Officials from the US Special Operations Command met with American business executives and bitcoin community leaders on Monday in Tampa, Florida, to discuss bitcoin and its role in illicit finance.
The topic is a priority for the US military as it seeks to understand how bitcoin could be used in funding anti-American forces and operations and whether it can take actions to reduce this activity.
However, the aptly named Virtual Currency Workshop was a broader learning opportunity for special ops forces, meant to dispel any misconceptions about bitcoin and digital currencies being catalysts for terrorism and illicit activity.
Bitcoin Foundation global policy counsel Jim Harper attended the meeting, and said his message to the government was that “bitcoin runs on a transparent ledger system" and that the industry is more than a "magic cloak for evil behavior”.
Harper told CoinDesk:
“The military has an interest in knowing everything it can know about how the world works, and bitcoin is a big part of how the world is going to work.”
“Demistifying bitcoin is always a good thing,” he added.
The day was part of an ongoing series of talks planned by a group called Business Executives for National Security (BENS), a nonprofit organization of American business leaders that lend their experience and insight to threat reduction initiatives.
Notably, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg and David Koch of Koch Industries are among its distinguished members.
Attendees representing the bitcoin community comprised "between one-third and a handful" of all present, Harper estimated.
Further, he suggested that the event was a success as an educational event, as by the day’s end, the gathered attendees had begun to view bitcoin more favorably.
At press time, BENS had confirmed the meeting, but had not responded to further inquiries.
Harper told CoinDesk he was impressed by the cross section of representatives present at the meeting and the solid discussion and learning that took place. It was perhaps the first time that the three widely disparate cultures have convened formally.
In statements to CNBC, Harper acknowledged the possibility of backlash from members of the bitcoin community following the news of the meeting.
"The bitcoin community doesn't necessarily endorse US foreign policy, and the bitcoin community doesn't necessarily endorse everything the US intelligence community does."
However, he went on to say that the Bitcoin Foundation's role should be to familiarize law enforcement and the military with bitcoin.
The meeting comes at a time when there has been much discussion about whether bitcoin and digital currency could be used to help radical and extremist organisations gain access to financial services.
In July, Sky News reported that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had proposed using bitcoin to fund global jihadist efforts, citing services like DarkWallet as ways to make transactions and payments untraceable. However, this report was later debunked.
Harper said none of the military representatives present at the event offered specific intelligence that ISIS uses bitcoin and that the amount of discourse focused on the terror group was negligible.
Hat tip to CNBC
Image via Shutterstock