Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
Have you heard of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET)? If you’re not a cryptogeek you probably haven’t, but you need to understand it if you want to understand the future of money.
The NCET was conceived in 2021 and announced by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco last October. Supposedly the group is set up to investigate and prosecute criminal use of cryptocurrency, in all its various manifestations. According to its charter it exists to combat cryptocurrency fraud and help people recover stolen assets. Department of Justice (DOJ) Criminal Division Press Release 21-974 of 6 Oct. 2021 states the Team Leader will lead the team of attorneys from DOJ’s Criminal Division Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), and Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) detailed from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country to identify, investigate, support, and pursue cases against cryptocurrency exchanges, infrastructure providers, and other entities that are enabling the misuse of cryptocurrency and related products to commit or facilitate criminal activity.
According to the announcement the NCET will:
- Investigate and prosecute cryptocurrency cases, comprising a central part of a nationwide enforcement effort to combat the use of cryptocurrency as an illicit tool.
- Develop strategic priorities for investigations and prosecutions involving cryptocurrency, in consultation with the USAOs, Department components, and investigative agencies involved in cryptocurrency investigations.
- Identify areas for increased investigative and prosecutorial focus, including professional money launderers, ransomware schemes, human traffickers, narcotics traffickers, and financial institutions working with cryptocurrency.
- Build and enhance relationships with cryptocurrency focused AUSAs and prosecutors with other Department litigating components and offices to pursue cryptocurrency investigations and prosecutions.
- Develop and maintain relationships with federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute cryptocurrency cases.
- Train and advise federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in developing investigative and prosecutorial strategies. Such training and advice will include providing guidance concerning search and seizure warrants, restraining orders, criminal and civil forfeiture allegations, indictments, and other pleadings.
- Support the coordination and sharing of information and evidence among law enforcement offices to maximize the effectiveness of the Department’s investigations, prosecutions, and forfeitures involving cryptocurrency.
- Collaborate and build relationships with private sector actors with expertise in cryptocurrency matters to further the criminal enforcement mission.
The Team Leader was announced on 17 Feb. 2022 by Criminal Division Press Release 22-140. She is Eun Young Choi, who is a Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate. Choi clerked for a couple of federal judges after graduating law school, then joined DOJ to work on several high profile investigations that involved high tech crimes, including hacking, operation of unlicensed digital currency exchanges, and the so-called Dark Web. Her background does indicate she understands the world of digital currencies as well as how to investigate and prosecute digital misdeeds. She seems to be a good fit for the job.
You should be asking, “So? Why are you bothering me with this? Why do I need to know about the NCET?”
If you’ve been following the topic of money in the past decade you’ll know there has been an increasing emphasis on digital currencies and the conversion of all monetary systems from paper-and-coin based to 100% digital exchange. The world has been heading toward that notion ever since the very first credit card was created, so there’s nothing about the idea that should strike one as particularly new. However, the push for a complete conversion has only gained traction in very recent times. In thinking the idea through many people realized something about paper-and-coin that hadn’t been discussed openly except on very rare occasions. That realization is that paper-and-coin currencies underpin individual freedom. Replace them with a 100% digital currency and individual freedom will always be a nanosecond away from disappearing.
Physical forms of money have always been seen as signs of wealth. Before there were banks people had to secure their money from thieves the best way they could. The presence of gold, silver, or other forms of money were always enticing to criminals. Eventually some enterprising moneylenders developed the notion of banks and bank accounts, where people could take their money and feel a bit more at ease about its security. Then, as with everything, the criminal class figured out how to rob those banks, and a new criminal enterprise was created. This is the central point of this article: no matter what safeguards one has for money the criminal class always figures out how to get to it and take it away. The criminal always wants wealth without working for it, and taking your and my wealth is what they thrive on.
Much of our legal and justice systems are built on the notions of prevention and detection of, and punishment for financial crimes. Today’s world of digital commerce and digital currencies demands a new approach to those notions. Digital crime prevention requires new methods and paradigms. Crime detection is made harder as programs and digital networks increase in their sophistication. Punishment is sometimes difficult to assess purely due to the difficulty in comprehending the nature, complexity, and scope of crimes committed.
We’re into a new aspect of The Brave New World. Governments all over the world are on the cusp of ditching tangible currency and adopting cybercurrency in its place. Cybercurrency? Yeah, that’s the same thing as cryptocurrency. Oh, in case you’re wondering, the term “crypto” isn’t well defined. Essentially it means “secret” or “secretive.” The implication of that may or may not be important. We shall see.
