The suspects have typically been known cryptographers that fit the profile based partly on the type of language and formatting he used. Britishisms in his communications led The New Yorker to finger Michael Clear (he has denied being Satoshi) and question whether other well known crypto experts might have invented it.
Others have suggested that since the communications also included American spelling the author behind the pseudonym might actually be a group of people collaborating. This would help explain the high level of competence across multiple disciplines needed to invent Bitcoin and displayed by Satoshi in communications.
Governments are held to rely on fiat currencies since they can print money and devalue their own currency. This reprices debt held in their currency in real terms (making it cheaper to service and also eventually inflating it away entirely - even with relatively small inflation the rule of 72 takes care of this in a time frame acceptable to a government).
Taking away this ability leaves governments with more politically volatile methods of raising money such as increasing taxes. This is especially problematic since in recessions and depressions - times when tax hikes are most needed - people already feel under financial pressure and are less likely to accept even more financial pressure from their elected representatives.
We are all aware that file sharing caused a major shake up in the record industry and film industry and the lengths they have gone to to shut down sites like Napster and The Pirate Bay. However no amount of lobbying, court cases and even technological attacks has managed to make any real dent in file sharing or the peer to peer networks it uses.
Peer-to-peer networks by their nature, much like the internet itself, have no single point of failure. It is this key attribute that gives them their resilience and allowed them to stand the test of time. The sheer numbers win out over even the largest of wallets.
Whether you agree with file sharing and its effects on copyright holders or not, without accepting a severely restricted internet they and their effects are here to stay.
The gradual tailing off of bitcoin production is designed to ensure deflation of the currency (holding or increasing its value in real terms as opposed to losing it for fiat currencies) and encourages those with a vested interest (the many that already hold bitcoins) to keep this the status quo. Anyone therefore investing in bitcoin either for production or as a store of value is not apt to agree that they should be devalued by changing the algorithm to produce more.
This attribute of bitcoin then is set in stone, along with its other technological abilities. Once bitcoin exists, there is no going back.
A New Reserve currency
But bitcoin isn't the first asset to hold its value in real terms. Gold has been around and recognised as an asset (and frequently used as the basis for a monetary system) for millenia. The existence of gold doesn't pose a threat to fiat currencies today so why should bitcoin?
The real issue comes if a deflationary currency becomes the world reserve currency and supplants the dollar. If this were to happen then even the dominant superpower would be unable to inflate away their debts in what are (for them) real terms and other countries would be unable to take advantage of the same devaluation by keeping step - effectively repricing the value of all currencies around the world. This sounds like a tall order in the extreme - and it is - but if bitcoin survives technological attacks then over the course of 50 years as new generations who are newcomers to both the dollar and bitcoin appear there is every reason to think they will treat bitcoin as the standard and fiat currencies as the dinosaur.
If bitcoin won't go away then much like the content industry change might simply be a matter of time.
A position of strength
If the NSA with its world renowned cryptographers, lots of time and money on its hands, and eyes on all aspects of the world including the worlds financial systems and economies discovered bitcoin first they would be left with inescapable conclusions:
- Bitcoin or its equivalent will be invented sooner or later
- It will not be feasible to shut it down
- Given the technological advantages it may (will?) eventually supercede traditional fiat currencies
- It is better to be in the driving seat than watching from the sidelines
Faced with the discovery their best option would be to ensure that bitcoin turned out the way they wanted it to. They would want to be behind the invention and be in position to secure a majority of the currency before it became too difficult / expensive to do so. This would cement their dominant position over time as the eventual effective owner of the new world reserve currency.
Certainly there is no doubt that whoever the creators of bitcoin were they were in a position to secure a very large number of bitcoins with minimal effort. The bitcoin network may now run at 2 petahashes (roughly 25 exaFLOPs) and climbing fast but in the very early days any standard computer or network could compete and secure a large portion of the hashing power (and therefore bitcoins generated). For an agency like the NSA it would be trivial to secure a large portion of the hashing power throughout bitcoin's early life.
This would leave the inventing government in a position of currency domination and while it would not be feasible to inflate the currency (print more of their reserve currency) they would at least have the vast majority of the reserves, perhaps orders of magnitude more than other countries.
Welcome to the new Superpower, Same as the old superpower
In order for this scenario to work out a lot of things have to fall into place. In particular the right people within the NSA have to both make the discover and come to the same possible conclusions and although the NSA has certainly surprised us over the course of the past few years there is little evidence that they were involved in any way. An independent party disenfranchised by the recent large scale money printing is surely more likely to have invented the currency simply because they had a reason to try to do so - the NSA had no obvious reason to be investigating the possibility of a new deflationary technologically advanced currency.
Still, arguably more worrying is the thought that bitcoin could rise to dominance over time with one random computer programmer holding a large percentage of its value on his hard drive, although its probably no worse than the status quo.