Xkeyscore. MAC addresses. OAKSTAR. MONKEYROCKET. Edward Snowden is at it again. This time the world’s most notorious whistleblower has handed over National Security Agency (NSA) documentation to online investigative news outlet The Intercept revealing an invasive covert program to track bitcoin users using spy tools he uncovered during his infamous first go-round. The implications include the future of privacy along with warrantless data collection being used to prosecute bitcoiners such as Ross Ulbricht of Silk Road.
Snowden Reveals How NSA Tracked Bitcoin Users
Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Brian de Vallance, in a November 2013 letter to Congress, worried that “with the advent of virtual currencies and the ease with which financial transactions can be exploited by criminal organizations, DHS has recognized the need for an aggressive posture toward this evolving trend.” Infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden seems to have found a trove of heavily redacted, classified NSA documents attesting to that “aggressive posture.”
It’s fitting Mr. Snowden should share them with The Intercept, an online investigative news organization founded by his benefactor, attorney turned journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Greenwald was then writing for The Guardian, and the two unleashed the largest batch of government security documents ever revealed about US and UK global surveillance.
Interestingly, the documents tracking bitcoin users stem from roughly the same period, 2013. They detail bitcoiners all over the world were targeted as powers granted the NSA under the rubric of fighting terrorism expanded, and might have even begun to play a role in early crypto prosecutions such as Ross Ulbricht and Silk Road.
American Civil Liberties Union’s Patrick Toomey, of its National Security Project, explained, “If the government’s criminal investigations secretly relied on NSA spying, that would be a serious concern. Individuals facing criminal prosecution have a right to know how the government came by its evidence, so that they can challenge whether the government’s methods were lawful. That is a basic principle of due process. The government should not be hiding the true sources for its evidence in court by inventing a different trail.”