What if the CIA had created Bitcoin in 2009? The fuzzy origin of the first cryptocurrency gives free rein to the wildest fantasies. Should we give credit to the thesis of a project of the American intelligence agency? Could Satoshi Nakamoto be an American agent? Some elements sow doubt.
The History of Bitcoin: Too Good to Be True?
Satoshi Nakamoto, cypherpunk in search of freedom, genius mathematician and privacy activist, created Bitcoin in 2009. Subsequently, he voluntarily parted ways with the thousands of bitcoins in his wallets, out of altruism and to live the utopia of a cryptocurrency peer to peer without a trusted third party. The story could appear in children’s stories because it is so beautiful. The miniseries The Satoshi Nakamoto Mystery (Arte, 2021) directed by Rémi Forte contributes to building this mythical imagination. For the purposes of the film, Satoshi is represented there as a solitary hacker.
Of course, the mystery surrounding the creation of bitcoin caused a lot of ink to flow. According to some, Satoshi would rather be a group of people, a collective of activists cypherpunk, and not a modest isolated programmer. Or: Satoshi would have died shortly after its creation, taking with him its secrets. This would make the network all the more solid Bitcoin, unassailable, because headless“headless” (see on this subject the book The Acephale Currency).
Satoshi Nakamoto’s Forgotten Wallets, The Phantom Menace
In theory, however, Satoshi Nakamoto still owns 1 million bitcoins, the equivalent of more than $10 billion. Faced with such power, such economic weight, opacity becomes problematic. Assuming that the creator of Bitcoin did indeed die taking his keys with him, the story is settled. But are we sure? What started out as an experiment has grown to such an extent that today it is difficult not to take this threat into account.
However, some observers believe that this uncertainty is entirely relative. Bitcoin is now too big to compromise: too big to fall. Even with a miraculous reappearance of the lost wallets, it wouldn’t kill the network: the resilience and decentralization of the Bitcoin blockchain would be enough to protect it from this eventuality.
This is explained by Kevin Loac, developer working on the protocol: “Satoshi corners are not considered to be at risk. If someone sells them, it’s not a problem, it will make bitcoins cheaper. It is not a problem whether it is a State, or a trader [qui soit à l’origine de Bitcoin]. One could even imagine that the NSA created Bitcoin. We have no problem with that, it’s open source. » Of course, from a purely ” developer », this argument admissible. But don’t we deserve to know all the same theexact origin of the protocol most famous crypto in the world?
Satoshi’s identity is the subject of many theories. Several contenders are jostling for the title of inventor of Bitcoin: Nick Szabo, Hal Finney and a few other people from the crypto world are from serious candidates. The few clues left here and there in the white paper, or the emails signed in the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, are not enough to link Bitcoin to a person. However, regardless of the real identity of the creator (s) of Bitcoin, the issue is not there. On the other hand, it is legitimate to know if the Bitcoin network today is free from any outside influence.
The United States, at the heart of conspiracy theories
The conspiracy theories that surround the American secret services are numerous. It must be said that the opacity of their activities does not help to invalidate some of these hypotheses. Declassified or leaked documents intelligence agencies regularly fuel conspiratorial theories. We think of WikiLeaks, which had – among other things – revealed the abuses of the American army during the war in Iraq. Julian Assange, the founder of the platform, had also received donations in bitcoins as support. Exiled in the United Kingdom since 2010, the United States is using pressure for his extradition. This, despite international law and concerns about the torture he could face in America.
In the same register, the revelations of the whistleblower Edward Snowden about the NSA surveillance program (another American intelligence agency) do not help matters. The paranoia of some detractors of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies obviously draws on these recent cases. One thing is certain : the United States is very interested in digital technologies and monitoring tools. The blockchain falls within this framework, because of its properties in terms of traceability. From there to say that Bitcoin is directly driven by the pentagon, there is a gap. Buthe CIA could not have played a role in the existence of Bitcoin?
