The Biden administration is being called upon by over 100 lawmakers in the United States to clarify its efforts at combatting global terrorist financing using cryptocurrencies.
The bipartisan letter follows reports that Hamas, the Islamist organization that launched attacks on Israeli civilians earlier this month, used crypto to raise millions of dollars over the past two years.
Terrorism and Crypto
Citing the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers alleged that between August 2021 and June 2023, both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) raised over $130 million in crypto, of which $12 million was sent to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah this year.
“Given the clear and present danger posed by the financing of these and other militant organizations, we ask the Administration to provide additional details on its plan to prevent the use of crypto for the financing of terrorism,” the lawmakers wrote.
Some efforts to combat financing for Hezbollah and Hamas are already underway by the Israeli government. Days after the attacks took place, Binance announced that it had successfully collaborated with Israeli police in seizing over 100 Hamas-linked exchange accounts.
In June, Israel also seized $1.7 million linked to Hezbollah and Iran. Two months prior, the Hamas military wing also announced a closure of its crypto donation program due to successful efforts at prosecuting donors.
Nevertheless, lawmakers say that just a “small percentage” of crypto flowing through Hezbollah and Hamas has been seized and that the administration “must take strong action” to prevent crypto from being “used to finance another tragedy.”
Some of the letter’s requests included an estimate of how much crypto Islamist military groups currently possess, and to describe any challenges the government might face in stopping successful raises through cryptocurrency channels.
It also asked for information on which actors are facilitating such transactions, noting that most of the PIJ accounts at Binance “primarily used the stablecoin tether to transact.”
On Monday, Tether froze over $800,000 in USDT on crypto addresses with ties to terrorism in Israel and Ukraine.
Senator Warren’s Latest Request
Lawmakers leading the information request include U.S. Representative Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and senators Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – the latter of whom has long criticized crypto for its roles in tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing, and bypassing sanctions.
In August, Warren joined a slew of Democrat senators in petitioning the Treasury and IRS to propose rules addressing an estimated $50 billion tax gap plaguing the U.S. crypto industry. In May, she also called on the Senate Banking Committee and others to combat crypto’s use in global fentanyl trading.
Between terrorism and drug trading, the U.S. Treasury is already taking action. On Wednesday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against a Gaza-based Bitcoin exchange and its founder for bearing ties to Hamas.