The U.S. federal government’s chief lawyer, Merrick Garland, is asking for more international cooperation to help protect investors, consumers, and businesses that use digital assets.
A Department of Justice report, compiled alongside federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission, calls for sharing more information with foreign law enforcement agencies. Better collaboration, the report says, will help “avoid duplicative efforts that waste investigative resources.”
The attorney general’s report, delivered on Monday, is in response to an executive order issued by President Joe Biden in March that asked federal agencies to research digital assets with the intention of drafting federal legislation.
Crimes facilitated using cryptocurrencies often are much harder to prosecute than those wrapped up in paper currencies, the report notes, adding that “criminal actors leverage the innovation, claims of decentralization, and anonymizing features of cryptocurrencies to facilitate criminal conduct in all corners of the world.”
Many crimes—money laundering, using ransomware, financing terror, and evading sanctions among them—can be completed much faster because they don’t go through traditional financial intermediaries, which have rules in place to flag suspicious transactions.
But because blockchain-based transactions are “permanently recorded on distributed ledgers publicly available on the Internet,” that eventually could create more opportunities for law enforcement officers to “follow the money in ways that are not possible with traditional financial systems,” according to the report.
Domestically, U.S. crypto laws are a patchwork system, varying state by state. One big sticking point is whether the federal government decides to treat cryptocurrencies more like securities or more like commodities, such as gold or oil.
The federal government has prosecuted people for crimes involving cryptocurrency, but the recent assessment emphasizes how the U.S. can work together with countries abroad in prosecuting criminal organizations.