The status of Bitcoin as a relatively anonymous virtual currency that exists apart from central banks (like the Federal Reserve) and national governments (like Washington, D.C.) has made it a prime target for scrutiny by legislators. Given the lack of serious opposition to broad NSA spying—as well as the fact that virtual currencies can serve as a monetary medium for anyone, even criminals—Bitcoin’s ability to allow buyers and sellers to pass under the surveillance dragnet means it is bound for trouble. Now, the U.S. Senate has stepped into the picture, with the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs taking a closer look at Bitcoin and its uses.
A letter from the committee offered some balance regarding Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, citing their use for legitimate reasons in addition to illicit activities. Whether this apparent balance represents a real desire to conduct a fair investigation or simply rhetoric designed to allay the concerns of Bitcoin users is uncertain. The economy, despite years of parroting about a recovery, remains stalled (excepting sky-high stock prices and a rising real-estate market), and the government largely believes that the printing press paves the way to recovery. As such, uncontrolled currencies represent a threat, so a negative finding by the Senate inquiry regarding Bitcoin may be a foregone conclusion. But time will tell.
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