Bloodchitst to Bitcoins: Special Operations Uses for Cryptocurrency
by Blake Miles
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on zapchain.com [Editor’s Note: link inaccessible as of September 23, 2019] and is re-posted here with the permission of the original author. This first appeared in The Havok Journal October 27, 2018.
One of the more interesting pieces of equipment I was ever issued during my time in the military was something called a ‘blood chit’. These are typically only issued out to individuals who face an increased risk of needing to escape or evade capture. Ultimately, blood chits are valuable for one simple reason: bribery.
Blood chits are small sheets of cloth-paper, similar to dollars with serial numbered corners and writing covering the sheet in many of the major languages of the world.
In those numerous language, the message is roughly: ‘The individual standing in front of you screwed up badly and would totally be your best friend if you help. Redeem this chit and Uncle Sam will be your best friend too!’
These sorts of devices and instruments are not new. Simply owning specific ‘coins of the realm’ could bring trust or prestige upon the holder in certain situations.
These sorts of instruments could be immensely valuable if used wisely in the countless, quiet conflicts that are being waged across the globe. Unconventional and asymmetric wars are the conflicts that you don’t typically hear about because they’re being waged by professionals and state actors have a vested interest in keeping them out of the headlines. But just like any other war, there is a required expenditure of treasure (and still blood).
In my search for ways I could use my somewhat unique experience to contribute to a recent discussion about “blockchain,” I recognized that there isn’t much open discussion about the ways in which cryptocurrencies could be used in the countless asymmetrical, unconventional, and generally screwed-up conflicts that are scattered around the globe.
No sensitive or classified tradecraft will be shared and I’m certain anyone with the mind and motivation could come to similar conclusions. My knowledge is based primarily on training, some real-world experience, and a criminal mind (I consider this a curse, but I digress).
So here’s a quick and dirty list of operational uses in the multi-dimensional chess board of asymmetric warfare:
- Surreptitious Payment of Contacts – This is a big, easy one. Provided your people have the means to convert cryptocurrencies into fiat currencies, being able to pay them large quantities of VALUE (not necessarily money) without having to carry around large wads of local currencies or dollars is a major blessing. Regardless, they can always save it or send to relatives who can exchange into fiat. This variable gives a great degree of operational flexibility.
- Encrypted Information within Blockchain Contracts – ‘Answer these questions and acquire a picture of this individual, upload it, and receive your payment.’ Simple, easy, and potentially a ‘fire-and-forget’ relationship if need be. Encrypted contracts could be sent without ever even needing to meet in person with a contact, thus lowering the threat levels for both parties. Highly valuable for operational security.
- Improved Flexibility of Operational Funds – Nothing is more disheartening than a denied funding request for that shiny new up-armored Land Rover with a machine gun mount attached to the roof. The world of unconventional warfare is just that: unconventional. There is a thin line of white and black surrounding a twisted field of grey. Sometimes black markets can get you what you need operationally much faster than that accountant that is always asking about your reconciled operational funds.
Covert Resource Caches – Power hungry tend to be willing to acquire weapons and recruit people to use them. This creates an obvious conflict of interest with any otherwise law abiding neighbors and often leads to bloodshed. This is exacerbated when available resources are in such short supply that just owning them makes you and your family targets for kidnapping or murder.
Cryptocurrencies create a way for private citizens to hide sums of value that would otherwise attract unwanted attention. Say for instance, a Scrooge McDuck sized vault of gold coins for swimming in. Huey, Duey, and Looey would have been sitting in orange jumpsuits on camera pleading with Scrooge to send the ransom money. This is not a problem for block chain because billions of dollars, bitcoins, goats, or AK-47 rounds can be entrusted to be stored in someones head. This is a major operational advantage to carrying suitcases of cash around.
- Generation of Real Incentive and Opportunity – One of the worst mistakes that can be made in unconventional warfare is to ignore the human element. Truly, most people only want their families to be safe and to have access to opportunities and happiness. Most Westerners haven’t dealt with a complete distrust of central authority, to include banks. Distrust in these institutions is command (and arguably wise and good), but absolute distrust is something entirely different and often stems from a justifiably mortal fear of that authority. From the perspective of someone who is trying to create peace through prosperity, cryptocurrencies can provide truly tangible access to the outside world while bypassing the local insanity of back-stabbing and political intrigue. This places a very valuable tool in the unconventional warrior’s tool box.
Just as the blood chit works because the US Government will go to great lengths to get her people back, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin can work if both the recipient AND the transmitter trust the integrity of the claims of value made. In a world where trust is fleeting and integrity is often a joke, faith in numbers can be a comforting tactic.