Op-Ed: No, Bitcoin Was Not Created By The CIA
Claims of evidence that bitcoin was created by the CIA or NSA surfaced by a supposed hacktivist group calling itself CIAproject. But should we take them seriously?
An unfortunate reality of the internet is that anyone can make any claim and if it is outrageous or controversial enough, they will get attention.
Recently, a site appeared on the Internet claiming to be a group of “hacktivists” called CIAproject.org, which feels the need to repeatedly remind us that they are “not the CIA” that claims Bitcoin was created by the CIA or the NSA. Their claims were then reported on as something that might have some validity by the ibtimes and another bitcoin outlet.
While I am careful about using the phrase conspiracy theory, since that is often used to discredit legitimate theories of conspiracies (see NSA spying as one example of a “conspiracy theory” that ended up being true, COINTELPRO is another). However, in this case, the negative connotation behind the phrase seems appropriate.
I should note that I have no issues with true hacktivists, so long as they present the evidence obtained during their deeds. While some are misguided, I see the majority of them as virtual Robin Hoods, taking a bite out of the power structure in a way they are unable to respond to. The problem is that this "hacktivist" group has done very little actual hacking, and is posting wild claims without any real evidence.
What Evidence Do They Have?
CIAproject's “evidence” consists of four connections, each of which is more tenuous than the one before. First, they point to Satoshi Nakamoto's name. As they state, the name roughly translates to Central Intelligence. But as ibtimes points out, it is also a fairly common Japanese name.
That flimsy piece of evidence is the theory's crown jewel, but there is no evidence that the pseudonym chosen by Satoshi sharing similarities with the CIA is anything but a coincidence.
The second piece of evidence brought by the CIAproject is Satoshi never revealed anything that would reveal his identity. This, they say, is evidence of intelligence training. However, it ignores the fact that thousands (if not millions) of people manage to remain anonymous online everyday. The actual hacktivist group Syrian Electronic Army has pissed off enough powerful people that billionaires would love to find out who they are and shut them down. They have been unable to. It seems unlikely that the Syrian Electronic Army is also a CIA puppet group.
The group also claims that since Gavin Anderson spoke to Satoshi for years but never met him in person or talked to him on the phone implies that he is actually “they” and that they are an intelligence community. The only thing I will say to this is that I have had internet friends that I talked to for years, on message boards and elsewhere, without ever meeting or talking on the phone. I suspect many reading this have had similar experiences. I don't suspect all of them are CIA agents.
The third piece of evidence they bring is that the online forum Bitcointalk, which was frequented by Satoshi Nakamoto and continues to be the most popular Bitcoin forum on the web, censors talk about Bitcoin being a CIA project.
That claim seems either false or exaggerated. There are numerous threads on the possibility, and a quick search through the forum will reveal them. Bitcoin talk does occasionally delete threads that are repeats of topics already discussed multiple times, and that may be the reason that some topics were deleted (although we have heard no such claims elsewhere).
And the last piece of evidence is so flimsy, it hardly makes sense at all. CIAproject claims that since Satoshi decided to use SHA-256 rather than PNRG, which was a more popular cryptographic algorithm at the time but was later revealed to have CIA and NSA backdoors installed, that means Satoshi must have had some inside information that PNRG was compromised and therefore went with SHA-256.
A few points here. PRNG was in fact more popular than SHA-256, but that doesn't mean PRNG would have been the default choice. First off, PRNG had some public issues, even back in 2008 when Bitcoin was created. Its OpenSSL was compromised on Linux (the OS of choice of early Bitcoin adopters) back in 2008. Furthermore, it was public knowledge at least back to 2007 that the NSA was promoting and modifying PRNG. Even back then, people who paid attention to these things were aware of PRNG's security issues and that the NSA was publicly pushing for it to be the standard. We may not have known for a fact that the NSA was putting back doors into PRNG, but a lot of people suspected as much. So, that Satoshi didn't pick the security algorithm that was favored by the NSA and suspected of being (and later confirmed) compromised by the NSA is actually evidence that Satoshi was not a CIA operative.
So, if their evidence is so flimsy, why post the video at all? For its trouble, CIAproject got mentioned in both a popular crypto website and a popular mainstream business site. It seems likely that the entire post was a ploy to grab some eyeballs.
Who Is CIAProject?
The site also claims Reddit is a CIA project because it banned “247 News” which is a site that looks to be funded and run by CIAproject itself. They claim this is enough evidence to declare Reddit “officially” a CIA project.
The site also has many sub categories, ranging the normal gamut of usual conspiracy theories. Everything from 9/11 truth to the Bilderbergs, to religious groups. There is an entire section dedicated to “Jews” and another to “Hindus” and yet another to “Buddhists”. There is no “Christian” or “Catholic” categories, although there is a “Cathoic” category.
All of the categories are empty except for the Reddit and Bitcoin categories. Those are filled only with the “evidence” mentioned above.
The site's forum is similarly devoid of content, with the entirety of the posts coming from the admin.
But perhaps most damming of all to the site's intentions is its homepage. Completely devoid of anything useful, it has a search engine that only searches its connected sites. Below the search engine are links to fake sites claiming to be the “#1 Bitcoin Wallet” and “#1 Bitcoin Exchange[.]” The intention of these sites are unclear as there is no where to sign up. It also has bitcoin search engines that seem to have no actual connection to Bitcoin, a “Bitcoin bank” and a site called “iBit Tunes”.
Now, why would a site that is trying to warn us about Bitcoin's connection to the CIA push for more Bitcoin use and adoption ,especially in such a nonsensical way? It is not as if keeping Bitcoins in their wallet would stop the CIA from following transactions on the blockchain.
The fact of the matter is, despite their claims that the site was funded by an (unnamed) Non Profit Organization and that they are “Not The CIA” we know nothing about who is actually funding this site. It could potentially be the CIA spreading “FUD” (Fear, Uncertainty and Dissent) or a young teenager looking to make his mark on the internet using wild claims, or it could be potential scammers, hoping to somehow get people's Bitcoin.
The site is protected by a Whois guard and was registered on August 1st.
In the end, it hardly matters if the CIA or the NSA or whomever created Bitcoin. The math is there and it is open source. Anyone can look at it and verify its security. We know for a fact that the Tor network was created by the CIA, it wanted a private and anonymous internet for its operatives. That hasn't stopped the application from being very useful for people wanting to avoid organizations like the CIA. If Satoshi really was the CIA, then they have created something that they can no longer control. Sure, they can watch the blockchain, but we have known that since Bitcoin's inception.
So What Does It All Mean?
Probably nothing. Simply that there is a person or group of people out there who either legitimately believe the CIA created Bitcoin and Reddit, or someone wanted ot see how much interest they could drum up with bogus claims. In either case, these supposed "hacktivists" need to show some evidence if they want to be taken seriously by anyone any media outlet willing to do ten minutes of research.