Starbucks Store №1, a coffee shop where CIA spies hang out.
CIA HQ has an on-site Starbucks called Store №1 where spies don’t have their names written on cups, and where baristas don’t ask for names, and must undergo background checks and pass a security clearance and are trained in facial recognition so spies can get their latte without fear of their names being revealed.
Yes, Store №1 is the only Starbucks in the world that doesn’t require your name; it’s completely streamlined to serve members of this secretive line of work. Each maître d’ goes through a robust interview and background check before they are even told that they will be working at the CIA Starbucks. There are nine baristas working there and whenever they leave their work area, a CIA “minder” escorts them. All are regularly briefed about security risks and must report if someone seems overly interested in where they work or asks too many questions about their employment. They can’t even blow their own horns about working inside the CIA at nightclubs or parties and, if asked, can only tell friends, family members and acquaintances that they “work in a federal building”.
The Starbucks at CIA headquarters couldn’t operate in any other way, for undercover operatives grow uncomfortable when someone asks for their name. They can’t give the Starbucks’ server their a.k.a. handles either, for that nom de plume, if discovered by the wrong people, could end up getting them, or an overseas asset they recruited, killed. Even the receipts the baristas hand back have “Store Number 1” cryptically printed on them.
And what about the wonderful Starbucks Awards program with those loyalty deals? It would be great to offer America’s spy force this great program where they can get free drink and food rewards, custom offers, early access to new Starbuck products and make easy payments with their mobile app. Well, the program is absent at Store Number 1, for CIA clandestine operatives could be potentially exposed if the data on their loyalty cards fell into the wrong hands.
Yes, Store Number 1 is a cloak-and-dagger Starbucks operation. It is also one of their busiest, for the customers remain captive, all day long. The intelligence analysts, undercover operatives and case officers, economists, engineers, geographers, and cartographers who work on the CIA’s highly secured campus are not permitted to leave the “office” and go downtown for a coffee break in the middle of the day. The caffeine-addicted staff flocks to “Stealthy Starbucks”, as they code named it, for a respite from gathering intelligence, planning covert operations, and preparing the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) that provides the president of the United States with up-to-the-minute intelligence on sensitive international situations.
Those working at the CIA need and deserve a break from their windowless cubicles to sip an Espresso with bittersweet mocha sauce and steamed milk topped with whipped cream while munching on a buttery muffin stuffed with seasonal blueberries, yogurt, and honey. Hopefully, they can unwind at Store Number 1 and return refreshed to their duties. After all, if they don’t remain attentive and vigilant for hours on end as they pour through top secret files…people could end up in harm’s way.
The video Starbucks at CIA Headquarters reveals it all. Enjoy!
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community. He authors the Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.