The CIA is looking into ways to gather information on cryptocurrency. The director of the CIA says the agency is already working on “a number of different projects” focused on crypto.
The director, William Burns, said that building knowledge on crypto was “an important priority” for the CIA, and he planned to devote “resources and attention” to it, Coin Telegraph reported.
Responding to a question on crypto at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Dec. 6, Burns said the CIA is seeking to add expertise in cryptocurrencies and blockchain to its team of intelligence analysts.
“My predecessor had started this,” said Burns, referring to former acting CIA director David Cohen. “[They] had set in motion a number of different projects focused on cryptocurrency and trying to look at second- and third-order consequences as well and helping with our colleagues in other parts of the U.S. government to provide solid intelligence on what we’re seeing as well.”
He added that gaining knowledge on crypto was “an important priority” for the agency, and he planned to devote “resources and attention” to it.
While the CIA says it is now just researching crypto, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been doing so for much longer. Since 2013, the NSA has been tracking bitcoin users.
One of the programs it uses to do so is called MONKEYROCKET. MONKEYROCKET was explicitly used to track bitcoin users and was operational on every continent except for Africa, The Intercept reported. MONKEYROCKET worked as a privacy bait and switch by disguising itself as a tool to provide Bitcoin users with anonymity online while they were unknowingly sending their data to the NSA.
While some call for crypto to become regulated, others fear that the government might interfere excessively.
Software developer Gavin Andresen, best known for his involvement with the launching of bitcoin, infamously claimed to be preparing to talk Bitcoin at an emerging technologies conference at the CIA headquarters back on April 27, 2011, Crypto Whale reported.
“I’m only very slightly worried that talking about bitcoin [sic] at the CIA will increase the chances they’ll try to do something we don’t want them to do,” wrote Andresen at the time. “I think accepting their invitation and being open about exactly what bitcoin [sic] is will make it less likely they’ll see it as a threat.”
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