In a situation similar to one DeepDotWeb has routinely covered, a US congresswoman proposed a bill that added Bitcoin threat assessment to the Department of Homeland Security’s list of duties. Like Europol and Interpol, congresswoman Kathleen Rice requested that the DHS “investigate whether terrorists use virtual currencies, or receive funding with them.”
Rice, a ranking Democrat in the House Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee, announced that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies provided the level of anonymity needed by terrorist organizations. While cryptocurrencies have garnered a uniquely tarnished reputation for their roles in darknet drug marketplaces, investigative authorities never provided substantial proof to this effect.
In fact, just the opposite. Europol, before joining forces with Interpol and the Basel Institute of Governance, announced the following:
“There is no evidence however of IS-financing networks in existence. Despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement. The financing of terrorist operations has not undergone any marked changes in the recent past. The sources of funding of the operatives in the EU are largely unknown.” (EC3, Europol. “Changes in Modus Operandi of Islamic State Terrorist Attacks.pdf.” Scribd. Web. 20 May 2017.)
Not long afterwards, Europol, Basel Institute of Governance, and Interpol formed an alliance based on findings that directly contradicted the conclusions drawn by Europol in the terrorism document. Other government agencies conducted similar studies and concluded similarly: that the majority of the terrorist funding methods were not influenced by Bitcoin.
With that said, the times have changed and the US government might, in fact, see a potential threat in the use of cryptocurrencies by terror groups. The other side of this coin is that the government, instead, might be using the newly introduced bill as a measure to impose tighter restrictions and regulations on the currency.
If the “Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists’ Use of Virtual Currencies Act” passes Congress, the Department of Homeland Security will have 120 days to investigate and compile an assessment on cryptocurrencies and their roles in terrorism. The report must then be shared with branches of local and state law enforcement.
Coleman Lamb, a spokesperson for Rice’s office, reassuringly wrote that “[t]he evidence suggests that terrorists’ use of virtual currencies has so far been limited to a few instances and not widespread.” He continued, “but those cases are all very recent, indicating that terrorists—like most people—are becoming more aware of and familiar with virtual currencies.”
The results of this bill posses the capacity to cause a widespread panic—especially now that Bitcoin sits at $2,000.