- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bitcoin could soon be banned in the European Union pending the outcome of a meeting scheduled for Friday in Brussels in the wake of last week’s deadly terror attacks in the French capital.

E.U. member countries at the summit will discuss whether digital cryptocurrencies should be restricted following the attacks in Paris, Reuters reported Thursday.

A draft document obtained by Reuters suggests the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, will propose measures to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by prepaid cards.”

The E.U. ministers will discuss plans “to curb more effectively the illicit trade in cultural goods” through new measures, Reuters reported.

Absent a central bank or governing authority, Bitcoin is a so-called cryptocurrency that allows users to buy and sell goods and services without dealing with government regulations. When used in tandem with proper operation security, Bitcoin can be used to purchase items on the Internet — contraband included — without leaving behind a paper trail.

Friday’s summit will take place seven days after a series of coordinated attacks unfolded in the French capital, killing more than 100 and injuring scores more. The Islamic State terror group has taken responsibility for what French President Francois Hollande has labeled an “act of war.”

Government officials in the E.U. and abroad have suggested in the days since that the extremists who carried out last week’s events were able to evade authorities by plotting over encrypted communication platforms and using other secure means to stay hidden ahead of the attack. On Wednesday, the European Commission said earlier this week it will investigate whether digital currencies, including Bitcoin, had enabled terrorists to better finance their plots.

Despite speculation, however, subsequent reports have so far failed to positively link the terror suspects to any encrypted programs that could have been used to communicate off the radar of authorities. Nevertheless, officials in the U.S. have echoed calls from European lawmakers who have advocated for expanded authority on the heels of last week’s attacks.

When the Islamic State locates a potential recruit on the web, “they move them to a mobile messaging app that’s end-to-end encrypted,” FBI Director James Comey claimed during an event in New York City this week. “At that moment, the needle we’ve been searching the whole nation to find, and have found, goes invisible to us. That is the ‘going dark’ problem.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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