Rep Tom Emmer, a United States Congress member and crypto advocate, is seeking answers from the United States Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen on the sanctioned Tornado Cash cryptocurrency mixing service.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) added Tornado Cash to a long list of sanctioned crypto protocols which also includes Blender.io. According to the government watchdog, Tornado Cash has been used to launder funds in excess of $7 billion with over $400 million belonging to the North Korea hacking syndicate, the Lazarus Group.
In the letter sent by Rep Tom Emmer, Janet Yellen was asked to clarify why such unique sanctions were declared on a piece of technology.
“These sanctions are unique, however, in that they were not levied against a person or an entity, but against ‘privacy-enabling’ code,” Emmer wrote.
The questions fielded by the US lawmaker echo the concerns of stakeholders in the digital currency ecosystem since the sanctions were announced. With Tornado Cash being purely operated by smart contracts, the community raised alarms even through street protests in Amsterdam on how the sanctions and subsequent arrest of Alex Pertsev could set a bad precedent that will see open source developers targeted for their work.
“How does OFAC intend to uphold the appeals process for the sanctioned addresses that have no ability to appeal the sanction to OFAC” as the addresses are smart contracts with no agency and cannot speak for themselves, Emmer wrote, seeking more clarifications. “Given that the Tornado Cash back-end will operate unchanged as an anonymizing technology as long as the Ethereum network continues to operate, who or what entity did OFAC believe was reasonably responsible for imposing controls on the Tornado Cash blockchain contracts?”
The broader community condemned the onslaught on Tornado Cash, reiterating amongst other things that creators of a code cannot determine how their products will be used, and many are adding to the requests from Rep Emmer to free Alex Pertsev.
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