Bitcoin to Fund Terrorism or Not

Repeat a lie often enough, and people will think it’s the truth.

This truism is sometimes attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda master of the Third Reich. As much as we might like to believe that we’ve left this kind of unethical tactic on the dustbin of history, sad to say, it’s alive and well in American politics and American journalism.

Whatever problems the Fairness Doctrine had, it was also a useful tool to make sure that media companies presented information that the public needed to know, in a fair way, and for the betterment of public discourse. Since its demise, we’ve seen pundits supplant reporters spewing vitriol and bald-faced lies in an effort to get a bigger audience and, all too often, to further the agendas of their corporate masters.

In essence, we should consider it a good thing to have a multitude of opinions out there and in a perfect world, those with the best opinions would eventually win out. That’s not the way it really happens, though. The fact is that vested interests know that people focus on what’s sensational, outrageous, or fear inspiring. They know that people don’t usually have the time or energy to do the basic research for themselves to find out the truth, and that even if they try, they can so fill the airwaves and papers with lies that it would be difficult to parse the truth anyway.

And that leads us to where we are today. Bitcoin is a nascent technology, created out of a need for a currency not controlled by government or banks as highlighted by the failures pre and post Great Recession. Bitcoin is a currency that would have no chance, no use, if the current system was ethically run for the benefit of the greatest number of people; the fact that there is mounting evidence that plutocrats have bought and rigged the system creates the niche that Bitcoin will fill. Once established, that niche will overflow and we can expect to see Bitcoin become the international currency of trade.

This process will be highly disruptive to vested, moneyed interests and they will not allow this to happen quietly. We can expect that well-publicized claims that Bitcoin is used by criminals and terrorists will only increase to sow fear in the heart of the people who stand to gain the most by using Bitcoin, and to put pressure on the politicians and regulators to bring regulatory force to bear.

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Fear, uncertainty and doubt are best fought by information, and the fact is that Bitcoin is not a terribly good tool of terrorism and will probably not become one in the near future.

The simple reason for this is that, contrary to popular myth, Bitcoin is not really anonymous it is pseudonymous. The Bitcoin blockchain, or the ledger that records and verifies all Bitcoin transactions, is completely open. Every Bitcoin transaction back to the first bitcoin mined, is trackable. The trick is that although we know the number of every Bitcoin wallet in existence, and the number of bitcoins it holds, there is no direct and sure way to know the names of the people who hold the keys to those wallets.

That being said, it’s certainly possible to find out who owns a wallet. I have on the donation page of my site a wallet QR code. That wallet has a name on it because I have revealed it to the world as mine. Using that, an investigator could link all the other wallets that I’ve had dealings with, and with a little forensics it would be possible to figure out which wallets are mine and which belong to other businesses or individuals.

Now I’ve made it pretty easy to find out about my Bitcoin holdings. Someone who is skilled and motivated could certainly make it much harder but then those same people have established methods for

moving cash, which they understand better anyway. Further, Bitcoin is still a new technology, is not all that widely accepted yet, and can be quite tricky to convert into large amounts of cash without anyone noticing. If Bitcoin is used for terror, investigators may have their work cut out for them due to its pseudonymous nature, but Bitcoin’s open ledger certainly does give them a good place to start.

So when you hear that Bitcoin is a tool for terror, just ask who is telling you that and wonder if they have another reason other than your safety to be saying so.