October 18, 2023

Warren, Marshall, Casten, 100+ Lawmakers Ask Biden Administration to Address Crypto-Financed Terrorism after Reports of Hamas Raising Millions in Crypto to Fund Operations

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Raised Millions in Crypto in Months Leading Up to Attack on Israel, Evading Sanctions

Lawmakers Concerned by “Clear and Present Danger” Posed by Crypto’s Use by Terror Groups

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and U.S. Representative Sean Casten (D-Ill.) led 102 lawmakers in a bipartisan letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Brian Nelson, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), raising grave concerns about reports that in the months leading up to their brutal October 7th terrorist attack on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) raised millions of dollars via crypto, evading U.S. sanctions to fund their operations. The lawmakers are asking the Biden administration to provide information about how it plans to prevent crypto-financed terrorism. 

“Between August 2021 and this past June, (Hamas and PIJ) raised over $130 million in crypto, and moved millions among each other, ‘with PIJ sending over $12 million in crypto to Hezbollah since 2023. As the Wall Street Journal reports, ‘(r)esearchers who study Hamas’s financing said crypto remains one of a number of tools the group uses to raise funds.’ Given the clear and present danger posed by the financing of these and other militant organizations, we ask the Administration to provide additional details on its plan to prevent the use of crypto for the financing of terrorism,” wrote the lawmakers. 

On the morning of October 7th, Hamas militants fired an estimated 2,200 rockets towards Israel, as hundreds of militants entered Israel on motorcycles and motorboats. As of October 11, 2023, over 1,200 people have died in Israel as a result of the attacks, and 2,900 have been wounded. While “(i)t couldn’t be determined whether the crypto they received was directly used to finance the assault,” Hamas has been clear in its solicitations for crypto about the intended use of the assets. In a Telegram post asking for bitcoin, it said, “(t)he reality of jihad is the expenditure of effort and energy, and money is the backbone of war.”

The lawmakers noted that both the Israeli and U.S. governments have warned of the threat that crypto poses in the fight against terrorism, and Israel previously seized crypto assets from terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah. Experts believe that only a small percentage of the overall crypto funds flowing through Hamas and PIJ have been captured. 

“That the deadly attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians comes as the group has become ‘one of the most sophisticated crypto users in the terror-finance domain’ clarifies the national security threat crypto poses to the U.S., and our allies. Congress and this Administration must take strong action to thoroughly address crypto illicit finance risks before it can be used to finance another tragedy. As Congress considers legislative proposals designed to mitigate crypto money laundering and illicit finance risks, we urge you to swiftly and categorically act to meaningfully curtail illicit crypto activity and protect our national security and that of our allies,” concluded the lawmakers. 

The lawmakers are asking a set of questions about Treasury and the Biden administration’s plans to address the serious national security threats posed by crypto’s use to finance terrorism by October 31, 2023. 

The signers of the letter are: 

Senators John Kennedy (R-La.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) - Chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Gary Peters (D-Mich.) - Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ben Cardin (D-Md.) - Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jack Reed (D-R.I.) - Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mark Warner (D-Va.) - Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) - Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) - Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jon Tester (D-Mont.) - Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) - Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Representatives Colin Allred (D-Texas), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Donald Davis (D-N.C.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Christopher Deluzio (D-Pa.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) Al Green (D-Texas), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), David Scott (D-Ga.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David Trone (D-Md.), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Lou Correra (D-Calif.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), James Himes (D-Conn.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Morgan McGarvey (D-Ky.), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), and Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.).

Senator Warren is an outspoken advocate for regulation and oversight of crypto to rein in unchecked illegal activity and protect consumers and the safety and stability of the financial system:

  • In September 2023, Senators Warren, Marshall, Manchin, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced an expanded coalition of Senate support for their bipartisan Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, announcing 11 new cosponsors of their legislation – Senators Peters, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Smith, King, Shaheen, Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Blumenthal, Bennet, Cortez Masto, Fetterman, and Whitehouse.
  • In July 2023, Senator Warren, along with Senators Marshall, Manchin, and Graham reintroduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, legislation that would mitigate the risks that digital assets pose to our national security by closing loopholes and bringing the digital asset ecosystem into greater compliance with the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) frameworks governing the greater financial system.
  • In July 2023, at a hearing, Senator Warren warned about the national security risks of rogue states using crypto to evade sanctions and fund their weapons programs, spying, and cyberattacks – calling out North Korea for stealing over $3 billion in crypto over the past 5 years, and using proceeds to fund its illegal nuclear weapons program,
  • In May 2023, a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren called out crypto’s role in fueling the fentanyl crisis and announced she will reintroduce her bipartisan Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act, a bill that would close loopholes in anti-money laundering rules, cutting off drug suppliers and cartels from using crypto to facilitate their illegal business. 
  • In May 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warren questioned senior intelligence officials about crypto’s threats to national security as the method of choice for countries to evade sanctions and fund weapons programs, support spying, and promote cyber attacks.
  • In February 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator Warren raised concerns that key parts of the crypto industry are not subject to the same money laundering laws that cover other financial organizations, allowing financial criminals to use crypto to launder billions. 
  • On December 14, 2022, Senators Warren and Marshall introduced the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation that would mitigate the risks that crypto and other digital assets pose to the United States’s national security by closing loopholes in the existing anti-money laundering and countering of the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework and bring the digital asset ecosystem into greater compliance with the rules that govern the rest of the financial system.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling on the Treasury Department and the Financial Stability Oversight Council to build a strong regulatory framework for the crypto market.
  • In March 2022, Senators Warren, Reed, Warner, and Tester introduced the Digital Asset Sanctions Compliance Enhancement Act to ensure that Vladimir Putin and Russian elites don't use digital assets to undermine the international community’s economic sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
  • In March 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren highlighted the various crypto tools that could make it easier for sanctioned individuals to hide their wealth and lessen the impact of Russian sanctions.
  • In March 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren warned that crypto may allow Russia to dodge sanctions and urged stronger regulation of the crypto market to ensure that countries, drug traffickers, cyber criminals, and tax cheats can’t evade economic pain.
  • In March 2022, Senators Warren, Warner, Reed, and Brown sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, asking about the Treasury Department’s plans to enforce sanctions-compliance guidance for the crypto industry to ensure that economic sanctions remain an effective tool for achieving foreign policy goals.