October 8, 2021 | The Hill

Cartels and crypto

October 8, 2021 | The Hill

Cartels and crypto

Excerpt

If the massive spike in traffic across the U.S.-Mexico border continues at its current pace, total border arrests in 2021 will be the highest since 2000, when nearly 1.7 million illegal border crossers were apprehended by U.S. authorities. Down in Texas’ 23rd District, which encompasses 40 percent of the total southern border, residents are no strangers to the dangers that come with illegal border crossings, specifically those connected to cartel activity. A worrisome new technological development has arisen that can potentially lay the groundwork for these criminal elements to increase their drug and human smuggling operations exponentially. 

Latin American cartels have been on the leading edge of technological innovation for decades. Their drones, stealth submarines, and encrypted technologies rival the world’s best intelligence agencies. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to see that cartels have now embraced cryptocurrency as an avenue for currency that cannot be easily tracked or traced. 

Because cryptocurrencies are still not widely accepted as a form of currencies, digital wallets must be paired with a bank account to convert the cryptocurrency back into money that the individual can use in the real world. While financial institutions and law enforcement can view transactions from bank accounts to the digital wallets that house the cryptocurrencies, investigators can quickly run into jurisdictional and subpoena issues as the money is moved from digital wallet to digital wallet and eventually sold for traditional currencies. 

U.S. Congressman Tony Gonzales represents Texas’s 23rd District and sits on the House Appropriations Committee. He previously served two decades as a cryptologist in the United States Navy.  Samantha F. Ravich, Ph.D., is the chair of the Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Samantha serves as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission and previously served as deputy national security advisor for Vice President Cheney. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Blockchain and Digital Currencies Cyber Sanctions and Illicit Finance