SANCTIONS

US Citizen Facing 20 Years in Prison for Teaching Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

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If the US government suddenly began a bombing campaign on North Korea which killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children, this would be considered an act of war. However, if the US government intentionally targets these same men, women, and children with economic sanctions — that kill thousands civilians though starvation and illness — this is considered “diplomatic” and a peaceful resolution.

Despite US citizens becoming accustomed to hearing their government talk about placing sanctions on various countries, the death and destruction caused by them are still horrific and very real.

Sanctions are enforced knowing that one of two things will happen. They are deliberately meant to withhold food, medicine, or resources from citizens of a country to cause horrible suffering and death in hopes of causing an uprising and forcing the citizens to oust their current regime. Or, if the sanction-led death toll among the citizens isn’t bad enough to cause the citizens to rise up, then the sanctions are meant to force the regime to change its own policy.

Sadly, no matter what happens, the citizens of the country targeted by sanctions become pawns in the process. These sanctions lead to their death and suffering no matter if they force government change or not. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea are estimated to have died in just the last year due to the “collective punishment” inflicted on them via US sanctions.

Although they are not actually dropping bombs, when the US government puts sanctions on countries, the death toll is often just as bad or worse. So, when countries or citizens attempt to circumvent these sanctions, it is no different than getting out of the way of a bomb. Virgil Griffith, a cryptocurrency advocate, likely knows this and attempted to help the citizens of North Korea avoid suffering by teaching them the power of the blockchain to evade these sanctions.

Because cryptocurrencies allow people to act outside of central bank-controlled currencies — which is how many sanctions are enforced — they are an enemy of the state. For this reason, Griffith was arrested by the DOJ recently for doing nothing other than presenting information on cryptocurrency and blockchain inside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK” or “North Korea”).

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.”

When reading the above statement from Berman, one would be inclined to believe Griffith was some spy secretly meeting with the government of DPRK to wage some economic war on the US. But this was not the case. He was attending an event open to the public and merely presented information at the “Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference.”

Griffith was arrested because he failed to get permission from the US government to attend the conference. What’s more, the people of North Korea could have benefited from this technology by using it to circumvent their own tyrannical government. Instead, however, they will now be deliberately kept in the dark thanks to the United States who claims teaching North Koreans cryptocurrency would allow them to build nukes.

“Mr. Griffith allegedly traveled to North Korea without permission from the federal government, and with knowledge what he was doing was against the law. We cannot allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology, and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk. It’s even more egregious that a U.S. citizen allegedly chose to aid our adversary,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said.

Griffith, who is a resident of Singapore and U.S. citizen who worked as an Ethereum developer, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday. He stands charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) by teaching cryptocurrency to the people of DPRK so that they can avoid sanctions placed on them by the United States. Although he was alleged to have arranged public meetings with DPRK officials to teach them this technology as well, none of this information is secret. Yet still, for transferring information that is not at all classified and widely available for free online, Griffith faces the possibility of 20 years in a cage.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin defended Griffith, pointing out that DPRK didn’t finance any aspect of Griffith’s trip and he merely traveled there to spread information.

“Geopolitical open-mindedness is a *virtue*” Buterin wrote. “It’s *admirable* to go to a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe is a Maximum Evil Enemy, and hear out what they have to say. The world would be better if more people on all sides did that.”

He added: “I don’t think what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He *delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software*. There was no weird hackery “advanced tutoring.”

In his final tweet Vitalik wrote, “I hope USA shows strength rather than weakness and focuses on genuine and harmful corruption that it and all countries struggle with rather than going after programmers delivering speeches parroting public information.”

We agree.

When countries and even individuals can function outside the state and central bank controlled currency, this grants them autonomy from tyrannical acts like sanctions.

Because cryptocurrency is such a threat to sanctions and government control in general, many banker-owned politicians—having seen the power of crypto to decentralize the control of money—are not just blocking legislation to allow crypto to compete, but they are moving to outright ban it. One of these Federal Reserve shills is U.S. Democrat Congressman Brad Sherman who is now openly advocating for the prohibition of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Sherman has no problem admitting that they want to ban cryptocurrency because it is a direct threat to the power of the Federal Reserve.

“An awful lot of our international power comes from the fact that the U.S. dollar is the standard unit of international finance and transactions,” Sherman said at a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year, according to Forbes.

Make no mistake, those who are threatened by cryptocurrencies are not that way because they want to protect you from terrorists or poor investments. One need only look at the megabanks who are caught laundering money for terrorists all the time and never face consequences. These same banks are also caught in massive schemes designed to rip off their customers, stealing billions in the process, and no one ever goes to jail.

The establishment is scared of the blockchain because it gives control—using radical transparency instead of government secrecy—back to the people. Now, because he tried to help people avoid the horrifying effects of sanctions, Griffith has become a victim of government attempting to maintain said control.


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About Matt Agorist

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on Twitter, Steemit, and now on Minds.