I love a good puzzle. One of the most recent puzzling scenarios to drift onto my radar screen has been the hotly contested debate about Bitcoin (for proof check out todays NYT DealBook). Regardless of whether you’re an advocate or critic of the use of Bitcoin or others like it , nobody can (or should) deny that the disruption it has caused has been in the works for quite some time. Why were regulators and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network so unprepared to deal with Bitcoin?
Bitcoin and the iconic shiny gold coin JPEG that accompanies it in its public appearances popped up as part of a HORIZON SCAN I did in prep for a class I taught on terrorist financing four years ago. As part of an Advanced Analytic Techniques teaching cadre, I witnessed cases of severe head scratching and eye rolls when I put the shiny gold Bitcoin up on screen. Only one analyst recognized it; we became fast friends.
This isn’t my attempt to say I told you so, it is a call to analysts to remember the value we can add to the organizations we serve. Horizon scans and many other structured analytic techniques are extremely helpful in making sense of large quantities of seemingly irrelevant or useless information. A horizon scan can help an analyst decide on a research agenda, set priorities and identify possible threats. In some scans those items closest to you get top priority because they are deemed the most threatening or worrisome, in others those that appear on the fringe trump because they are less known and perhaps more lethal.
Because of my deep interest in all things money laundering, the NYT’s DealBook today and the Bitcoin Expo in NYC next week, I felt it was fitting to share a horizon scan and “Bitcoin: A Moment in Time” I captured using Recorded Future. Scroll down for the images.
If you also love puzzles: How will the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the members of the international anti-money laundering and terror finance regime deal with mobile money transfer and bump phones? This will become an issue as we continue to follow the money right into countries with very low anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing controls.