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Friday, March 7, 2014

The Father Of Bitcoin Revealed?

Dorian S. Nakamoto talks during an interview with the Associated Press, Thursday, March 6, 2014 in Los Angeles. Nakamoto, the man that Newsweek claims is the founder of Bitcoin, denies he had anything to do with it and says he had never even heard of the digital currency until his son told him he had been contacted by a reporter three weeks ago. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Dorian S. Nakamoto talks during an interview with the Associated Press, Thursday, March 6, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Newsweek is reporting it has found the inventor of Bitcoin. In an article published in its March issue — its first print issue since going all-digital at the end of 2012 — Newsweek senior writer Leah McGrath Goodman tracked down a man in California who matches the name of the inventor of Bitcoin, “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

Long thought to be a pseudonym, or even a group of people, Goodman reported that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto told her he was involved in Bitcoin, but not anymore. Today, Nakamoto is telling people that Goodman and Newsweek got it wrong and that he didn’t understand her questions.

Goodman joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss her reporting and whether she has doubts now that Nakamoto has recanted.

Interview Highlights: Leah McGrath Goodman

How she honed in on Satoshi Nakamoto

“I was working with two forensic researchers, and I had also sought some advice from various academics along the way. And we through all of the possibilities from that Satoshi Nakamoto might be a cipher, whether or not it was a pseudonym. We were assuming that it might be the real name, but maybe this is not someone who goes by that name. But at first it just was a huge field of candidates to be quite honest, and it was all about eliminating. And this was the person who was always the strongest lead; he was from the start the strongest lead that we had. In the beginning I actually overlooked him, and it was another researcher who kind of said, ‘What about this guy? Have we really looked closer?’ And we did, and then it began to build.”

Why she believes the man she found is the founder of Bitcoin

“His family told me that he would deny it. In fact, I was very surprised when he acknowledged it to me when I met with him.”

“When I met with him, I told him I’m here to talk to you about Bitcoin. At the time there were two police officers there. In fact, I think that initially their intention was to just escort me away, but when I said ‘Bitcoin,’ one of them was interested and let me continue talking. And I said, ‘You know, people think you were the founder of Bitcoin.’ And I asked him a few questions about, whether or not it was true, and he said, ‘I cannot talk about that. I’m not connected with it anymore.’ The exact quote is in the story. And I reasserted, ‘We are talking about Bitcoin here, correct?’ And he said, ‘Yes,’ but he went on the say that he would not elaborate at all or answer questions. And, in addition, my last question to him was, ‘If you are in anyway not connected, you need to tell me now,’ and he said, ‘I cannot do that.’”

On the interviews with Nakamoto’s family members

“The interviews were very interesting in that the family members and the Bitcoin developers talked about this man very much as one and the same person. I mean, just down to these details, like that he would call people idiot when he felt intellectually affronted by a mistake. The names that they would use, the words they would use that he would use. It was one of those things where on the slot machine every lemon was lining up, and up until the moment I spoke with him, I was very open to the idea that he would laugh and say, ‘That’s ridiculous. No it’s not me. I can see why you think it might be, but it’s not.’”

On whether she has doubts now that he has denied being the founder

“I don’t have doubts because I know what our conversation consisted of, but I do wonder why now he is coming out and saying this, and to other journalists and not to me. I spoke privately with a few journalists on the West Coast last night right after the — I believe the car chase, and a number of them said that they were puzzling themselves. They didn’t know what to believe. They weren’t sure to believe him, and they felt that the fact he got in a car and was in a car chase didn’t make it look very much like somebody who was being straight. So I think there are a lot of questions, and I am just as eager for answers as everybody else.”

On the question of why he doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars

“That’s the $64,000 question. One of the researchers, I think it was Barbara Matthews, she pointed out, “It’s actually consistent if he’s living a humble life because he hasn’t spent the Bitcoin yet. To this day he hasn’t touched it.”

