Kelly, Warren, Marshall, 100+ Lawmakers Ask Biden Administration to Address Crypto-Financed Terrorism after Reports of Hamas Raising Millions in Crypto to Fund Operations
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Raised Millions in Crypto in Months Leading Up to Attack on Israel, Evading Sanctions
Lawmakers Concerned by “Clear and Present Danger” Posed by Crypto’s Use by Terror Groups
Arizona Senator Mark Kelly joined more than 100 members of the House and the Senate in signing a bipartisan letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Brian Nelson, Under Secretary for Terrorism, and Financial Intelligence at the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), raising grave concerns about reports that in the months leading up to their brutal October 7th terrorist attack on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) raised millions of dollars via crypto, evading U.S. sanctions to fund their operations. The lawmakers are asking the Biden administration to provide information about how it plans to prevent crypto-financed terrorism.
“Between August 2021 and this past June, [Hamas and PIJ] raised over $130 million in crypto, and moved millions among each other, ‘with PIJ sending over $12 million in crypto to Hezbollah since 2023.’ As the Wall Street Journal reports, ‘[r]esearchers who study Hamas’s financing said crypto remains one of a number of tools the group uses to raise funds.’ 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,” wrote the lawmakers.
On the morning of October 7th, Hamas militants fired an estimated 2,200 rockets towards Israel, as hundreds of militants entered Israel on motorcycles and motorboats. As of October 11, 2023, over 1,200 people have died in Israel as a result of the attacks, and 2,900 have been wounded. While “[i]t couldn’t be determined whether the crypto they received was directly used to finance the assault,” Hamas has been clear in its solicitations for crypto about the intended use of the assets. In a Telegram post asking for bitcoin, it said, “[t]he reality of jihad is the expenditure of effort and energy, and money is the backbone of war.”
The lawmakers noted that both the Israeli and U.S. governments have warned of the threat that crypto poses in the fight against terrorism, and Israel previously seized crypto assets from terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah. Experts believe that only a small percentage of the overall crypto funds flowing through Hamas and PIJ have been captured.
“That the deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians comes as the group has become ‘one of the most sophisticated crypto users in the terror-finance domain’ clarifies the national security threat crypto poses to the U.S., and our allies. Congress and this Administration must take strong action to thoroughly address crypto illicit finance risks before it can be used to finance another tragedy. As Congress considers legislative proposals designed to mitigate crypto money laundering and illicit finance risks, we urge you to swiftly and categorically act to meaningfully curtail illicit crypto activity and protect our national security and that of our allies,” concluded the lawmakers.
The lawmakers are asking a set of questions about Treasury and the Biden administration’s plans to address the serious national security threats posed by crypto’s use to finance terrorism by October 31, 2023.
Read the full letter here.