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US Treasury: Bitcoin's Use in Funding Terrorism 'Unclear'

A new US Treasury Department study reports that bitcoin could possibly be used to fund terrorism but that the actual risk posed remains uncertain.

Jun 12, 2015 at 8:56 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:43 a.m. UTC

A new US Treasury Department study reports that bitcoin could possibly be used to fund terrorism but says the actual risk posed remains uncertain.

The National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment, published 12th June, includes virtual currencies on a list of "potential emerging" risks as a tool for funding terrorism, stating that bitcoin "may be vulnerable to abuse by terrorist financiers".

The report notes:

"Given the attractiveness of virtual currency to conduct illicit financial transactions, the possibility exists that terrorist groups may use these new payment systems to transfer funds collected in the United States to terrorist groups and their supporters located outside of the United States, although the degree to which this presents a residual TF [terrorist financing] risk is unclear."

The Treasury Department suggested that the use of virtual currencies by criminals looking to launder illicit gains may serve as an example for terrorism funders. The report outlined how "the U.S. Secret Service has observed that criminals are looking for and finding virtual currencies that offer anonymity for both users and transactions".

For now, the report asserts, terrorist groups are relying on cash to facilitate the transfer of funds worldwide, an outcome fuelled by broad financial surveillance in the global banking system.

Other methods, including charity fraud, also present significant terrorism financing risks.

The full 2015 National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment can be found below:

Binary stream image via Shutterstock

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