Cynthia Lummis leads the charge calling for DOJ action against Binance and Tether

Cynthia Lummis, a crypto proponent representing Wyoming in the United States Senate, has called on the U.S. Justice Department to consider charges against crypto exchange Binance following the terrorist group Hamas’ attack on Israel.

In an Oct. 26 letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Lummis and Arkansas Representative French Hill urged Justice Department officials to “reach a charging decision on Binance” and “expeditiously conclude” investigations of allegedly illicit activities involving Tether. The two lawmakers’ remarks followed Hamas launching a coordinated attack against Israel on Oct. 7, which they suggested was supported in part by illicit crypto transactions “providing significant terrorism financing.”

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“We urge the Department of Justice to carefully evaluate the extent to which Binance and Tether are providing material support and resources to support terrorism through violations of applicable sanctions laws and the Bank Secrecy Act,” said Lummis and Hill. “To that end, we strongly support swift action by the Department of Justice against Binance and Tether to choke off sources of funding to the terrorists currently targeting Israel.”

The letter by Lummis, a Bitcoiner and supporter of crypto legislation in Congress, and Hill, the chair of the Subcommittee on Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion, echoed sentiments expressed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers linking crypto payments to terrorist activities. In contrast to Warren, however, the two Republican lawmakers directed the Justice Department to focus on “bad actors” — in this case, including Binance and Tether.

“[W]e must be careful not to paint all crypto asset intermediaries as suspect when a small handful of bad actors use them for nefarious purposes,” said the letter. “Many crypto asset intermediaries seek to comply with U.S. sanctions and money laundering laws, correctly viewing the regulations as necessary to unlock the promise of crypto assets and distributed ledger technology.”

Related: Advocacy groups push back against Sen. Warren linking crypto with terrorism

In the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, crypto exchange Binance froze accounts linked to Hamas following requests from Israeli law enforcement. However, Lummis and Hill labeled this action as insufficient after the fact, as the exchange allowed terrorist groups to conduct business or was “willfully blind” in doing so. They made similar allegations against Tether for “knowingly facilitating violations of applicable sanctions laws.”

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“While some reports claim Binance is now cooperating with Israeli law enforcement, this is immaterial to criminal culpability because Binance is only doing so after knowingly allowing its exchange to be used by terrorist organizations, and only after they have been caught.”

On Oct. 25, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic released a statement directed to U.S. lawmakers and the media saying there was “no evidence” Hamas had received a significant volume of crypto payments to fund its attacks against Israel. Compared to the millions of dollars claimed by other media outlets, Elliptic said one Hamas-linked campaign had raised only $21,000 since the Oct. 7 attack.

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