If tangible money disappears there are things that we humans will have to have, have to learn, and will no longer be able to do. You need to think that through. I’ll give you a small start, but you need to invest some time in it, because this is almost guaranteed to be our future.
To manage a 100% digital economy every single individual and every single business entity will need a guaranteed unique form of identification. Otherwise, how can anyone or any government be certain that transactions between individuals and between business entities are genuine? The identification has to be in a form that’s not readily or easily read or captured by observation. That means we can’t use letters or numbers. Bar codes have their limitations, unless you don’t mind the notion that they’ll be 10” long. Today it appears those who are thinking this through are gravitating toward the use of QR codes, though there are drawbacks to any type of external code system. Competing ideas include 3-D facial recognition systems, use of fingerprints or retinal prints, or some other form of biological identification. Then, there are the implant concepts – implant either an active or passive device in the body that will contain the unique identifier that allows access to the person’s financial accounts. Every single idea has its merits, but each also has peculiar drawbacks. It’s a dilemma, but like all dilemmas, there are people who are making it their life’s mission to determine our future.
I don’t want to get into one of those “mark of the beast” conversations. I don’t find it necessary. The beast is real. Whatever we’re ultimately marked with will be close enough to satisfy Saint John’s criteria. Bet on it.
The disappearance of physical money will make some things we do impossible. We can no longer opt to tip in cash. We can’t make small purchases with cash. We can’t bargain with vendors at the flea market to get a cash discount. We can’t avoid paying things like payroll taxes by paying for work with cash. In a cashless society you’ll pay the kid who mows your lawn by use of your digital ID. The government will see the transaction and assess your account for all the “necessary” taxes due. In other words – once all your financial assets exist in the form of 1s and 0s the government has total visibility of every digital cent you expend and will be able to take taxes from you at will. You won’t have to balance your checkbook anymore, since there won’t be any checks. You’ll know how much digital money you have anytime you wonder, because all financial transactions will be posted instantaneously. Some of that may sound good. Some should sound a bit scary.
Be aware that this new digital currency world has some very troubling facets to it. When coupled with the also-impending Social Credit Score system (regardless of what it’s eventually called) your assets are no longer secure at all. If your SCS is too low you might be fined. You might not know until you try to buy food or fuel and discover you no longer have currency in your account. Whatever entity is in charge of tracking everyone’s SCS will have the ability to punish you. Today that punishment might be the removal of a privilege, like the ability to use your cell phone. But, tomorrow the punishment might be the confiscation of half of your digital assets. Keep in mind the decision-making process for those things will be totally out of your control. It won’t matter if there’s an appeal process – appeals will be futile.
If you haven’t caught on, there’s a logic thread I’ve been weaving in this narrative. I started out by telling you of a new DOJ team, the NCET, and what its task definitions are. Then I transitioned to the future of money and the dystopian aspects of a cashless society. I last propose how the cashless society will be blended with the Social Credit System that’s planned to be imposed on us. Now, I’ll tell you why.
The NCET incorporates people who understand how to decipher block-chain security codes. Many people today own cryptocurrency. They believe their Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherium or other cryptocurrency is safe, and is making them rich. While on the surface NCET appears to be a government response to crimes that have occurred in the crypto world, what if it’s much more? Suppose NCET actually exists to facilitate the shift from tangible to digital currency. Suppose NCET exists to identify all the various cryptocurrency accounts held by all Americans and will be positioned to “steal” the assets of each in one single moment. In one scenario the government may warn people ahead of time and allow them to cash out of their crypto accounts. But, such a warning would crash all the crypto exchanges, so I wouldn’t count on it. No, I think it’s more likely all the world’s central banks and NCET analogs will coordinate a digital “smash and grab” and terminate everyone’s accounts all at once.
There are a lot of people who are happy NCET was set up. I’m not. My trust in government is at low ebb. I examine every action by government for its potential for harm. NCET has great potential to devastate the finances of millions of people. All you have to do is understand what they know, what they can access, and what they can potentially do with that knowledge and access – then project that understanding toward the darkest scenario you can imagine. Organizations like NCET will soon become our overlords, the executors of digital tyranny.
Why do I examine things this way? Because I believe we exist in a police state today, a nation where our government actively works against us. In truth, I can’t think of any government anywhere today that’s any different. Individual freedom, as we knew it, is a concept that’s disappearing before our eyes. I won’t predict the day it will completely die, but I do believe I’ll live to see it. I just wish that wasn’t so.
Steve© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.