19 Aug 2019
Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, has been designated a terrorist organization by Western governments and some others and has been locked out of the traditional financial system. But this year its military wing has developed an increasingly sophisticated campaign to raise money using Bitcoin.
In the latest version of the website set up by the wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, every visitor is given a unique Bitcoin address where he or she can send the digital currency, a method that makes the donations nearly impossible for law enforcement to track.
The site, which is available in seven languages and features the brigades’ logo, with a green flag and a machine gun, contains a well-produced video that explains how to acquire and send Bitcoin without tipping off the authorities.
Terrorists have been slow to join other criminal elements that have been drawn to Bitcoin and have used it for everything from drug purchases to money laundering.
But in recent months, government authorities and organizations that track terrorist financing have begun to raise alarms about an uptick in the number of Islamist terrorist organizations experimenting with Bitcoin and other digital coins.
The yields from individual campaigns appear to be modest — in the tens of thousands of dollars. But the authorities note that terrorist attacks often require little funding. And the groups’ use of cryptocurrencies appears to be getting more sophisticated.
“You are going to see more of this,” said Yaya Fanusie, a former analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency who now does consulting on rogue actors using cryptocurrencies. “This is going to be a part of the terrorist financing mix, and it is something that people should pay attention to.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has drawn attention to the issue in two speeches in recent months, calling for more active monitoring from cryptocurrency businesses.
By Nathaniel Popper, The New York Times, 18 August 2019
Read more at The New York Times
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