Recent Report Details Background Check and Security Policies at CIA Starbucks Location

By Michael Klazema on 10/7/2014

It goes without saying that those given clearance to work for the CIA have to go through extremely detailed background checks first, but what about the people who work inside the CIA's Langley, Virginia headquarters who are not technically working for the government? Such is the case with the employees of Starbucks "Store Number 1," a branch of the ubiquitous coffee chain that actually does its business inside the CIA's forest base at Langley.

The background check and security policies of Store Number 1 were recently the subject of a Washington Post report. According to the article, the nine baristas who work at this "Stealthy Starbucks" have to undergo "rigorous interviews and background checks" before being permitted to serve the undercover agents and other specialists who frequent the Langley coffee shop location. The baristas have to be escorted to and from their work area every day, just to make sure they aren't spying on the CIA or selling secrets of national security.

Of course, the baristas don't get to tell their friends exactly where they work - they can say they work at Starbucks and that they work inside a federal building. They cannot, however, specify that the federal building where they work is Langley, the hub of all CIA operations inside the United States.

The overarching goal of all this security, secrecy, and regulation is to make sure that the identities of undercover operatives are kept top secret. The Starbucks doesn't even allow the use of customer reward cards, for fear that marketers or hackers could get their hands on the information and expose the names of CIA agents. The security policies even forbid the common coffee shop practice of writing customers' names on cups, because everyone is so afraid of having their identities compromised.

As one might expect, these policies are far from ideal. The name-on-cup practice is in place at Starbucks locations throughout the country because it helps to keep lines moving and avoids the confusion of mixed-up orders. Without this procedure in place, lines at the Langley Starbucks location frequently stretch all the way down the hall.

Of course, the coffee shop isn't swamped just because of slow service. On the contrary, it's also one of the busiest Starbucks locations in the country, and this is in part of the fact that no one leaves the headquarters to get coffee and because just about everyone in the CIA, from operating agents to intelligence experts, relies on caffeine to get through their incredibly high-pressure jobs.


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