New legislation aims to push the US Department of State to do more reporting on crypto — including on its own anti-ransomware whistleblower program.
On March 31, Congressmen Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the Russia Cryptocurrency Transparency Act. The bill calls for the State Department to produce reports on both the effectiveness of current sanctions on Russians using cryptocurrencies, as well as the role of blockchain technology in addressing Ukraine’s humanitarian needs.
More uniquely, the bill also takes aim at the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program. Launched last July, the program is a tip line for information about attacks on critical infrastructure. It includes anonymous reporting via a Dark Web page and the option to receive payouts in crypto. The RFJ was largely a response to the wave of ransomware attacks early last year.
The Russia Cryptocurrency Transparency Act would require the State Department to report to Congress on every instance in which it was offering a payout in cryptocurrency, justifying”any determination of the Secretary to make rewards under such program in a form that includes cryptocurrency.” The rationale behind this approach is concern that those payouts could also end up in the hands of bad actors, though this is typically how whistleblower programs work in practice.
Neither Meeks’ office nor the RFJ responded immediately to a request for information on the scale of the program’s crypto payouts to the present day.
Additionally, the bill calls for the appointment of a new director of digital currency security in the Office of Economic Sanctions Policy and Implementation within the State Department.
The new legislation follows a great deal of political jockeying over the threat of Russian sanctions evasion, including legislation from Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).