Bitcoin Is Decentralized Defection – Bitcoin Magazine
This is an opinion editorial by Kyle Schneps, director of public policy at Foundry, a Digital Currency Group company.
The old system of defection from the Cold War rewarded the elite few who chose to publicly opt out of authoritarian regimes in favor of Western democracies. The Bitcoin network now allows all people, regardless of station or class, to privately opt out of tyranny by investing autocrat-controlled currencies in a decentralized global system of economic independence.
Walking through the labyrinthine corridors of CIA headquarters late at night in the 1960s, you would eventually notice a wedge of dim smoke light as you passed a certain office suite on the top floor. Following the trail of light and peering inside, you would see a gaunt bespectacled man bent over countless volumes of poetry and stacks of human intelligence files. A single dim bulb will highlight an overflowing ashtray and a perpetually wrinkled forehead. You would be looking at James Jesus Angleton, the grandfather of US counterintelligence analysis and operations – and also one of the most controversial figures in the gray corners of US history.
Angleton was a poetry student at Yale who was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. He learned much of his craft from British intelligence during the war, and these controversial affairs would be both a boon and a detriment to his career forever after. He would become a key figure in the transition of the OSS to its later incarnation as the Central Intelligence Agency. Most unique to Angleton was his belief that the skills needed to understand and decipher complex poetry were similar to those needed to understand elaborate intelligence operations, specifically those of the Soviet Union, which would occupy him day and night during his twenty years as head of CIA counterintelligence.
Angleton devoted the most controversial years of his CIA tenure to finding moles and unraveling the elaborate Soviet schemes that often used double and triple agents to mislead and disinform. Also, Angleton had a unique obsession with defectors. A defector is a person, usually someone in an elite position with access to important information, who leaves their country in favor of a new country that often has a conflicting or different ideology. A defector is offered physical protection and a financial reward for the information they provide. For Angleton, however, defectors represented a more troubling conundrum: how do you determine the veracity of a defector’s information, especially if that defector is part of a sophisticated intelligence organization like the KGB? Do they really interrupt and reveal valuable intelligence? Or are they defecting as part of a larger intelligence operation intended to mislead the United States? Perhaps a fake defector is simply defecting to discredit a legitimate defector…and the hall of mirrors will circle around and around from there.
Perhaps the most controversial defector case of Angleton’s career involved Anatoliy Golitsyn and Yuri Nosenko. Both Golitsyn and Nosenko were high-ranking KGB officers who were allowed to defect to the United States, but each offered conflicting intelligence that discredited the other. Angleton eventually sided with Golitsyn, locking Nosenko in a dark place in Maryland where he was denied access to his possessions and occasionally dosed with LSD. Four years later, Nosenko was determined to be a bona fide agent and released from solitary confinement.
Because of the innumerable doubts raised by defectors about the legitimacy of the intelligence offered, defectors generally became more valuable for their public propaganda than for their actual information. Many Soviet defectors to the United States were often paraded in front of the press to demonstrate the winning ideology of capitalism over communism. The Soviet Union did the same with British defectors who had completed their course as agents and were moved to the Soviet Union. For example, the infamous British intelligence officer and arguably the greatest traitor of all time, Kim Philby, was toured around Moscow to demonstrate the failings of Western capitalism. Thus, Cold War defection ultimately gained more value as an ideological publicity statement than as a reliable source of human intelligence gathering.
The problem, however, is that the opportunity to deviate from a perceived tyrannical or authoritarian regime has until now been limited to elite personalities who have access to sensitive information. There were certainly many average citizens living under the draconian oppression of the Soviet Union who wished they could defect; who wished they could opt out of the control of the Soviet regime or at least secure their wealth. But they didn’t have access to anything of value to the opposing systems that could receive them, and so they were left with no options. They had to not only stay in the Soviet Union, but also continue to participate in and maintain its economic and cultural restrictions.
Bitcoin fixes this.
Bitcoin represents a monetary system that allows the average person, wherever they live, to opt out of tyrannical and authoritarian regimes. Anyone with an internet connection can now end all but the most necessary economic participation in the country they live in by converting their state-controlled currency into a decentralized and imperishable store of value. Valuables that can be stored privately or transported across borders by refugees without risk of confiscation; value that is free from the degradation of a corrupt or incompetent regime; values which, although potentially volatile in the short term, have proven to be a hedge against inflationary policies in the long term.
While these elite defectors fleeing authoritarian regimes would be forced to leave their families and possessions behind, anyone can opt out of the monetary shackles that authoritarian regimes have placed on them while still functioning in the society they live in. By opting out a tyrannical system and into a decentralized protocol like Bitcoin, there is no longer the worry of your wealth being confiscated by prejudiced laws, as has happened so many times throughout history. In an age where so much of our identity and personal choices are tracked by governments and corporations, Bitcoin offers the ultimate protection for minority opinion by protecting one’s wealth from the power players and political whims of a corrupt regime.
As the US has previously recognized that defection has more value as a public opportunity to champion Western ideals than tyranny, we must now recognize that the Bitcoin network is defection 2.0, as it allows all people around the world to choose a free and decentralized monetary system which cannot be manipulated by tyrants for personal gain. The old Cold War system rewarded a small group of elites by letting them jump off tyranny. In return, the recipient nation was able to publicly claim a small ideological victory. It is worth sacrificing the public nature of the defection of the few for the private monetary defection of the many worldwide who do not want to participate in the austerity of the authoritarian regimes. It is for this reason that so many authoritarian regimes, such as the Chinese Communist Party and the former Supreme Leader of Iran, have banned this technology. They don’t want the public to quietly opt out of their control. The US must embrace bitcoin as a symbol of the democratic and capitalist ideal, allowing people to privately jump into a monetary system that safeguards their personal wealth and independence from tyrannical systems.
There is no better way to fight corrupt autocratic regimes than to support networks that allow the global public to opt out of all but the most necessary economic ties that bind them to such states. Of all these networks, Bitcoin is by far the best choice due to its decentralized nature, instant settlement, portability and unmatched security. The US government will strengthen its role as a beacon of democracy around the globe by offering its unwavering support to this technology, which decentralizes and levels the possibility of defection worldwide.
This is a guest post by Kyle Schneps. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BTC Inc Bitcoin Magazine.