Investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen says CIA likely sees crypto as ‘adversarial non-state actor’
The well-known sleuth into the inner-operations of the CIA and NSA made the comments in a recent episode of the Bankless podcast.
Author and investigative reporter Annie Jacobsen tackled the questions of whether Bitcoin is part of a counter-cultural dissident movement and whether cryptocurrency been infiltrated by the CIA during a recent episode of the Bankless podcast hosted by Ryan Adams and David Hoffman.
While Jacobsen is well known for reporting on topics like national security, intelligence, military technology and government secrecy, her views on crypto are much less known.
“Military technology is the foundation” for crypto, she began the podcast declaring.
“The NSA is probably most important for your community, Jacobsen added, mentioning specific tools the NSA uses to monitor communications like Open-Source Intelligence, compiled by large computer systems as a way to dragnet mass intelligence, techniques revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden to have been used on the American people.
Jacobsen also drew an interesting parallel between different utopian communities, or rather groups who promise a version of utopia, that can pose a threat to national security.
“Any organization that alleges utopian ideals is of incredible interest to both the military and the intelligence community,” Jacobsen said, noting that Bitcoin–with its emphasis of a leaderless, trustless, permissionless utopian economic ideal–would be of interest to the CIA.
“No utopia ever ends up the way it was intended, ” Jacobsen stressed, giving the example of Che Guevara, who she says the CIA killed as a way of disinfecting the Americas with a violent anti-US utopian worldview.
“North Korea has an enormous presence in hacking,” Jacobsen added, reference to the Lazarus group, a North Korea-linked hacking entity the FBI accuse of being responsible for billions in stolen crypto funds. “The wealth that the Lazarus group is directly financing North Korea’s nuclear program, a program that has been going on since 2004 [and predates crypto], so eyes continue to be on that.”
On the issue of weather certain groups or individuals within crypto have been compromised or turned into CIA assets, Jacobsen speculated that far more likely is that crypto is integrated into Silicon Valley, which has a long history of working with intelligence agencies.
“I see the community of cryptocurrency from the point of view of Silicon Valley,” she said, noting an interesting example of how the two have become increasingly intertwined not through compromised individual spies working from within crypto, but rather from an economic perspective.
Jacobsen mentioned specifically the American venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, which she called the “venture fund of the CIA […] or, as they call it in the CIA, ‘adventure capital.’” The fund, originally named Peleus, was founded by Norm Augustine, a former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and Gilman Louie, whose mission it was to invest in and identify companies crucial to technologies that serve the US’s national security interests. As of 2016, In-Q-Tel listed 325 investments, but more than 100 were kept secret, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Noting how intelligence agencies are by their nature small, decentralized entities that can be deployed in small groups, Jacobsen said, “they can build little units of scientists who can create projects that penetrate and change the world.”
By virtue of design, the intelligence agencies have to be ahead of other technologies and technological organizations, Jacobsen said, adding that she believes by sheer virtue of crypto’s newness and popularity, it is very likely being looked at by intelligence agencies from the CIA to the NSA to DARPA and even the FBI and local law enforcement.
“With almost certainty I would say cryptocurrency is looked at by the intelligence community as a non-state actor, which is a little bit dangerous, even adversarial, for those of you in that community,” she concluded.