AP Exclusive: Man said to create bitcoin denies it


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto said
Thursday that he is not the creator of bitcoin, adding further mystery
to the story of how the world’s most popular digital currency came to
The denial came after Newsweek published a 4,500-word cover
story claiming Nakamoto is the person who wrote the computer code
underpinnings of bitcoin.
In an exclusive two-hour interview with
The Associated Press, Nakamoto, 64, denied he had anything to do with it
and said he had never heard of bitcoin until his son told him he had
been contacted by a Newsweek reporter three weeks ago.
acknowledged that many of the details in Newsweek’s report are correct,
including that he once worked for a defense contractor, and that his
given name at birth was Satoshi. But he strongly disputed the magazine’s
assertion that he is "the face behind bitcoin."
"I got nothing to do with it," he said, repeatedly.
stands by its story, which kicked off the relaunch of its print edition
after 15 months and reorganization under new ownership.
bitcoin’s birth in 2009, the currency’s creator has remained a mystery.
The person — or people — behind the digital currency’s inception have
been known only as "Satoshi Nakamoto," which many observers believed to
be a pseudonym.
Bitcoin has become increasingly popular among tech
enthusiasts, libertarians and risk-seeking investors because it allows
people to make one-to-one transactions, buy goods and services and
exchange money across borders without involving banks, credit card
issuers or other third parties. Criminals like bitcoin for the same
For various technical reasons, it’s hard to know just how
many people worldwide own bitcoins, but the currency attracted outsize
media attention and the fascination of millions as an increasing number
of large retailers such as Overstock.com began to accept it.
investors have jumped into the bitcoin fray, too, sending the
currency’s value fluctuating wildly in recent months. In December, the
value of a single bitcoin hit an all-time high of $1,200. It was around
$665 on Thursday, according to the website bitcoincharts.com. Bloggers
have speculated that bitcoin’s creator is worth hundreds of millions of
dollars in bitcoin.
After Newsweek posted the story on its website
early Thursday, Nakamoto said his home was bombarded by phone calls. By
mid-morning, a dozen reporters were waiting outside the modest
two-story home on the residential street in Temple City, Calif., where
he lives. He emerged shortly after noon saying he wanted to speak with
one reporter only and asked for a "free lunch."
During a car ride
and then later over sushi lunch at the AP bureau in downtown Los
Angeles, Nakamoto spoke at length about his life, career and family,
addressing many of the assertions in Newsweek’s piece.
He also
said a key portion of the piece — where he is quoted telling the
reporter on his doorstep before two police officers, "I am no longer
involved in that and I cannot discuss it" — was misunderstood.
said he is a native of Beppu, Japan who came to the U.S. as a child in
1959. He speaks both English and Japanese, but his English isn’t
flawless. Asked if he said the quote, Nakamoto responded, "no."
saying I’m no longer in engineering. That’s it," he said of the
exchange. "And even if I was, 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."
"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," he said.
writer Leah McGrath Goodman, who spent two months researching the
story, told the AP: "I stand completely by my exchange with Mr.
Nakamoto. There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our
conversation —and his acknowledgment of his involvement in bitcoin."
magazine pulled together its thesis on the creator’s identity by
matching Nakamoto’s name, educational history, career, anti-government
bent and writing style to the alleged creator of bitcoin. It also quoted
Nakamoto’s estranged wife and other family members who said they
weren’t sure he is the creator.
Several times during the interview
with AP, Nakamoto mistakenly referred to the currency as "bitcom," and
as a single company, which it is not. He said he’s never heard of Gavin
Andresen, a leading bitcoin developer who told Newsweek he’d worked
closely with the person or entity known as "Satoshi Nakamoto" in
developing the system, but that they never met in person or spoke on the
When shown the original bitcoin proposal that Newsweek
linked to in its story, Nakamoto said he didn’t write it, and said the
email address in the document wasn’t his.
"Peer-to-peer can be anything," he said. "That’s just a matter of address. What the hell?
It doesn’t make sense to me."
if he was technically able to come up with the idea for bitcoin,
Nakamoto responded: "Capability? Yes, but any programmer could do that."
nearest Nakamoto has come to working on a financial system, he said,
was a project for Citibank with a company called Quotron, which provided
real-time stock prices to brokerage firms. Nakamoto said he worked on
the software side for about four years starting in 1987.
"That had nothing to do with skipping financial institutions," he said.
said he believes someone either came up with the name or specifically
targeted him to be the fall guy for the currency’s creation.
also said he doesn’t discuss his career because in many cases, his work
was confidential. When he was employed by Hughes Aircraft starting
around 1973, he worked on missile systems for the U.S. Navy and Air
He said he also worked for the Federal Aviation
Administration starting around 1999, but was laid off following the
Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Getting hired by a military contractor was
the reason he applied for and received American citizenship. He decided
around that time to change his name, adding "Dorian Prentice" to
Satoshi Nakamoto, partly to sound more Western. He said he picked
"Dorian" because he says it meant "a man of simplicity" and referred to
the ancient Greek people. "Prentice" alluded to his affinity for
learning, he said.
As he pored over the Newsweek story with a
reporter, Nakamoto repeatedly said "oh jeez," as he read private details
about himself, quotes from family members and even specifics from his
medical history.
"How long is this media hoopla going to last?" he said.
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