Since the problems of immigration and illegal immigration have been brought to the forefront of the national conversation, one thing that is frequently said by opponents of enhanced immigration enforcement and other additional measures by the government is that laws are already in place which effectively achieve the ends desired, and that more laws are not only unnecessary, but unlikely to be any more effective.
The same can be said of the United States’ money laundering laws. While they are not bulletproof, and while they do not prevent money laundering from happening (as laws do not inherently prevent anything at all from happening), they do punish those who get caught trying to cheat the system. A new bill (S. 1241) introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley specifically targets Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and ties them in with terrorist financing and money laundering, making demands on subordinate agencies to find methods of blocking certain cryptocurrencies and digital assets allegedly tied to so-called terrorism. Specifically, agencies involved (such as ICE and the TSA) have to find out a way to “interdict” digital currencies and compile a report within 18 months for:
[D]etailing a strategy to interdict and detect prepaid access devices, digital currencies, or other similar instruments, at border crossings and other ports of entry for the United States.
Additional provisions in the bill make it such that simply having a blank check, which is signed and can be drawn on an account that has more than $10,000, is considered carrying more than $10,000 and must be declared. This bit is Orwellian in natures, since someone may have no clue how much is in the account of the person who gave them the check.
While cutting off the financing of groups which are dedicated to senseless murder and the establishment of religious states is an admirable goal, the question of how these changes to existing law will actually achieve that has to be examined. For starters, existing regulations already make it illegal to fund or assist a terrorist organization in any way. Then, most such organizations have an all but impossible task if they want to use anything outside of cash. Cash is already highly detectable by border agencies in a number of ways, and in some ways as difficult to smuggle as are drugs. The second problem arises when you consider what they are doing here – regulating incoming money without providing any proof that it would or could do anything to prevent domestic terrorist activities.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that many libertarians and cryptoanarchists automatically view this move as a way to criminalize traveling with bitcoins. Luckily for the average bitcoiner, it’s trivial to hide bitcoins, and the agencies that have been directed to detect them will have a serious hurdle in so doing. Those who are more interested in following the law to the letter are more than welcome to declare the full amount and accounting of their bitcoins, but ultimately it is left up to the agent’s discretion as to whether or not your money is involved in a crime, and Bitcoin is generally treated the same as cash.
The cryptographic nature of cryptocurrencies, it seems, will become more important than ever in the coming days. What they don’t know is not there cannot be demanded from one, yet we would of course prefer a more just world where the government was not so interested in seizing every bit of wealth private citizens extract from the economy for themselves with no help from said government and, in the case of cryptocurrency operations, little or no protection not to mention yearly hassles of noticeable scale.
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