Homeland Security Uses ICE’s Crypto Intelligence Program For Digital Asset Investigations

The United States' Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently disclosed that its frequent use of the Cryptocurrency Intelligence Program (CIP) for many of its Homeland Security Investigations where they relate to digital asset investigations.

Al Giangregorio, the HSI’s National Bulk Cash Smuggling Center (BCSC) unit chief has stated within an email, that the intel program was recently mentioned for the first time in ICE’s FY budget proposal for 2021.

No other explanations about CIP were given. Here is what Giangregorio said, though:

“The CIP supports any HSI investigation involving virtual currency or blockchain technology. The program has assisted in numerous investigations, including those involving methamphetamine and MDMA dealers, human trafficking, elder fraud, dark net market drug vending, child sexual exploitation sites, and, of course, trafficking in opioids.”

Cryptocurrency Wasn’t a Threat When BCSC Incorporated

Currently, the BCSC, which formally established the CIP, makes use of it in conjunction with the 2001 PATRIOT act to assist ICE's HSI in tracking down financial criminals and cash smugglers.

Back in 2009, when BCSC incorporated, cryptocurrency wasn’t a threat, but it steadily became a more viable avenue for criminal activity, resulting in increased investment in crypto investigation tools by federal agencies. Giangregorio said:

“Over time, the BCSC has recognized that transnational criminal organizations have evolved and diversified [in] the way they transfer illicit proceeds. The BCSC established the CIP to adapt to changing methodologies and technology to target money laundering related to all types of criminal activity.”

HSI’s Anti-Cash Smuggling Experts Have an In-House Program

According to Giangregorio, the transition to digital money has prompted the experts working for HSI’s anti-cash smuggling division to build an in-house program.

This, and ICE’s FY budget proposal for 2021, may indicate how CIP was created. In its budget proposal, CIP is described as an unlicensed money services identifier for businesses conducting illegal crypto brokerage hotspots for darknet markets, peer-to-peer sites, trafficking and so on.

The cost of establishing and running CIP hasn’t been made public yet, but recent documents have shown that from 2017-19, $2.6 million was spent by the agency on contracts with Chainalysis alone.

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