William Barr, the attorney general for the U.S., published official guidelines for keeping crypto markets accountable.
The lead U.S. attorney's Cyber-Digital Task Force put together the guidelines, officially calling them: Cryptocurrency: An Enforcement Framework, according to an Oct. 8 statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The statement explained:
"The Framework provides a comprehensive overview of the emerging threats and enforcement challenges associated with the increasing prevalence and use of cryptocurrency; details the important relationships that the Department of Justice has built with regulatory and enforcement partners both within the United States government and around the world; and outlines the Department’s response strategies."
The new guidelines come after the DoJ and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission went after crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX, citing multiple illegal activities.
"Cryptocurrency is a technology that could fundamentally transform how human beings interact, and how we organize society," Barr said in the statement. "Ensuring that use of this technology is safe, and does not imperil our public safety or our national security, is vitally important to America and its allies."
The statement also conveyed various comments from other authorities, noting both the technology's potential for innovation, as well as its use in nefarious dealings.
The lengthy report itself included 83 pages of content on crypto, its "legitimate uses," its "illicit uses," applicable regulating bodies, and a game plan going forward.
Among the mentioned categories within the crypto space, the report pointed out privacy assets. The Department of Justice specifically name-checks Zcash, Monero and DASH usage as "indicative of possible criminal behavior."
The report continued by asserting U.S. jurisdiction over individuals whose crypto transactions interact with U.S.-based servers.
The burgeoning crypto and blockchain space is a complicated one, as the report also noted while pointing out criminal activities such as pump and dumps — an age-old illegal tactic from the stock market, modernized through crypto.
Among its listed legitimate crypto use cases, the framework included payments for goods and services, void of third parties. "Proponents of cryptocurrency contend that, by eliminating the need for financial intermediaries to validate and facilitate transactions, cryptocurrency has the potential to minimize transaction costs and to reduce corruption and fraud," the document explained, while subsequently pointing toward the asset class as an inflation hedge.
In contrast to the above-board use cases it mentioned, the report also detailed activities it claimed as illicit, such as drug transactions. I posited illegal digital asset activities commonly occur under three separate wings: funding illegal substances, product sales or activities, money laundering and tax evasion, and crypto-specific hacking or fraud.
In its conclusion, the report called for collaboration with other governing bodies and participants across the U.S. and the globe.
"To promote public safety and protect national security, all stakeholders — from private industry to regulators, elected officials, and individual cryptocurrency users—will need to take steps to ensure cryptocurrency is not used as a platform for illegality. Indeed, for cryptocurrency to realize its truly transformative potential, it is imperative that these risks be addressed."
UPDATE Oct. 8, 18:46 UTC: This article has been updated with added information from the report.