New Law Gives US President Power To Block Digital Asset Access


A new U.S. law has granted the president unprecedented authority to block access to digital assets, causing widespread concern about its broad implications and potential impact on users. The sweeping powers are drawing significant criticism from various commentators and industry experts.

Scott Johnsson, a notable figure in the digital assets field, expressed his concerns on social media, stating, “It’s hard to see how this isn’t intended to be a user-level ban power by the President on any protocol or smart contract deemed by the Treasury Secretary to be ‘controlled, operated, or made available’ by a foreign sanctions violator. The scope and implications are breathtaking, potentially forcing users to comply with KYC/permissioned chains.”

This new law, championed by Senator Mark Warner, includes legislative elements that grant the U.S. president expansive powers over digital assets. These measures were discreetly included, leading to significant scrutiny and debate.

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The law broadly defines “digital assets,” encompassing any digital representation of value recorded on cryptographically secured distributed ledgers. It includes communication protocols, smart contracts, and other software that enable users to interact and agree to the terms of a trade for digital assets.

Under this new legislation, the president can block transactions between U.S. persons and foreign entities identified as supporting terrorist organizations. This includes imposing strict conditions on foreign financial institutions maintaining accounts in the U.S. if they are found facilitating such transactions. The law states, “Prohibit any transactions between any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and a foreign digital asset transaction facilitator identified under paragraph (1).”

The implications for digital asset users are significant. Johnsson’s analysis suggests that the law’s broad applicability could compel users to join Know Your Customer (KYC)-compliant and permissioned blockchain networks, ultimately limiting them to regulated blockchains. He warns that this move could be perceived as an effort to exert control over digital assets under the guise of combating terrorism.

The elements allegedly added by Warner to enable this presidential empowerment are borrowed from the Terrorism Financing Prevention Act. This act, introduced in December 2023, allows the U.S. Treasury Department to tackle emerging threats involving digital assets.

Industry experts fear that this legislation could have far-reaching consequences, potentially stifling innovation and limiting the freedom that decentralized digital assets provide. By enforcing stringent regulations and KYC compliance, the law might drive users towards permissioned blockchains, reducing the appeal and utility of decentralized platforms.

The digital asset community is closely watching how this new law will be implemented and its potential impact on the industry. There are concerns that such broad powers could be misused or lead to unintended consequences, affecting not just those involved in illicit activities but also legitimate users and innovators in the digital asset space.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital assets, regulatory measures are necessary to ensure security and compliance. However, striking the right balance between regulation and innovation is crucial to fostering growth and maintaining the decentralized nature of blockchain technology.

As this new law takes effect, it will be essential to monitor its implementation and the responses from both the digital asset community and the broader financial sector. The coming months will likely see increased discussions and debates on how to navigate the complexities of regulating digital assets while preserving their core values of decentralization and user autonomy.