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Newsweek Says It’s Found Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto

How reporters tracked down a reclusive California physicist and programmer.

It’s been the biggest mystery on the Internet: who created Bitcoin?

Newsweek says it knows the answer. In its latest issue, the magazine reports that Bitcoin’s creator is a cranky 64-year-old Japanese-American programmer living in Southern California who wasn’t too enthusiastic about being discovered. In fact, when reporter Leah McGrath Goodman confronted him about Bitcoin, he called the police.

“I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. “It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”

Exactly who created Bitcoin has been a riddle since 2008, when someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto posted a paper describing the idea for a digital currency under the title Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. 

Yet because the program’s author never stepped forward, but instead ceased communication in 2011, “Satoshi Nakamoto” was widely believed to be a pseudonym, perhaps an anagram, or even an anonymous group of programmers. But Newsweek’s shoe-leather reporting (which involved searching databases of naturalized citizens) concludes the answer is much simpler: Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic genius behind Bitcoin is, in fact, an enigmatic genius whose birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto, although he goes by Dorian.

According to Newsweek:

Nakamoto’s family describe him as extremely intelligent, moody and obsessively private, a man of few words who screens his phone calls, anonymizes his e-mails and, for most of his life, has been preoccupied with the two things for which Bitcoin has now become known: money and secrecy.

According to the magazine story, Nakamoto has a background doing work on military systems, collects model trains as a hobby, and holds a degree in physics from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. He worked at Hughes Aircraft, now part of Raytheon, at RCA in New Jersey, and later as a software engineer for Nortel Networks and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Recently, mainstream interest in Bitcoin by investors has surged and its price has fluctuated wildly (see “Show Me the Bitcoins”). By Newsweek’s tally, Nakamoto, who lives in a modest house and has six children, sits on an unspent Bitcoin fortune worth $400 million.

The Newsweek story falls short of offering definitive proof of Nakamoto’s identity as Bitcoin’s inventor. If this is the creator of Bitcoin, where’s the record of his previous work in computer programming, his patents, or publications? Instead, the magazine spends time discussing whether his writing and thought patterns match those of e-mails sent by Bitcoin’s author several years ago. 

That’s somewhat thin yarn to weave a case from. Here’s hoping the Bitcoin mystery will go on.

[UPDATE 3/7/2014]

After being besiged by reporters at his home, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto has told the Associated Press he is not the creator of Bitcoin. During a two-hour interview, Nakamoto said he had not heard of Bitcoin until Newsweek began contacting his family members three weeks ago, the AP reports. 

“I got nothing to do with it,” he said, repeatedly.

So is he, or isn’t he? At Reuters, columnist Felix Salmon provides a deconstruction of the unfolding events.

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