US House Bill 2433 is on the floor of Congress awaiting a vote. The session started again today, and the bill calls for the “Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis” to conduct a threat assessment on virtual currency and its potential use by terrorists. Representative Kathleen Rice (NY-D) introduced this bill as a reaction to the recent “Wanna Cry Ransomware” attack.
Also, and peculiarly timed, was the Representative’s pointing to a newly-minted report by the “Center for a New American Security,” about how virtual currency could scale and be used by terrorists on a more frequent basis, and that this threat should be contained.
As it happens, the end result of this bill will be a threat assessment on the desk of the under secretary of homeland security for intelligence and analysis … where the nominee is currently before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee today - Mr. David Glaine.
Al-Qaeda is a US-made database
While the report points to potential lone wolf attacks, the main focus, at least from its cover, appears to be the threat of ISIS.
But let’s go back for a moment in time and look at what ISIS is, and how it started its funding.
ISIS is a spinoff from Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is linked to Osama Bin Laden and 9-11 … but, what is Al-Qaeda? What is ISIS?
I believe it can be argued that Al-Qaeda is a database.
It is terrifying to think that our enemy, if not a country like in the good old days of the Cold War, could be a scattered bunch of individuals on the fringe, to which there is no “single point of failure.” Al-Qaeda is nothing more than the database of those individuals whom the US used to support back in the 1980s when the Soviet-Afghanistan war raged, and the US made sure we kept the Afghan rebels armed and dangerous. The ending of the Cold War signified the end of us being particularly interested in Afghanistan as an ally, that perhaps led to some vengeful thinking, on the part of Osama Bin Laden. Either which way, the “database” evolved from those whom we supported with weapons, to those who quickly became enemies of the US state after 9/11.
I’m not saying Al-Qaeda does not “exist,” but it is not some Muslim fundamentalist creation that calls America evil because one day the Middle Eastern inhabitants said, you know, our lives suck because of the West. It’s that Al-Qaeda does exist, and it’s “Made in the USA.”
So, as Obama has been maligned for not containing ISIS, originating out of Al-Qaeda, a report a couple of years ago identified the major sources of funding for terrorist organizations:
- Donations from wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf
- Kidnapping and ransom
- Human trafficking
- Extortion, taxes and checkpoints
- Control over natural resources
- Oil smuggling
That’s right, Osama’s followers were not using virtual currency at scale to launch terrorist attacks. The fact that in 2014, $3 mln a day in funding was coming into ISIS likely had more to do with ISIS being able to scale through the Internet. Does this mean we need to shut down the spread of information to contain ISIS?
Technology is like the US dollar - it does not have a conscience, and is used for good or bad based on the owner’s intention. Would you accuse Albert Einstein of inventing the atom bomb? Certainly not, anymore than you might point fingers at the Barefoot Contessa for your large belly - she merely introduced the recipe, it was the Food Network that broadcast the delicious brownies.
My favorite quote from Albert Einstein is when he points out:
“The problems we have today cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”
We cannot put virtual currency back in the bottle any more than we can put the Internet away … where would we be today? Would you even be reading what I am writing?
Facts are that the death toll from wars around the world, in general, are down...that’s right - lower than in the past. World Wars I and II were horrific bloodbaths but since the age of the Internet, these numbers are way down.
See the graph below:
Al Qaeda 2.0
Yes, ISIS gets its headlines with its inhumane and unspeakable beheadings, but the attention to this is overwhelming because we all have so many ways of quickly gathering information erroneously leading us to believe that a lone wolf or an ISIS member is in the trunk of your car while checking Twitter on your drive home.
"So, if Al Qaeda is a database, and you’re still reading, then guess what’s been said of Bitcoin - it’s a database too!"
That’s right, that’s what has everyone all super-excited about these days, with token and cryptocurrency offerings, a market capitalization that recently passed over $100 bln, but here’s the best part - while Al Qaeda is a database maintained by the US intelligence agencies, ISIS is Al Qaeda 2.0.
So, if Blockchain is “Bitcoin 2.0”, well then, it’s time we started engaging with the virtual currency wallet providers and exchanges, think crowdsource social intelligence gathering, and find ways for an ISIS member or Lone Wolf to buy a Bitcoin (or an Ether, or simply insert virtual currency here).
Where is Bitcoin going to next
Just like we have a watch list for airplanes, we can have a watch list for those people, who, similar to how they open a bank account may get flagged by KYC, will similarly get flagged when owning a Bitcoin.
Except, this Blockchain works in the background, and unbeknownst to the terrorist, that person has raised their threat higher based on its purchase of Bitcoin.
Where is the Bitcoin going to next? How will it be spent? Bitcoin Undercover! Let the terrorist transfer the money, and follow the Blockchain to whoever turns up with the money - and perhaps entire lairs of ISIS will be uncovered by the Blockchain.
It’s not about containing the threat - it’s about using the distinct advantage of the ledger of everything, as quoted by Don Tapscott, to see who owns what. And, if a terrorist goes to purchase Bitcoin at a gun and ammo store, which accepts Bitcoin, but doesn't have the rigor of KYC laws, but like any good mouse trap, allows the terrorist to nibble but then get trapped, perhaps the signal could be such that the moment that Bitcoin is spent, the men in white hats stampede into the store, grabbing the terrorist before any future harm can happen.
Look at Silk Road - the place where you could buy anything, and as the owner went to jail, thanks to Kathryn Haught, quickly two corrupt agents on the Silk Road Task Force were caught attempting to walk off with $25 mln in Bitcoin.
These FBI agents, through the traditional banking system, had the power to erase their transactions when depositing money from the sale of Bitcoin to cash deposits into their personal bank accounts. But what even the FBI agents did not count on, was that the blockchain left a trail of data, similar to the way we allow our data to be collected over time in places such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, a trail that cannot be erased.
So, yes, certainly, let’s pass the House bill with the aim, not of “containing the threat of virtual currencies,” but of opening up the possibility of planting in Bitcoin a “digital blue dye” that can explode if fallen into the wrong hands.
"Virtual currency won’t make it easier for terrorists, but actually harder."
So, the solution is, to connect one database, centralized in the hands of the good guys here at home, to a 21st century decentralized database that tracks who owns which virtual currencies, when and how.
Don’t look at containing the virtual currency threat as a way of stopping terrorists - why not make our money system a “pseudonymous, transparent system” that will likely expose more terrorists than it will fund, and watch the death toll from wars continue to decline.
Send Bitcoin undercover today to fight the war on terror, for the potential future Under Secretary of Intelligence and Analysis for the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. David Glaine, who will have the responsibility of analyzing and writing the virtual currency report if so charged, and then submit back to the US Congress for review.
- by Jason Brett
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