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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.
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."
This story aired on March 7, 2014.
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