Recently, Live Bitcoin News published a story regarding Virgil Griffith, a man who last April, traveled to North Korea despite U.S. regulatory scrutiny to deliver a blockchain seminar.
Griffith Has a Few Defenders
During the lecture, it is believed that Griffith may have provided cryptocurrency knowledge to listeners regarding how they could potentially utilize both cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to override U.S. sanctions. This didn’t sit well with the American government, and Griffith was later arrested at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Thanksgiving Day.
In a press release, U.S. attorney Geoffrey S. Berman explained:
As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the President have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.
Despite the chances Griffith took and the reported danger he presented to the United States, many individuals are seemingly coming to his aid and defending his actions, one of which is Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. In a recent tweet, Buterin seems to suggest that Griffith didn’t do anything illegal, and that perhaps his actions are being taken out of context by a government that clearly bears animosity towards North Korea.
I don’t think what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He *delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software*. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring.’
Buterin wasn’t alone in coming defending Griffith. Another member of the crypto and Twitter community, Emmanuel Goldstein, wrote:
He attended a conference! And explained the concept of cryptocurrency. These are crimes, now?!
Goldstein is the editor of 2600 magazine which focuses on new and emerging technology.
What neither he nor Buterin seem to understand is that North Korea, a nuclear state, has strained relations with the United States, so even if what Griffith did was perfectly innocent, the fact remains that he failed to get permission to travel there. His visa was denied, and yet despite this denial, Griffith still chose to attend, so even if he did nothing wrong by attending or speaking at the seminar, he went against government rules in traveling to North Korea without stated permission.
He Still Broke the Rules, Right?
A criminal complaint explains:
Griffith knew it was illegal to travel to the DPRK and so sought permission from the US Department of State… Although Griffith’s request was denied by the State Department, Griffith attended the DPRK Cryptocurrency Conference nonetheless.
North Korea also has a long history of hosting cryptocurrency hacking groups including Lazarus, which has purportedly stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in assorted digital funds.