WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Some lawmakers are renewing calls to regulate cryptocurrency after the Treasury Department confirmed Hamas used it to fundraise donations.
According to the department, donations to Hamas through cryptocurrency spiked after the group’s Oct. 7 attack in Israel.
Dozens of lawmakers are calling for a crackdown.
“We should be just as concerned about crypto as we are about Iran,” said Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill.
Casten is pushing for regulations to prevent terrorist groups from using cryptocurrency to launder money and bypass international sanctions.
“I think the most important thing we can do right now is push the players in the industry to put protections in place that make it impossible,” he said.
The Treasury Department says it is working with the private sector to freeze Hamas’ digital assets.
“We intend to use all of our tools to go after each of these financial lifelines that Hamas has,” Brian Nelson, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said.
The department says the bulk of donations before and after the attack came from neighboring nations.
“This is one of the reasons I traveled to the Gulf to discuss the ways we can partner together to ensure that Hamas is not abusing the international financial system,” Nelson said.
The Treasury Department would not say how much money Hamas raised, but a report in The Wall Street Journal estimates groups like Hamas have received over $130 million in cryptocurrency since 2021.
But at a banking hearing last week, Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said he doubts the number is that high.
“Could be overestimated by as much as 99%,” Hagerty said.
Hagerty pushed against regulations he says could push cryptocurrency deeper into the shadows.
“In this case, we need a scalpel, not a sledgehammer,” he said.
Hagerty says the focus should be cutting off Iran’s funding.
The Treasury Department would not say if stiffer sanctions against Iran are in the pipeline.