A reporter for Newsweek says she’s unmasked the mysterious Japanese-American man responsible for inventing Bitcoin, the world’s most widely used digital cryptocurrency.
In an article published on the magazine’s website Thursday morning, Leah McGrath Goodman recalled the events of a two-month investigation she undertook recently in an attempt to unearth facts about Satoshi Nakamoto, the man who invented Bitcoin in 2008 but has avoided the media entirely ever since. Nakamoto, however, has denied being its inventor.
Goodman says that Nakamoto is a 64-year-old resident of Temple City, California, but has not used his birth name for the better part of four decades. Instead, she wrote, he’s managed to keep an incredibly low profile under the pseudonym Dorian S. Nakamoto.
At least up until her article went live early Thursday. Within hours Goodman’s scoop was being discussed across all corners of the internet, and before the morning ended there were reportedly journalists camped out in front of Nakamoto’s Southern California home anxious to learn more about one of the most mysterious men on the internet.
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) March 6, 2014
If Goodman’s attempt to do as much is any indication, however, then journalists will likely encounter anything but an easy time in trying to dig deeper. In her article, Goodman wrote that she was barely able to get any information from the man, and only managed to speak with him face-to-face after he called the cops on her.
"He thinks if he talks to you he's going to get into trouble,” one of the police officers allegedly told Goodman.
"I don't think he's in any trouble," she fired back. "I would like to ask him about Bitcoin.”
Nakamoto wasn’t quite interested, though, and Goodman instead resorted on reaching out to multiple members of the man’s family instead to piece together a profile of the person she says invented the cryptocurrency in secret with an internationally-dispersed team of coders.
The story took a surreal turn around noon on Thursday, when media began to chase Nakamoto around Los Angeles while riding in a vehicle with an AP reporter. Nakamoto denied being the cryptocurrency's creator while being chased by reporters into an elevator after the two men emerged from the vehicle upon arriving at the AP's local offices.
The AP published a story of its interview Thursday evening, in which Mr. Nakamoto denied Newsweek's assertion he is "the face behind Bitcoin." In fact, Nakamoto said he had never even heard of the online currency until his son informed him he had been contacted by the press three weeks ago.
— Joe Bel Bruno (@JoeBelBruno) March 6, 2014
According to Goodman, Nakamoto is a model train enthusiast who graduated from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA, with a degree in physics, and worked briefly for the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as an aircraft company now owned by major government contractor Raytheon.
"We were doing defensive electronics and communications for the military, government aircraft and warships, but it was classified and I can't really talk about it," David Micha, the president of the company now called L-3 Communications, recalled of the work his former employee did there.
“Nakamoto's family describe him as extremely intelligent, moody and obsessively private, a man of few words who screens his phone calls, anonymizes his emails and, for most of his life, has been preoccupied with the two things for which Bitcoin has now become known: money and secrecy,” Goodman reported.
"He's a brilliant man,” Nakamoto’s brother told her. “He's very focused and eclectic in his way of thinking. Smart, intelligent, mathematics, engineering, computers. You name it, he can do it."
At the same time, however, Arthur Nakamoto cautioned the journalist: “My brother is an asshole.”
“What you don't know about him is that he's worked on classified stuff. His life was a complete blank for a while. You're not going to be able to get to him. He'll deny everything. He'll never admit to starting Bitcoin,” he told her.
Indeed, the cryptocurrency’s alleged inventor offered Goodman little information if any about his rumored pet project.
"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he told her. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Nakamoto says that this key portion of his exchange with Goodman was misinterpreted. "I'm saying I'm no longer in engineering. That's it," he told the AP. "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."
According to Goodman, though, the exhaustive researching involved in crafting her Newsweek piece has left her certain that the Southern California man she outed is the one who invented Bitcoin.
“I don't have any doubt in my mind, but I am open to new information,” she told Business Insider after her article went live. “For example, if he had helpers whom other people might find. I just don't think you can ever say the information is complete.”
“I really wanted to do something in depth, but I have to say I'm kind of looking forward to somebody being able to get something more in depth,” she said.
Despite Nakamoto's assertions to the AP, Goodman stands by her story. "There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our conversation--and his acknowledgment of his involvement in Bitcoin."