Special assistant Rob Joyce, to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator, stated during an interview with CNBC that although the government is concerned about Bitcoin and other public cryptocurrencies, officials are still a long way from developing an official regulatory framework.
“I think we’re still absolutely studying and understanding what the good ideas and bad ideas in that space are,” he said of cryptocurrency regulation. “So, I don’t think it’s close.”
Joyce, who spent 27 years at the National Security Agency (NSA), said that the White House is most concerned about the ability of criminals to use cryptocurrency to subvert anti-money laundering policies in place at traditional financial institutions.
“We are worried. There are benefits to the bitcoin concept — digital cash, digital currencies,” Joyce said. “But at the same time, if you look at the way bitcoin works after there is a criminal act that takes place, you can’t rewind the clock and take back that currency,” he said. “With the current instantiation of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, we haven’t figured that out yet. So it’s a problem.”
Joyce’s comments echo those of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has said that he desires to see cryptocurrency wallet providers regulated under the same AML/KYC guidelines as banks and other financial services firms.
“It’s something we are looking at very carefully and will continue to look at,” Mnuchin said in January. “The first issue and the most important issue is to make sure that people can’t use bitcoin for illicit activities. So we want to make sure that you don’t have the dark web funded in bitcoins. And that’s something that is a concern of ours today.”
Of course, even by the Treasury Department’s own admission, cryptocurrency usage makes up a small percentage of illicit transaction volume. The currency most commonly associated with illicit transactions? — the US dollar.
Meanwhile, regulators themselves have cautioned legislators against encumbering the nascent blockchain ecosystem with overbearing regulations. At a recent US Senate hearing, for instance, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo testified that any new Bitcoin regulations should be “carefully tailored” to address specific problems found in the underlying markets.