Over the 15 years since Bitcoin was created, there has been an array of conspiracy theories surrounding its origins. Some believe that Bitcoin was created by a group of engineers in the Chinese Communist Party, while others think it was the work of benevolent aliens. However, one theory that has persisted over the years is that Bitcoin was created by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).
This theory stems from the use of the Secure Hash Algorithm 256 (SHA-256) in Bitcoin’s source code. This algorithm, which garbles data into seemingly random text, was the work of mathematician Glenn M. Lilly under the direction of the NSA. The NSA was also one of the first organizations to propose a Bitcoin-like system in a 1996 paper titled “How To Make A Mint: The Cryptography Of Anonymous Electronic Cash.”
Another piece of evidence cited by proponents of this theory is the pseudonymous name of Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, which can be interpreted as a reference to the CIA. Nakamoto, translated from Japanese, means “central,” while Satoshi means “intelligent.” Some believe that this is a deliberate nod to the U.S. spy agency.
Former NSA cryptanalyst Jeff Man acknowledges that it is feasible that the NSA could have created Bitcoin to gather intelligence, but he has doubts based on his experience at the agency. Man explains that the NSA has historically been cautious about breaching its charter and conducting surveillance on U.S. citizens. He believes that the agency takes its role of gathering signals intelligence from foreign sources seriously.
However, Man notes that he left the agency in 1996, and the events of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the subsequent Patriot Act may have changed the agency’s approach. The Edward Snowden leaks in 2013 also alleged that the NSA had been gathering data on domestic internet communications without proper warrants.
While some Bitcoiners find these conspiracy theories intriguing, most dismiss the idea that the NSA or any other intelligence agency invented Bitcoin. They argue that the use of SHA-256 in Bitcoin is not unique to the cryptocurrency and is widely used in various applications. They also point out that the pseudonymous nature of Satoshi Nakamoto does not necessarily indicate intelligence training.
Ultimately, it is unlikely that we will ever know for certain whether the NSA or any other intelligence agency was involved in the creation of Bitcoin. The anonymity surrounding Bitcoin’s creator and the lack of concrete evidence make it difficult to prove or disprove these theories. As with many conspiracy theories, the truth may remain a mystery.