US law enforcement officials are set to gather for a digital currency seminar next month that aims to help participants better understand digital currencies as they relate to illegal drug trafficking and money laundering.
The class is titled ‘Digital Currency/Bitcoins for Law Enforcement 101’, and it is being organised by the LA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Training Centre, part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
As the name suggests, the seminar is aimed at those who know very little about the subject and the invite (which can be viewed in full below) makes an attempt to put the subject in language any police officer can understand:
“.011 BTC foot long? Doesn’t have the same ring as a $5 dollar foot long. In Allentown, Pa .011 BTC is what a foot long will cost you if you pay in Bitcoin.”
The seminar will be held at the HIDTA Training Centre in Los Angeles on 12th June with an admission fee of $40. Notably, only members of the law enforcement and legal professions are allowed to attend, as HIDTA points out:
“This class is ONLY for Current Law Enforcement personnel, prosecuting attorneys/their investigators, custody employees and other support personnel. All viewers and attendees will be vetted.”
In other words, civilians (and criminals) should look for cryptocurrency training elsewhere.
In addition to on-site participation, the seminar is open to law enforcement agencies that want to live broadcast the event.
Catching up with criminals
When dealing with new technologies, law enforcement is usually forced to scramble to catch up due to a lack of institutional knowledge. Even the HIDTA admits law enforcement is still behind the curve, a fact that is the driving force behind the upcoming seminar.
The four-hour seminar will cover the basics of digital currency and profile different ones like bitcoin, litecoin and dogecoin. Participants will also explore the cryptocurrency exchange ecosystem, how criminals use digital currencies, the legal issues involved with these crypto-related crimes and the anonymity afforded to users of digital currency.
Despite the light tone of the HIDTA document, it does point to a potentially serious issue facing law enforcement.
For all the talk of NSA snooping and government surveillance, the vast majority of local law enforcement agencies don’t deal with bitcoin and most officers simply lack the basic knowledge needed to understand digital currencies.
The digital currency niche still remains small and does not warrant much attention from most law enforcement agencies. Only a select few have the know-how and resources to deal with crimes involving cryptocurrencies and the situation is a far cry from being an all-powerful government apparatus out to get bitcoiners.
The HIDTA points out that digital currencies have legitimate uses, but indicates there is also a “dark side” to them, exemplified by high-profile cases such as Silk Road, Liberty Reserve and Mt. Gox.
Extensive training experience
The course instructor is Jonathan Birk, an experienced intelligence analyst with a background in telecommunications, social media and terrorism. Birk has taught social media courses for years and he holds a bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies.
The HIDTA has extensive experience in the field. The office was established in 1990 to enhance and coordinate drug-control efforts following the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. It offers training on basic and advanced levels on a wide range of topics, including surviving ambushes, lock picking and making meth.
Police car image via Shutterstock