Cryptocurrencies as ammo

In the 1990s, cryptography was considered a non-exportable ammunition, an element of war. Then, the United States government banned the private development of this technology, at the risk of jail and other convictions. The government of the North American country wished to preserve for itself the monopoly of the development of this tool that, in the end, served as a basis to sustain the privacy of a good part of the applications we use today.

Although that incident seems to be a thing of the past, recent events around the cryptocurrency ecosystem seem to point to a different reality. It seems that a new ammunition is being created in front of our eyes. And is that the recognized member of the Ethereum community, Virgil Griffith, was arrested by the US government, after having made a trip to North Korea, in which he allegedly would have provided advice to the Kim Jong-un government, to avoid the economic sanctions imposed by the government of the North American country.

Even taking for granted the fact that the North Korean regime is clearly a danger to its citizens and to international geopolitics, the detention is striking, paradigmatic. He who dares to help (even if this has not been proven) to the enemies of the hegemon, will bear the consequences. In this article I will talk about this case and how it seems to suggest that cryptocurrencies and blockchain as a “disruptive” technology, are slowly becoming a new ammunition. With the positioning of China, Russia and North Korea in this ecosystem, the United States response has not been long in coming and Griffith has been the first victim.

The facts

The subject was arrested on November 28, Thanksgiving, at the Los Angeles airport, after having traveled to North Korea in April this year. Their participation in an event organized in North Korean territory would have resulted in a violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

According to the statement released after the arrest, it is unclear how Griffith supported North Korea. However, his participation in that event on Blockchain, organized by the regime, has been sufficient cause for his imprisonment, under the accusation of supporting the regime to evade sanctions.

Griffith attended the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference, organized by the government of the Asian country in its capital. Given that the event was promoted by the government, it is difficult to consider that he has come to support the citizens of the country, which makes his participation in that event understood as a direct relationship with the regime.

The FBI counterintelligence directorate was responsible for leading the investigation and apprehension of Griffith. “Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to Norcorea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In doing so, Griffith endangered the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to exert maximum pressure on the dangerous regime, ”the document reads.

According to Griffith himself, it was a personal trip, on vacation, and in no case, related to the Ethereum Foundation, of which he was a part.


Griffith’s trip is controversial. From the point of view, traveling to countries like North Korea, Iran or Venezuela and participating in events organized by their governments is a contradiction. Perhaps if it were meetings with cryptocurrency specialists and enthusiasts, with user communities organized around the privacy and economic qualities of Bitcoin; But, participating in events organized by totalitarian regimes is contradictory with respect to this objective. The creator of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, spoke about the case, ensuring that Griffith is his friend, and that his “open-mindedness” regarding geopolitical conflicts is a “virtue.” In addition, he urged to create a petition for his freedom.

“The geopolitical open mindedness is a virtue. It is admirable to visit a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe that he is a maximum evil enemy, and listen to what they have to say. The world would be better if more people from all sides did that, ”he said.

Even considering this, the reality of submission and control of the North Korean regime is inexcusable, so that this supposed “openness of mind”, this “virtue” cannot be reduced to the “enemies” of a government, but to enemies of the human.

According to reporter Laura Shin, that of North Korea is a regime that has turned the Asian country into a prison. “North Korea is essentially a prison disguised as a country. People are not allowed to leave, they are not allowed to travel outside their cities without permission, they are not even allowed to think out loud, ”as he explained on his Twitter.

To better understand this thin line between virtue and complicity, I consider that, if someone from the cryptocurrency ecosystem gave Nicolás Maduro assistance in the development of the petro, he could morally be judged. I would be attending a government that has sustained itself over time on citizens, both for its own tricks, and for the cohabitation that has enjoyed the hand of its “opposition.”

For more indoctrination that exists in North Korea, I find it difficult to think that a citizen in my position would applaud that his authoritarian government receive training or information of any kind, that extends its control more tightly over the population through the oxygen of the international capital

Cryptocurrencies as ammo

As we said, at the time, cryptography was considered an ammunition. During the 1990s, this technology was considered a non-exportable element, nor was it privately developable. The United States government abrogates the right to use at its convenience the development of this technology, with jail sentences and other punishments for those who violate this right.

In this case, the arrest of Griffith, seems to suggest that cryptocurrencies and the implementation of “blockchain” are positioned as a new ammunition, a new type of knowledge that, with China’s public interest in the making and the positioning of other powers adverse, it is forcing the United States to control in a more iron way.

This is bad news, even though we consider North Korean excesses. This could generate that people who have set out to support initiatives in countries in conflict may have doubts about doing so; or who decide not to go to invitations and interviews, just to anticipate this type of event. In addition, it places the technology in a complex place. For greater adoption and development, it is necessary for specialists and connoisseurs to share their knowledge, will the enemies of the United States be relegated from this expansion? What will happen in cases where this enmity is unjustified or simply artificial?

While it is known that he could be released before his trial in the coming weeks, Griffith’s is a dangerous precedent.


Disclaimer: This press release is for informational purposes information does not constitute investment advice or an offer to invest. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of infocoin, and should not be attributed to, Infocoin.

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