Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the U.S., sparked a social firestorm when he revealed that the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted on Friday used bitcoin to fund hacking efforts during the 2016 presidential election.
As CoinDesk reported earlier today, the defendants named in the indictment are accused of gaining access to computer systems utilized by the Democratic Party, including those used by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in order to disseminate that information during the election. Notably, the accused used bitcoin – including funds they mined themselves – to pay for web domains and other services utilized during their alleged scheme.
Unsurprisingly, the news quickly spread through social media, inciting a mix of incredulity, suspicion and – in some cases – amusement from observers.
Yet the story also drew the attention of at least one member of Congress, who took to Twitter to argue that “the crypto industry needs to step their game up.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s tweet, as might be expected, drew swift condemnation from members of the crypto community.
Some background: the Justice Department, under the auspices of special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, is investigating whether Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election, as well as if members of U.S. president Donald Trump’s campaign conspired on the interference. Today’s indictment was the latest to be handed down, following actions against others including Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager.
While much of Friday’s social chatter is focused on other elements of the indictment and the broader investigation, the story seems to have elicited remarks from some not normally prone to comment on crypto-related stories.
Indeed, the news sparked a multitude of responses, from the dismissive to the downright hostile. Some saw it as another scandal to taint the cryptocurrency sphere.
Another interpretation: that today’s indictment was intended to influence an upcoming meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
There were also some lighter takes in the mix – though how light they are may depend on interpretation.
Lessons to be learned?
Some commentators took the news as a clear sign that the U.S. government is serious about using the public network characteristics of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to trace transactions.
An investor named Simon Mikhailovich noted that the indictment and the fact that the FBI was able to document virtually every step of the perpetrators should remind all investors that their activities on blockchain are easily traceable and not hidden from view.
Others offered a similar take, but in much terser terms: