I am not Bitcoin's founder: Man denies Newsweek claim

Newsweek magazine returned to print this month with a cover story identifying Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto of Temple City, Calif., as the founder of Bitcoin. Mr. Nakamoto now has a lawyer for the matter.

Damian Dovarganes/AP
Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto listens during an interview with the Associated Press, March 6, in Los Angeles. Mr. Nakamoto, the man whom Newsweek claims is the founder of Bitcoin, denies he had anything to do with it.

Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto is a model-train collector, an electrical engineer, and a programmer. But he is not, he insists, the father of Bitcoin – no matter what Newsweek’s Leah McGrath Goodman says.

“I did not create, invent or otherwise work on Bitcoin,” Mr. Nakamoto said in a statement released via attorney Ethan Kirschner and first reported on Twitter by Reuters blogger Felix Salmon. “I have no knowledge of nor have I ever worked on cryptography, peer-to-peer systems, or alternative currencies."

Newsweek first published Ms. Goodman’s claim on March 6 as the cover story of the magazine’s first print edition in more than a year.

After a two-month-long investigation, Goodman purported to have uncovered the true identity of the digital currency’s founder – a man previously known only by the supposed pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Newsweek’s editor in chief, Jim Impoco, told The New York Times that the magazine is standing behind the report.

The reporter came across this Mr. Nakamoto while browsing a database of naturalized US citizens' registration cards. She first contacted him via e-mail and chatted about model steam trains, but said that he stopped replying when she started asking about Bitcoin. That was when she showed up at his door.

When Goodman confronted Nakamoto, she wrote that he responded by calling the police.

Flanked by two officers, he refused to answer her questions other than saying, “I am no longer involved in that, and I can’t discuss it” – a statement that she reported as tacit acknowledgement.

The two officers later confirmed Goodman’s account of the conversation. While Nakamoto has not disputed the quote, he says he was referring to his work as an electrical engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I’m saying I’m no longer in engineering. That’s it,” he told the Associated Press. “When we get hired, you have to sign this document, contract saying you will not reveal anything we divulge during and after employment. So that’s what I implied."

He continued, "It sounded like I was involved before with Bitcoin and looked like I’m not involved now. That’s not what I meant. I want to clarify that.”

In an effort to explain a gap in his employment that Goodman had identified as “a career shrouded in secrecy,” Nakamoto said that he had not been able to find steady work as an engineer or programmer for a decade.

“I discontinued my Internet service in 2013 due to severe financial distress,” his statement reads. He also noted that he dealt with significant health issues in 2012 and 2013.

In the time since the Newsweek story broke, Nakamoto has had a flurry of journalists approach him at his Temple City, Calif., home.

Goodman acknowledged in her article that there are multiple Satoshi Nakamotos around the world.

“Of course, there is also the chance ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ is a pseudonym, but that raises the question why someone who wishes to remain anonymous would choose such a distinctive name,” she wrote.

The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto has been a mystery ever since Bitcoin’s inception in 2009.

Bitcoin’s chief scientist, Gavin Andresen, told Goodman that he had worked closely with the mysterious Nakamoto in 2010 and 2011, but only through e-mails and private messages.

“Back then, it was not clear that creating Bitcoin might be a legal thing to do.” Mr. Andresen told Goodman. “He went to great lengths to protect his anonymity.”

Since then, Bitcoin has gained a foothold as a meaningful – if not uncertain – currency.

In November, US law enforcement and regulatory officials appeared at the first-ever congressional hearing on virtual currencies.Then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, who was not present at the hearing, told senators in a letter that virtual currencies “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure, and more efficient payment system.”

Questions about the identity of the cryptocurrency’s founder are just one more installment in Bitcoin’s controversial history. Other events include the federal seizure of $3.5 million in bitcoins from the online black marketplace known as Silk Road, the disappearance of 850,000 bitcoins held by the Bitcoin exchange MtGox, and the apparent suicide of the CEO of another Bitcoin exchange, First Meta.

 Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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