The legacy of the Cold War system of defection rewarded the few elites who chose to publicly renounce authoritarian regimes in favor of Western democracies. The Bitcoin network now allows all people, regardless of their station or class, to privately renounce tyranny by investing autocratic-controlled currencies in a decentralized global system of financial independence.
Walking the labyrinthine corridors of CIA headquarters late at night in the 1960s, you’ll eventually notice a wedge of dim smoky light as you pass a particular top-floor office suite. Following the trail of light and peering inside, you’d see a scrawny bespectacled man hunched over countless volumes of poetry and piles of human intelligence case files. A single dim bulb would highlight an overflowing ashtray and a perpetually furrowed brow. You would be looking at James Jesus Angleton, the grandfather of US counterintelligence analysis and operations – and also one of the most controversial figures in the gray corners of US history.
Angleton was a poetry student at Yale who was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. He learned much of his trade from British intelligence during the war, and those controversial relationships would be both boon and hurt to his career forever. He would become a key figure in the transition of the OSS into its later incarnation as the Central Intelligence Agency. Most unique to Angleton was his belief that the skills needed to understand and decipher complex poetry were similar to those needed to understand elaborate intelligence operations, particularly those of the Soviet Union, which would occupy him day and night during his twenty years as head of department. CIA counterintelligence.
Angleton devoted the most controversial years of his tenure at the CIA to tracking down moles and unraveling elaborate Soviet plots that often used double and triple agents to mislead and misinform. Also, Angleton had a unique obsession with deserters. A defector is a person, usually someone in an elite position with access to important information, who abandons their country in favor of a new country that often has an opposite or different ideology. A defector is offered physical protection and financial reward for information provided. However, for Angleton, defectors posed a more troubling conundrum: How do you determine the veracity of a defector’s information, especially if that defector is part of a sophisticated intelligence organization like the KGB? Are they really defecting and revealing valuable information? Or are they defecting as part of a larger intelligence operation intended to mislead the United States? Maybe a fake defector is simply defecting to discredit a legitimate defector… and the hall of mirrors would go full circle from there.
Perhaps the most controversial defector case of Angleton’s career involved Anatoliy Golitsyn and Yuri Nosenko. Both Golitsyn and Nosenko were high-ranking KGB officers who had been allowed to defect to the United States, but each offered conflicting information that discredited the other. Eventually Angleton sided with Golitsyn, locking Nosenko in an obscure location in Maryland where he was denied access to his belongings and occasionally dosed with LSD. Four years later Nosenko was determined to be a bona fide agent and released from solitary confinement.
Because of the myriad doubts raised by the defection regarding the legitimacy of the intelligence offered, defectors generally became more valuable for their public propaganda than their actual intelligence. Many Soviet defectors in the United States were often paraded before the press to demonstrate the winning ideology of capitalism over communism. The Soviet Union did the same with British deserters who had run their course as agents and were transferred to the Soviet Union. For example, notorious British intelligence officer and arguably the greatest traitor of all time, Kim Philby, was touring Moscow to demonstrate the failings of Western capitalism. Thus the defection during the Cold War eventually gained more value as an ideological publicity statement than as a reliable source of human intelligence gathering.
The problem, however, is that the ability to defect from a regime perceived as tyrannical or authoritarian has hitherto been limited to elite figures with access to sensitive information. There were certainly many average citizens living under the draconian oppression of the Soviet Union who wished they could defect; who wished they could relinquish control of the Soviet regime or, at the very least, safeguard their wealth. But they didn’t have access to anything of value to the opposing systems that might have received them, and so they were left with no options. They were to not only remain in the Soviet Union but also continue to participate in and perpetuate its economic and cultural restrictions.
Bitcoin solves this problem.
Bitcoin represents a monetary system that allows the average person, no matter where they live, to renounce tyrannical and authoritarian regimes. Anyone with an Internet connection can now cease all but the most necessary financial holdings in the country where he lives, converting his state-controlled currency into a decentralized and incorruptible store of value. Value that can be kept privately or taken across borders by refugees without risk of confiscation; value free from debasement by a corrupt or incompetent regime; value which, although potentially volatile in the short term, has proved to be a hedge against inflationary policies in the long term.
While those elite hereditary defectors fleeing authoritarian regimes would be forced to leave their families and possessions, now anyone can renounce the monetary chains placed upon them by authoritarian regimes while still functioning in the society in which they live. By breaking out of a tyrannical system and moving to a decentralized protocol like Bitcoin, there is no longer the worry that your wealth will be confiscated by prejudicial laws, as has happened so many times throughout history. In an age where much of our identities and personal choices are tracked by governments and corporations, Bitcoin offers the greatest protection for minority opinion as it safeguards one’s wealth from the power players of a corrupt regime and the political whims.
Since the United States has previously recognized that defection has more value as a public opportunity to defend Western ideals than those of tyranny, then we must now recognize that the Bitcoin network is defection 2.0, as it empowers all people around the world to join a free and decentralized monetary system that cannot be manipulated by tyrants for personal gain. The legacy of the Cold War system has rewarded a small group of elites by allowing them to defect from tyranny. In return, the receiving nation was able to publicly claim a small ideological victory. The public nature of the defection of a few is worth sacrificing for the private monetary defection of many around the world who do not wish to participate in the restrictions of authoritarian regimes. This is why so many authoritarian regimes, such as the Communist Party of China and formerly the Supreme Leader of Iran, have banned this technology. They don’t want the public to quietly withdraw from their control. The United States must embrace bitcoin as a symbol of the democratic and capitalist ideal, so that people can defect privately to a monetary system that safeguards their personal wealth and independence from tyrannical systems.
There is no better way to combat corrupt autocratic regimes than by supporting networks that allow the global public to renounce all but the most necessary financial ties to such states. Of all these networks, Bitcoin is by far the best choice due to its decentralized nature, instant settlement, portability, and unrivaled security. The US government would once again solidify its role as a beacon of democracy around the world by offering its unwavering support for this technology, which decentralizes and levels opportunities for defection around the world.
This is a guest post by Kyle Schneps. The views expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin magazine.