Spies use Starbucks for more than just a caffeine hit, and actually frequent the chain to communicate with handlers, an ex-CIA agent has revealed.

Writing in her book Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA, ex-agent Amaryllis Fox said the coffee shop was a useful place to have undercover meetings during her time at the agency, because there are so many branches to meet at.

Fox explained of one of her former instructors: “He gives one [gift card] to each of his assets and tells them, ‘If you need to see me, just buy a coffee.’ Then he checks the card numbers on a cybercafé computer each day, and if the balance on one is depleted, he knows he’s got a meeting.”

“[It] saves him having to drive past a whole slew of different physical signal sites each day… and the card numbers aren’t tied to identities, so the whole thing is pretty secure,” she adds.

Fox joined the CIA aged 21 and left in 2010 after eight years at the agency. In the book she says she helped find prisoners held by an international terrorist group and negotiated with arms dealers to purchase biological and chemical weapons on the global black market, among other things around the world.

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It all sounds pretty dangerous so we bet she’s pleased to just get a cappuccino – and not a new mission – when she goes to Starbucks now.

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