On what life been like over the last 24 hours

“I have had quite a few emails. There are people who say, ‘Why do we care who he is,’ and then there are others who say, ‘He needs to be able to remain anonymous’ and it’s very interesting to me that there is this idea that something that now so many people are involved in, you know, this one world currency that’s being used globally, that we’re not allowed to ask who started it and what their motivations were. The Bitcoin foundation website has talked about how this is a non-political currency, but the Bitcoin developers who knew Satoshi Nakamoto made it quite clear that they felt that it was completely politically motivated and came from the idea that central banks more or less need not have a monopoly and there should be something that moves outside of the central banking system in the wake of the financial crisis. As you recall, the original proposal for Bitcoin came out in late 2008, and it was launched at the height of the meltdown.”

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

The man that Newsweek is reporting as the creator of bitcoin is denying that the story is true. In an article published yesterday, Newsweek claimed to have found a man in California who matches the name of the inventor of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Reporter Leah McGrath Goodman writes that Nakamoto told her he was once involved but not anymore. But after that story came out, the 64-year-old physicist denied the story to other reporters who were staked out at his house, and then ended up trying to lose them in what turned into a car chase.

Joining us now is Leah McGrath Goodman, senior writer and finance editor for Newsweek who broke the story. She's with us from NPR in New York. Good morning. Welcome.

LEAH MCGRATH GOODMAN: Hi. Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, first of all, tell us how you found the man who is known as Satoshi Nakamoto although his full name is Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto.

GOODMAN: Well, we were looking through all of the different leads. And when I say we, I was working with two forensic researchers. And I had also sought some advice from various academics along the way. And we went through all of the possibilities from that Satoshi Nakamoto might be a cipher, whether or not it was a pseudonym. Or we were assuming that it might be the real name, but maybe this is not someone who goes by that name.

But at first, it just was a huge field of candidates, to be quite honest. And it was all about eliminating. And this was the person who was always the strongest lead. He was, from the start, the strongest lead that we had. In the beginning, I actually overlooked him.

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN: And it was another researcher who kind of said, what about this guy? Have we really looked closer? And we did. And then it began to build.

HOBSON: Well - and tell us about the reasons you think that he is indeed the founder of bitcoin because he doesn't come right out and say it to you even when you talk to him. And he's denying it now.

GOODMAN: Yes. His family told me that he would deny it. In fact, I was very surprised when he acknowledged it to me when I met with him.

HOBSON: Well, when you say acknowledged it, he said, I'm not involved with that anymore, right, so it wasn't exactly that he said I did it.

GOODMAN: Yes. You're completely right. And when I met with him, I told him, I'm here to talk to you about bitcoin. At the time, there were two police officers there. In fact, I think that initially their intention was to just escort me away. But when I said bitcoin, one of them was interested and let me continue talking. And I said, you know, people think that you were the founder of bitcoin. And I asked him a few questions about whether or not it was true, and he said, I cannot talk about that. I'm not connected with it anymore. The exact quote is in the story.

And I re-asserted, we are talking about bitcoin here, correct? And he said, yes. But he went on to say that he would not elaborate at all or answer questions. And in addition, my last question to him was, if you are in any way not connected you need to tell me. You need to tell me now. And he said: I cannot do that.

HOBSON: And his family members have also spoken to you, and they say things that make it sound more like he is indeed the founder of bitcoin.

GOODMAN: The interviews were very interesting in that the family members and the bitcoin developers talked about this man very much as one and the same person. I mean, just down to these details, like that he would call people idiot when he felt intellectually affronted by mistake. The names that they would use, the words they would use that he would use.

It was one of those things where on the slot machine every lemon was lining up. And up until the moment I spoke with him, I was very open to the idea that he would laugh and say that's ridiculous. No, it's not me. I can see why you think it might be, but it's not.

HOBSON: But do you have doubts now because he has come out and said it's not me.

GOODMAN: Yes. Well, I don't have doubts because I know what our conversation consisted of. But I do wonder why now he is coming out and saying this and - to other journalists and not to me. I spoke privately with a few journalists on the West Coast last night right after the - I believe, the car chase, and a number of them said that they were puzzling themselves. They didn't know what to believe.

They weren't sure to believe him, and they felt that the fact he got in a car and was in a car chase didn't make it look very much like somebody who was being straight. So I think, you know, there are a lot of questions, and I am just as eager for answers as everybody else.