Before Bitcoin: when the CIA and NSA were working on cryptocurrency prototypes
It is certain that the creation of Bitcoin, the blockchain and the mechanism of the proof of work is not not the work of one man. These innovations are the logical legacy of many works in cryptography: a discipline that has existed for more than 20 years. On this point, the Cold War has greatly stimulated the need for computer data encryption. As is often the case with communication or transmission technologies, cryptography is thereforemilitary background. Several sources indicate that American agencies have long been working on bitcoin-like digital value exchange systems. As such, the NSA has been working since 1995 on a “cryptocurrency” solution. Still grain to grind for the amateurs of the theory according to which Bitcoin was allegedly created by an intelligence agency.
In 1996, the American agency wrote a report entitled How To Make A Mint: The Cryptography Of Anonymous Electronic Cash. The article describes a system very close to Bitcoin, in which secure financial transactions take place through the use of a decentralized network. The article refers to David Chaum, one of the first players in anonymous digital financial transactions. Chaum has in fact developed the Ecash since 1983. Long before the success of the internet protocol world Wide Web. Too early?
Bitcoin, the monetary Trojan horse
In 1998another report from the young European Central Bank (ECB) mentions a “electronic money”. As you can see, the list is long. It provides arguments to the supporters of the thesis that a government project is at the origin of the BTC. On pastebinan anonymous person writes a post with an equivocal title: Bitcoin is CIA. For him, the fall of the dollar being inevitable, the Americans would make sure to take with them the other currencies of their rivals, by introducing a Trojan horse in the global economy : bitcoin. In addition, the Internet user does not hesitate to qualify the cryptocurrency as a ponzi pyramid.
A meeting with the CIA shortly after the disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto
One of the most concrete indications of CIA interest in Bitcoin is a forum post BitcoinTalks. A place of exchange frequented at the time by a small circle of passionate cryptographers. For the sake of transparency, Gavin Andresen announced in April 2011 that he was going to a conference organized by the CIA about emerging technologies. He goes there to talk about Bitcoin. Strangely, Satoshi Nakamoto’s last post occurs shortly before this episode, in December 2010. This coincidence is noted by Pete Rizzo, a journalist who writes in particular for Forbes and BitcoinMagazine.
“Guys be careful, if we don’t hear from Gavin in the next few weeks, he could be at Guantanamo Bay. » ironically a member of the forum, referring to the American high security military prison, Guantánamo. Fortunately, nothing happened to Gavin, who has also chosen to remain withdrawn from the Bitcoin protocol today.
Bitcoin could also simply be a “ side project » of a CIA employee or the NSA. In this hypothesis, there is a possibility that Satoshi Nakamoto has been called to order by his employer. So could Bitcoin be a controlled opposition digital? It wouldn’t be a first. Indeed, as of 2013, the Guardian reveals that the TOR projectan anonymous computer network, is under surveillance. The NSA would control a certain number of knots, the servers that allow anonymous browsing on the decentralized network. A precedent that opens the way to all possibilities.
Bitcoin, a strategic issue in the sights of States
A phenomenon like that of bitcoin is therefore certainly of interest to intelligence agencies around the world, and not just American. Just for very concrete questions: to fight against embezzlement, or the financing of military operations. Recently, the war in Ukraine made it possible to test the ability of cryptocurrencies to circumvent sanctions on traditional banking networks. A successful test : Ukraine has benefited from large bitcoin donations. On the other hand, Russia was also able to take advantage of cryptos to bypass embargoes.
Thereby, the CIA is surely not the only government organization studying cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. It is hard to see the secret services around the world missing out on such an important issue. In France, the DGSE regularly recruits crypto-mathematicians to decode the blockchain.
Is Satoshi Nakamoto a CIA or NSA agent? Is Bitcoin a Trojan horse serving government interests? Or is it this revolutionary utopia that can redistribute monetary power around the world? Your turn to judge. But coincidences aside, the CIA is unlikely to be the origin of bitcoin. On the other hand, she maintains an indirect, but certain paternity with the project. The original developers of Bitcoin were expert cryptographers. As such, they had to work with organizations related to defense and cybersecurity. But much like the Internet, Bitcoin today largely eludes government actors. Because the first of the cryptocurrencies now seems to be creating its own path, with an ever-growing community.
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Fascinated by the history of Bitcoin and the cypherpunk movement, I think that citizens must reinvest in the field of money. My goal ? Democratize and make visible the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.