The man Newsweek claims is the founder of Bitcoin denied he had anything to do with the digital currency.
In an exclusive two-hour interview with The Associated Press, Dorian Prentice SatoshiNakamoto, 64, said he had never heard of Bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a Newsweek reporter three weeks ago.
Nakamoto 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.
Newsweek stands by its story.
Since Bitcoin's birth in 2009, the currency's creator has remained a mystery. The person — or people — behind its founding have been known only as "Satoshi Nakamoto," which many observers believed to be a pseudonym.
After the story was posted on Newsweek's 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 4,500-word 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.
Nakamoto said he is a native of Beppu, Japan who came to the U.S. when he was 10. He speaks both English and Japanese, but his English isn't flawless. Asked if he said the quote, Nakamoto responded, "no."
"I'm 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.
Newsweek 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."
Thursday's pursuit of Nakamoto
After a Newsweek article Thursday morning, reporters swarmed the home of the man reputed to behind the creation of Bitcoin virtual currency Thursday, pursuing him to the downtown office of an AP reporter.
The chase came after Newsweek said it had tracked Satoshi Nakamoto, the almost mythological founder of Bitcoin, to the Southern Californian enclave of Temple City. In their latest issue, the magazine profiled Nakamoto, who they said is the same man believed to be behind the currency.
But as reporters massed at his home Thursday, Nakamoto denied involvement in Bitcoin. He then added that he wanted a free lunch and chose to leave with an Associated Press reporter. The exchange was caught on video by BuzzFeed's Hunter Schwarz:
Nakamoto and the reporter left the home and eventually ended at AP's downtown Los Angeles bureau, with the other reporters following behind. When the L.A. Times' Andrea Chang caught up with Nakamoto in an elevator at the bureau, Nakamoto reportedly told her that he was never involved with Bitcoin.
A throng of reporters remained outside the AP's office as they interviewed Nakamoto, even after they were asked to leave by the office court's property manager.
Is there a real Satoshi Nakamoto?
Satoshi Nakamoto, the man credited with creating the Bitcoin virtual currency, has remained a mysterious figure for much of the shadowy coinage's history. Some have wondered whether the moniker was even an actual person — rather than a pseudonym or a group.
Newsweek's report that it had found the real Satoshi Nakamoto was a shock. In their report, Nakamoto had seemed to be acknowledging a role in creating the technical standards for Bitcoin when confronted by a Newsweek reporter, saying "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it."
The story comes amid a spike in interest in Bitcoin, as the anonymous, supposedly untraceable currency rose to over $1,200 last year before crashing down to $130 last week, when the most popular Bitcoin currency exchange — Mt. Gox — went under. The defunct exchange lost almost all its users funds. Some say that could spell the end for Bitcoin.
Experts say potential users aren't likely to continue using Bitcoin if they don't feel that their money is going to be secure.
You can read more at Newsweek.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Temple City.
This story has been updated.
— Mike Roe with KPCC staff