WIRED: ‘The Puzzling Testimony of Craig Wright, Self-Styled Inventor of Bitcoin’

“The cross-examination of Craig Wright, a computer scientist defending his claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin in court, proceeded fitfully over the course of seven days. In the UK High Court, opposing counsel Jonathan Hough bombarded Wright with examples of what he argued were anomalies that showed Wright had forged or manipulated evidence on which his claim to being the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto depends. He contested them all, weaving a patchwork of justifications whose thread became increasingly difficult to follow.

“This is just another fairy story, isn’t it,” said Hough on Wednesday, losing patience with Wright, from whom he stood opposite in a packed London courtroom. “No, it is not,” Wright replied. It was the ninth hour of a cross-examination that would last more than 30. This type of exchange would repeat over and again: “We’re going round in circles,” said Hough in one instance. “You are simply saying that black is white,” he told Wright, in another.

Wright was being cross-examined as part of a case brought against him by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance, a nonprofit consortium of crypto and tech firms. Since 2016, Wright has claimed to be Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, and filed a raft of intellectual property lawsuits on that basis. To prevent Wright from pursuing further litigation that could intimidate developers into retreating from Bitcoin, COPA is asking the court to declare that he is not Nakamoto.

The ruling will spill over into three related cases, brought by Wright against Bitcoin developers and other parties, the outcome of which will shape the future development of Bitcoin. If the court rules in Wright’s favor, and he subsequently wins his own cases, he would be free to dictate who can work on the Bitcoin codebase and under what terms the system can be used. “In the eyes of the law, [Wright] is asking for ultimate control over the Bitcoin network,” claims a representative of the Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit that is funding the defense of Bitcoin developers in a separate lawsuit filed by Wright, who asked to remain nameless for fear of legal retaliation.

For every anomaly presented by COPA, Wright supplied an explanation. He claimed, variously, that a printing error had caused a misalignment of pixels that gave the appearance of tampering; the complexity of the IT systems used in the editing and storage of documents was not reflected in the testing conducted by the experts; and that his documents may have been altered by staff members in whose custody they had been left. In instances where Wright agreed that a document was inauthentic, he said he had fallen victim to cybersecurity breaches, had never intended to rely on them to support his claim, or implied that documents had been planted by adversaries to undermine him.

A central feature of Wright’s strategy for deflecting the forgery allegations appeared to be to cast doubt on the credibility of the forensic experts. Prior to the start of the trial, experts put forward by both sides had jointly concluded that many of Wright’s documents bear signs of manipulation. In the witness box, Wright claimed that COPA’s expert is “completely biased.” Presented with the unflattering findings of his own experts, Wright declared them “unskilled” or otherwise unqualified, blaming his previous solicitors for selecting them.

If he had actually set out to forge evidence, Wright insisted, citing his own qualifications in digital forensics, the forgeries would not be nearly so amateurish. “The irony is that if I were to manipulate or fabricate documents, they would be perfect,” he said. On various occasions, Wright cited his own personal testing—which Hough reminded him repeatedly was inadmissible—to explain how documents might end up bearing signs of tampering for innocuous reasons.”

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