Leaked Documents: NSA Developed Tools to Identify Bitcoin Users
A recent report from The Intercept claims that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) has developed a tool that can track and locate Bitcoin users. Regardless of whether you’re the sender or the receiver, the NSA might be able to track down your Bitcoin transactions.
The Intercept is a news agency that has always focused on controversial issues. This Wednesday, March 21, the news organization published an article that claimed the NSA had developed tools enabling it to track down Bitcoin users. Moreover, the classified documents that were said to contain these claims were reportedly obtained from former CIA worker and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The documents also stated that the tools helped the agency monitor and analyze internet traffic across the world. In addition, the NSA managed to gain access to private information such as passwords used by Bitcoin users, their internet activity, and even device identifiers.
The tools used by the Agency
The leaked documents further revealed that the NSA tracked Bitcoin users with OAKSTAR, a secret internet surveillance program. OAKSTAR reportedly includes other codename programs like MONKEYROCKET that are also used to trace digital currency transactions and eavesdrop on internet communication globally. Per the classified report, the government agency has been using these programs to identify Bitcoin users since 2013.
The leaked report then mentioned that the NSA was able to obtain data from a number of geographical and strategic zones such as the Middle East, Europe, South America and Asia.
According to the secret documents:
“Analysts have found value in the MONKEYROCKET access to help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins (a decentralized digital currency system, wherein the units are known as Bitcoins or BTC).”
The documents also state that programs such MONKEYROCKET have been used by US government agencies to fight against terrorism. It’s even possible that these codename programs have or could help the American government access even more private data.
Notably, MONKEYROCKET was made possible by the Executive Order 12333. This executive order authorizes American intelligence organizations to thoroughly investigate U.S. citizens. The intelligence units have reportedly used this authority to gain access to Bitcoin users’ browsing history, passwords, and even the MAC addresses of their devices. According to The Intercept, this information allowed them to easily identify Bitcoin holders who used specific online wallet services.
Going after Money Laundering
The Intercept also reports that, in 2013, the NSA used MONKEYROCKET to take down Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rican-based digital currency service. The leaked reports further indicate that Liberty Reserve was developed with an illegal purpose in mind. Its founder, Arthur Budovsky, was then arrested after being accused of using his company for money laundering purposes.
US federal agents also arrested Ross Ulbricht, who was reportedly found guilty of running an illegal, online Bitcoin black market called Silk Road. Ross Ulbricht claimed that the NSA worked with the FBI to find evidence, which he says was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth amendment of the U.S. constitution states that people should be protected “against unreasonable searches and seizures”.
Although not all the information presented here can be confirmed with 100% certainty, most people tend to believe that the US government does closely monitor people’s activities online. Presumably, this is done to crack down on illicit activities and maintain national security.