Monday was a big day for the decentralized virtual currency Bitcoin as Congress held its first hearing on the matter. Experts from the US government, the Bitcoin community and the nonprofit sector all weighed in on the growing popularity of virtual currencies during the hearing.

A number of high profile individuals took part in the discussion including Ernie Allen, CEO of The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, Patrick Murck from the nonprofit Bitcoin Foundation, Jeremy Allaire, CEO of digital currency startup Circle, Jerry Brito with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Mythili Raman, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and Secret Service agent Edward W. Lowery III.

Senator Tom Carper, who is also the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noted that virtual currencies like Bitcoin have captured the imagination of some, struck fear among others and confused the heck out of many.

Monday's hearing, he said, was the culmination of a three-month investigation into Bitcoin according to Carper. As you can imagine, the discussion was frontloaded with talk about the potential for virtual currencies to be used for criminal activities like money laundering and to facilitate child pornography.

Even so, however, we're told there was never a sense of alarm about the budding currency. That's because the government is confident they can successfully monitor and contain crimes facilitated by virtual currencies. Representatives specifically cited the busts of eGold, Liberty Reserve and the Silk Road as feathers in their cap.

In related news, the value of Bitcoin topped $700 briefly during the Senate discussion. It's currently down to $659 as of writing, however.