US Government Moves to Regulate Cryptocurrencies After Attorney General Publishes Enforcement Framework

United States Attorney General (AG) William Barr says the recent publishing of the Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework will help law enforcement to fight elements using digital currencies for illicit ends. Produced by the AG’s Cyber-Digital Task Force, the framework provides law enforcement with what Barr terms a “comprehensive overview of the emerging threats and enforcement challenges associated with the increasing prevalence and use of cryptocurrency.”

The publishing of the framework comes as U.S. regulators have been ratcheting up pressure with Bitmex executives and John McAfee being the latest casualties of the new approach. Still, top U.S. officials including FBI director Christopher Wray pay homage to this revolutionary technology which they say is important and promising.

In his remarks, Wray indicates that the new enforcement framework is only aimed at individuals that facilitate illicit trade using cryptocurrencies.

“At the FBI, we see first-hand the dangers posed when criminals bend the important technological promise of cryptocurrency to illicit ends,” says Wray. The director explains that employees at his agency have observed that “criminals (are now) using cryptocurrency to try to prevent us from following the money across a wide range of investigations.”

Cryptocurrencies are preferred when settling transactions that involve illicit goods that are sold on the dark web. In addition, ransomware criminals also prefer being paid cryptocurrencies because they perceive this to be difficult to track and trace.

Meanwhile, one member of the Cyber-Digital Task Force, Brian C. Rabbitt, again praises cryptocurrencies and blockchain saying they “present tremendous promise for the future.” However, Rabbitt still tapers this favorable view of cryptocurrencies by adding that “it is critical that these important innovations follow the law.”

Rabbitt makes it clear that there are red lines, which if crossed, law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to respond:

While the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its partners are committed to supporting the advancement of legitimate cryptocurrency technologies and uses, we will not hesitate to enforce the laws that govern these technologies when necessary to protect the public.

Another Task Force member, Beth A. Williams lauds the release of the Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, which reflects the DOJ’s extensive cooperation with domestic and international partners. Williams concludes that this cooperation is intended “to benefit lawful cryptocurrency users and the public at large.”

Meanwhile, in the document, the DOJ says it considers the use of anonymity enhancing cryptocurrencies (AECs) such as Monero, Zcash, and Dash “to be a high-risk activity that is indicative of possible criminal conduct.”

Unsurprisingly, the DOJ also says operators of mixers and tumblers “can be criminally liable for money laundering because these services are designed specifically to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of a financial transaction.”

Still, despite the publication of the enforcement framework, the DOJ says it recognizes the importance of working with interagency and international partners in order to enhance an already vigorous enforcement plan.

Do you think of DOJ’s cryptocurrency enforcement framework will help reduce illicit activities? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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