Senator Elizabeth Warren was the lead author of a letter signed by 28 other senators and 76 members of the House of Representatives about the role of cryptocurrency in financing terrorism. Signers came from both parties and included one independent, although Democrats predominate.
The letter, dated Oct. 17, was addressed to Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The authors cited a news article that claimed Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad raised over $130 million in crypto donations between August 2021 and June 2023, and very little of the donated money had been recovered. The letter said:
“That the deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians comes as the group has become ‘one of the most sophisticated crypto users in the terror-finance domain’ clarifies the national security threat crypto poses to the U.S., and our allies.”
It continued: “As Congress considers legislative proposals designed to mitigate crypto money laundering and illicit finance risks, we urge you to swiftly and categorically act to meaningfully curtail illicit crypto activity.” It then posed nine questions to the addressees, asking about the information the administration of President Joe Biden has about the funders of terrorism, what is being done about the use of crypto to finance terrorism, and what other resources the administration needs.
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Warren is one of the most prominent crypto opponents in the U.S. Congress. She introduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act in December and reintroduced it in the current Congress. The bill was picking up support before the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but the current hostilities have gained her allies.
The letter has signatures from other active anti-crypto legislators, such as Roger Marshall and Sean Casten. Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown, who has called for crypto regulation but did not support Warren’s bill, also signed the letter. Crypto advocates Cynthia Lummis, Kirsten Gillibrand and Patrick McHenry did not sign the letter, but many signers had no prior record on crypto. Signers Jake Auchincloss and Josh Gottheimer had previous pro-crypto voting records.
The Treasury Department released Nelson’s remarks prepared for a Deloitte Anti-Money Laundering conference on Oct. 17.Nelson said Hamas was “uniquely resourced” and “possesses well-honed methods of surreptitiously accessing the formal financial system.” Nelson referred to secret financial portfolios, shell companies, fake philanthropies and racketeering. In addition:
“We are closely monitoring how Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) use virtual assets to raise and move funds […] and Treasury will continue to establish transparency in the virtual asset ecosystem in order to combat illicit activity by criminals, rogue states, and terrorist financiers.”
In addition, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against a “Gaza-based virtual currency exchange and its operator,” along with a number of other Hamas collaborators on Oct. 18.
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