As part of a larger exploration of non-obvious funding methods for terrorist organizations, the EU has proposed new legislation to enforce background checks on Bitcoin users. News sources have picked it up. One may ask, to what end?
FACT: What people do not understand typically scares them.
FACT: Few people understand the intricacies of how cryptos work and why the usage patterns are what they are.
FACT: Government administrators are people that are scared of things too. Only they have the power to take unrealistic fears and turn them into bizarre witch hunts and, in the worst case scenario, illogical legislation.
Yes, I know Ross Ulbricht, blah blah blah. Certainly some nefarious activity can be connected to cryptos/ digital currency. But I would wager that some nefarious activity can be connected to many things. Let us keep in mind, the U.S. Treasury Department launched a formal inquiry into whether or not the Toyota Motor Corp. was supplying ISIS with trucks. Let us understand this thought process. 1) We see many ISIS fighters using Toyota trucks. 2) Toyota must know how they are being acquired (or must be selling the trucks to ISIS). I will readily admit that I would not put it past any multinational corporation to engage in semi-legal profit grabs (we see this in finance consistently in the U.S.) but this does seem a little far fetched.
Also read: European Commission Seeks to End Anonymity of Bitcoin Transfers
Similarly, Bitcoin is a talking point to keep the masses under the impression that government is taking active steps to protect their voting populaces. Most people that read a headline regarding Bitcoin and the (flimsy at best) link to terrorism have had very little exposure to the technology. For those folks, sure the argument ostensibly makes sense. But let us look at the possibility of a linkage explored within a brief thought experiment.
If you are in a terrorist organization, and you have used illegal oil sales, drug trafficking, plus many other nasty methods as revenue engines, and those means of earning have historically gotten you what you needed (keep in mind that one of the most insane terror plots of all time was carried out Septemeber 11, 2001), why would you quickly embrace this new technology? This is not exactly a culture of early tech adopters. In intelligence, all we can rely on are probabilities. Is it possible? Of course. Is it plausible? Probably not.
To be abundantly clear, we live in very fast moving and odd times with strange characters, technologies, and decisions dominating news cycles and shaping international discourse. Historically government has been reactionary, and in these times being a step behind can cost the lives of citizens. The preventable loss of innocent lives is devastating and so very hard to understand. I applaud those in government who have been able to strike a true and meaningful balance between keeping us safe and everyday liberty. It is a hard balance indeed and one that is, admittedly, easily critiqued.
But, as earlier mentioned, we live in an era of talking points. Should the potential usage of technology, cryptos/ digital currency not excluded, for nefarious and deadly ends be examined? Of course. But before we file something into the “Fear” file, let’s ensure that we understand it. I do not think that talking heads, politically and within the media, have taken the time to perform the diligence necessary to come to a conclusion.
That type of fear based hyperbole does not sound like protection. Actually, it doesn’t sound like anything. But it FEELS like incrementalism. And that is a conversation for another day.