US Secretary of State Tweets, Deletes Claim That Crypto Mixer Tornado Cash Is North Korea-Sponsored

One hour and three minutes later, Anthony Blinken tweeted what the Treasury Department actually alleges: Tornado Cash was only used by a DPRK-sponsored group.

AccessTimeIconAug 8, 2022 at 5:16 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:01 p.m. UTC
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The U.S.'s top diplomat appeared to claim – briefly, anyway – that cryptocurrency mixing service Tornado Cash was a North Korean hacking group.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised eyebrows Monday when he tweeted that the U.S. Treasury Department had "sanctioned virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash, which is a U.S.-sanctioned, [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name] state-sponsored hacking group, used by the DPRK to launder money."

Deleted tweet by U.S. Secretary of State Blinken. This is not what the Treasury Department is alleging about Tornado Cash.
Deleted tweet by U.S. Secretary of State Blinken. This is not what the Treasury Department is alleging about Tornado Cash.

One hour and three minutes later, the tweet had been deleted and replaced with what the Treasury Department actually alleged earlier that day: Tornado Cash was used by a North Korean hacking group to launder funds.

Blinken did not mention the deleted tweet in his subsequent one. The State Department responded to CoinDesk's request for comment with a link to the press release announcing the Tornado Cash sanctions.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) added Tornado Cash and more than 40 Ethereum and USDC addresses associated with the crypto mixing service to the agency's Specially Designated Nationals list Monday. OFAC claims the mixing service has been used for money laundering and other illicit purposes.

In particular, a senior Treasury official said Lazarus Group, a North Korean hacking entity, had moved hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crypto stolen from various exchange and bridge hacks through Tornado Cash.

Ari Redbord, the head of legal and government affairs at analytics provider TRM Labs, told CoinDesk the sanctioning is "the largest, most impactful action by Treasury to date in the crypto space."

Crypto think tank Coin Center warned that Monday's action was broader than previous crypto-related sanctions designations because it targeted a decentralized protocol rather than any specific group of individuals.

At press time, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had not commented on her department's sanctions.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

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