Congress' Bitcoin Terrorism Bill Takes Another Step Forward

A Congressional crackdown could be on the way. 

Wikimedia Commons/ Illustration by James Grebey

This week, the Congressional bill to take a closer look at terrorists’ use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies took another small step toward becoming a law.

House Resolution 2433, the Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists’ Use of Virtual Currencies Act, would require the DHS to conduct a threat assessment on if, when, how, and why terrorist groups like ISIS are using cryptocurrencies to fund violence at home and abroad.

New York Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice, the lead sponsor of the bill, briefly pushed the bill through the Homeland Security Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee on Thursday, opening it up to amendments from the full committee in the House of Representatives.

Rice cited a recent Center for New American Security report exploring the risk that terrorists could use digital currencies to fund violence anonymously, saying that the threat warranted a formal risk assessment from the DHS.

“Virtual currencies combine high speed and low costs networks with access to users all over the world,” Rice said during the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

The concern, Rice said, was that cryptocurrencies “may be more appealing to lone wolf terrorists.” Small-scale terrorists don’t require large amounts of funding, as recent attacks around the globe have proven. Buying weapons legally is cheap and accessible in the United States, as is renting or hijacking large trucks like the ones used in multiple attacks in Europe over the past year. Unlike large plots like the 9/11 attacks, which were funded through a shadowy web of government and non-goverment groups in the Middle East, the concern is that through a simple Bitcoin transaction, ISIS or other terror groups could remotely, quickly, and securely fund homegrown terrorists or lone-wolf attackers with a few taps of a smartphone.

Rice’s bill also comes immediately after the WannaCry ransomware attack, in which hackers stole millions of online user data and crippled government institutions like Britain’s National Health Service, encrypting the data until a ransom was paid in Bitcoin. While the WannaCry attacks are a different type of crime than physical violence, the use of cryptocurrencies is something the DHS should be well informed on.

After a swift, unanimous vote, H.R. 2433 was opened to block amendments and will be sent to the full House Homeland Security Committee.

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