say.
The baristas go through rigorous interviews and background checks and need to be escorted by agency “minders” to leave their work area. There are no frequent-customer award cards, because officials fear the data stored on the cards could be mined by marketers and fall into the wrong hands, outing secret agents.
It is one of the busiest Starbucks in the country, with a captive caffeine-craving audience of thousands of analysts and agents, economists and engineers, geographers and cartographers working on gathering intelligence and launching covert operations inside some of the most vexing and violent places around the world.