HOBSON: But a lot of people are asking why present this as fact in Newsweek rather than presenting it as a theory?

GOODMAN: Well, I reported the facts in the story, and that was what I stuck to throughout the entire piece. There was nothing that wasn't strictly facts, and these facts painted the picture of the man behind bitcoin. But that said, I am very interested in further information. And I was very clear and the editors were very in agreement on the fact that did this man maybe also have helped, you know, in addition to what we already know about the developers who came in later after he designed bitcoin. Were there other people involved in the actual design? We are open to more information, but I do know the information that I have is correct.

HOBSON: Well, you raised an interesting question in the story, and I still have this question, which is if he's the founder of bitcoin, why doesn't he have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bitcoin? And why isn't he living in a nicer place?

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN: Yes. That's the $64,000 question. One of the researchers, I think it was Barbara Matthews, she pointed out, it's actually consistent if he's living a humble life because he hasn't spent the bitcoin yet. To this day, he hasn't touched it.

HOBSON: Well - and some people say that he could be identified through his unique encryption key in the bitcoin that he would own if he is indeed the founder of bitcoin. Could you have not gone through that and figured out if he was the one?

GOODMAN: Well, no one has spent this yet. The bitcoin developers are saying this block, the original block that started bitcoin would need to be spent, or some of it would need to be spent. And whoever was capable of doing that would be the person who started bitcoin. Sadly, that's also a little bit of an assumption, but it's a pretty good one. I think even the chief scientist, Gavin Andresen, believed that the original block was Satoshi Nakamoto's original block. And there seemed to be a breach in his anonymity and his security at one point that seemed to also point to the fact that the creator of bitcoin was the holder of the original block.

HOBSON: Now just to be clear, I want to ask you again, you stand by all of this reporting. You stand by your article, and you stand by the fact that you think he is the founder of bitcoin.

GOODMAN: Yes.

HOBSON: What has your life been like over the last 24 hours or so? And have any people that disagree with this story gotten in touch with you?

GOODMAN: Yes. I have had quite a few emails. There are people who say, why do we care who he is? And then there are others who say, he needs to be able to remain anonymous. And it's very interesting to me that there is this idea that something that now so many people are involved in, you know, this one-world currency that's being used globally, that we're not allowed to ask who started it and what their motivations were.

The Bitcoin Foundation website has talked about how this is a non-political currency, but the bitcoin developers who knew Satoshi Nakamoto made it quite clear that they felt it was completely politically motivated and came from the idea that central banks, more or less, need not have a monopoly and there should be something that moves outside of the central banking system in the wake of the financial crisis. As you recall, the original proposal for bitcoin came out in late 2008, and it was launched at the height of the meltdown.

HOBSON: As someone who has just done so much reporting about bitcoin and the person you believe to be its founder, do you think there's a future of bitcoin? Or do you think that, as some people do, it's on the way out?

GOODMAN: I think there is definitely a future of bitcoin as long as people believe in it. And I do not think there is any reason to demonize the creator of bitcoin, and I don't think there's any reason to demonize bitcoin either. It's kind of an unbelievable financial experiment, and I'm very interested in seeing where it goes. But we do need to not be lax as journalists and say, who's the man behind this? We can't just say, oh, whatever. You know, this is actually very important. This currency really does require deeper delving, and I look forward to seeing other journalists do this with me.

HOBSON: Leah McGrath Goodman, senior writer and finance editor for Newsweek. And we'll link you to her article at our website, hereandnow.org. Leah, thank you so much for joining us.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well - and we are reading online. This has caused such a firestorm there. A lot of people are furious that she doxxed, D-O-X-X-E-D, in other words, outed - the bitcoin founder in her article. This is going to go on for quite a while. What an interesting story.

HOBSON: Absolutely. And doxxing, by the way, which you might have to look up to figure out what that means, it's an abbreviation of document tracing. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • NotSureWhatToThink

    While I agree with the reporter that we are free to ask who created bitcoin, I think she misses the point that the person who created bitcoin should be free to remain anonymous. It’s like climbing over a fence to satisfy one’s curiosity.

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