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All Along The Watchtower. Cryptocurrencies and Crime.

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief.”

— Bob Dylan, All Along The Watchtower



Coincentral has a new article up on their webpage that takes a look at the links between cryptocurrencies and crime. You can read it here:

The article, by Christina Comben, offers a brief survey of associations between what people believe and what’s closer to the truth about cryptocurrencies and organized crime.

She asks a basic and pertinent question:

“Despite proving that cryptocurrency is about more than evading taxes, why do so many people still make the link between Bitcoin and nefarious deeds? ”

The obvious answer, which Comben addresses, is in a sense down to media hype. It’s relatively easy to fill column inches and fill airtime with easy graphics, scare quotes and lazy pseudo-reporting, than to actually dig deeper and ask complicated questions.

As with all things crypto our interest is in the social psychology of the phenomena. For example, while as Comben points out you don’t hear much about the good deeds conducted via cryptocurrencies, you do hear about things like Silk Road. Silk Road was a conduit for what is often called the Dark Web – a sort of cyber underground market for everything from illegal drugs to trading cryptocurrencies. Akin to the Cyberpunk landscape of William Gibson, the Silk Road was eventually shut down by the US government.

What’s curious about this is that there’s more crime committed via traditional currencies than any other social platform. And more importantly, at least to us, is the issue of definitions.

For example, were we to withhold names and provide only details would you, dear reader, be able to tell the difference between any number of prominent politicians and a serial killer?

In other words, is something a crime because someone says it is, or is it a crime because there is something objectively immoral about it?

After all, torture is a crime but when push came to shove, or waterboard, as the case may be, the response of the US government was, yeah we tortured some folks but hey the times were tense and the people with the keys to the cells were under a lot of pressure so, move along, nothing to see here.

Consider the infamous Chiasso smuggling case.

Tens of billions in US bearer bonds were enroute out of Italy to Switzerland when the would-be smugglers (two Japanese nationals) were caught by the local coppers. The amount was staggering, the men mysterious; the authorities baffled. And then things got weird. The denominations were for 500 million each with another 12 proclaiming a value of 1 billion each and after cursory questioning by the local cops and the US Secret Service, the two men were allowed to leave.

Needless to say the US does not issue bonds in those denominations.

And of course there have been several instances with similar amounts.

Speculation has of course centered on the mafia, and that in turn raises questions about the relative safety of the currency; the stability of the governments, and the connections between the governments, the currencies and the gangsters. As in, can you or anyone else really tell the difference between the players without a scorecard? Can anyone say with confidence that the currencies of the world are stable? And, apropos of cryptocurrencies, exactly why should anyone assume the Dollar, or the Pound or the Yen, or the Euro are any more or less connected to crime than anything else?

What is a currency?

Comben arrives at an indirect answer by pointing out the following:

“Yet, many argue that anonymity and privacy are a person’s right. And actually, Bitcoin came about as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. That was arguably one of the darkest pits of criminal activity ever witnessed.

Thanks to the widespread corruption of centralized agencies and governments, Bitcoin was born. And early developers of cryptocurrency identified as cypherpunks, argue that privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age.”

In other words, the presumably stable banking system with its Dollars, Pounds and Euros wasn’t just unstable, it was a crooked casino run by a combination of idiot savants, assorted sociopaths, morons, and mafia dons. And presto-change-o, the world economy had a nervous breakdown.

But no one says that. Instead they use the dry patois of the dismal science – economics – to convince everyone that what really happened was some sort of natural phenomena like an earthquake or a tsunami.

But the truth is, someone somewhere pressed a button; deals were made, men with shaddy identities crossed borders and the ocean of zeros and ones, rolls on like a vast tide.

And the real issue is, in what do you place your faith?

See details about the Chiasso story here:

Update: 7/13/18

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, announced today indictments of 12 Russians working for or associated with Russian military intelligence. The GRU launched direct cyber attacks against multiple American targets in order to disrupt, manipulate and distort the outcome of the 2016 election.

Special attention was paid to the use by the Russians of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoins totaling approximately $95,000 were used by the Russians to secure servers and other equipment which was then used for operations against various targets.

What’s of interest to us here at The Ink is that per usual, cryptocurrencies are being associated with a uniquely nefarious or shady activities.

As we suggested in the article above, there seems to be nothing more or less sketchy about cryptocurrencies than any other form of lucre.

We are reminded of the often quoted statistic that every dollar in circulation in America contains trace elements of cocaine. While that may be more urban myth than not the fact that it is something that gets mentioned, and may be false but believed, tells you everything you need to know about how corrupt any form of commerce is or can be, regardless of what currency you’re using.

For a brief look at the indictments and the use of Bitcoin, see the following:

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