Bitcoin advocates meet with US military to discuss terror financing

Guy Bentley
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(Source: Reuters)

The US military is paying increasing attention to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

The Business Executives for National Security recently organised a meeting between officials from US Special Operations Command and leading figures in the Bitcoin community.

Simply called the "Virtual Currency Workshop", the invitation-only meeting was the first time the Bitcoin industry had directly met with the US military to explain digital currencies.

The military's interest stemmed, unsurprisingly, from Bitcoin's use for various illicit activities including drug and firearms purchases. Defence authorities were seeking to learn whether Bitcoin could be traced and how big a threat it could pose through the financing of terrorist organisations, CNBC reports.

While the meeting was not centered around Islamic State (IS), it was a subject on attendees' minds, with a defence official commenting:

We're trying to do our best to understand the true scope of the threat that we are dealing with.

We have to fully understand all of the components and functions of the adversary across the globe—not just in Syria and Iraq—and the manner in which those adversaries raise, hide and move money.

However, the military representatives said ISIS was primarily funded through more conventional means. Among those in discussions with the military were the global policy counsel of the Bitcoin Foundation Jim Harper.

Speaking to digital currency news site Coindesk, Harper commented:

The Bitcoin community doesn't necessarily endorse US foreign policy, and the Bitcoin community doesn't necessarily endorse everything the U.S. intelligence community does.

There were roughly 100 attendees at the meeting, with one labelling cryptocurrencies "very dangerous stuff". However, Harper told CNBC that no one at the meeting offered any evidence IS was using Bitcoin.

"The essence of the protocol is that it's a publicly run ledger system, contrary to the early vision of Bitcoin as a magic cloak for evil behavior," he added.

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