A United States Senator is demanding that US regulators ban the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said that the currency helps facilitate criminal activity and could harm the US economy if it is allowed to continue to circulate without regulation.
Inthe letter addressed to, among others, the heads of the US Treasury, Federal Reserve and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Sen. Manchin argues that the anonymous nature of the currency allows criminal activity to thrive while also making those who trade in Bitcoin susceptible to crime and fraud.
"The very features that make Bitcoin attractive to some also attract criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement. Due to Bitcoin’s anonymity, the virtual market has been extremely susceptible to hackers and scam artists stealing millions from Bitcoins users," Manchin said in his letter.
"Anonymity combined with Bitcoin’s ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions."
Additionally, Manchin claims that the Bitcoin currency is "a haven" for criminal activity as it allows users to anonymously pay for drugs and other illegal items. Manchin cites the rise in underground online markets, many of which use Bitcoin as the preferred method of payment.
As such, he is demanding that the federal government act now to prohibit the use of Bitcoin as a means of payment. He cites similar bans in China and Thailand as furthering the pressure on the US.
"While it is disappointing that the world leader and epicenter of the banking industry will only follow suit instead of making policy, it is high time that the United States heed our allies’ warnings," Manchin wrote.
"I am most concerned that as Bitcoin is inevitably banned in other countries, Americans will be left holding the bag on a valueless currency."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Manchin's ploy for public attention comes as the Bitcoin community continues to deal with the fallout from the collapse of MtGox. The exchange, once the largest Bitcoin marketplace on the internet, has shut down and is currently experiencing a crisis that some have suggested may be an all-out insolvency.
Earlier today MtGox CEO Mark Karpales used what's left of the company's site to assure users that he had not in fact fled Japan and was still working to save the company. No further word was given on what, If anything MtGox can do at this point to salvage the hundreds of millions of dollars it lost to theft. ®