The National Security Agency has been building a database over the past few years of what customers order in restaurants, according to documents obtained by the Scene.
From 2002 and continuing to the present, every major chain restaurant and most locally owned eateries have forwarded information about customers’ food preferences to NSA’s suburban Washington, D.C., headquarters, where Nashvillians’ eating habits are, along with other Americans’, fed into a massive federal database.
Tightlipped NSA officials say only that the information is being compiled for Americans’ own good and for security reasons. Speculation is that, based on the dining habits of suspected terrorists, the NSA can spot when a terrorist cell is meeting at a steak house or seafood place to discuss plans.
“We know that the 9-11 hijackers ate at Applebee’s and Red Lobster, and if we had known that ahead of time, who knows what we could have prevented?” says an NSA source.
At least one Nashville restaurant has vowed to protect its diners’ anonymity.
David Baldwin, owner of Hillsboro Village’s venerable Pancake Pantry, says that he turned down the federal requests.
“They wanted to know who had buttermilk, who had pecan, who had Belgian waffles—it just didn’t feel right,” he says. “I don’t want one of my customers to end up at Gitmo because they like extra butter on the side, and it turns out some terrorist does too.”
But the feds say that such fears are misplaced.
“We don’t want you to have this on your mind when you’re ordering a big platter of fried food or a second dessert,” the NSA source says. “You can definitely trust us with all this information.”