Silk Road Bust: The Rothbardian Connection, the Bitcoin Bounce, and The Nuts and Bolts of the Case Against Alleged Mastermind Ulbricht

Some followup news and commentary on yesterday's shuttering of Silk Road and arrest of its alleged operator.

Many have argued that movement libertarians need to stop wasting their time with mere ideological education and get down to the actual practice of building alternate institutions that show-not-tell the world that government isn't necessary to meet human needs.

Those types should be cheering the news that accused "Dread Pirate Roberts" Silk Road founder and operator Ross Ulbricht is a classic Rothbardian libertarian of the Mises Institute variety. See this interesting profile from Business Insider, which reports Ulbricht:

lost his interest in physics and chemicals sometime after he graduated from Penn State in 2008, in favor of a new passion — libertarianism. He wrote on his LinkedIn profile:

Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.

He became a fan of the Austrian School of Economics, a conservative take on the free market. The indictment against him says he became a devotee of the Mises Institute, and that the writing of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard "provid[ed] the philosophical underpinnings for Silk Road."

Worth noting for future reference that a fair amount of chatter around people seemingly close to Silk Road are claiming that if the feds think they have "Dread Lord Pirate Roberts" in the singular person of Ulbricht, that they are mistaken. Two months ago Forbes had the first press interview with, supposedly, the Dread Lord.

The full government complaint out of New York (there's a separate indictment from Maryland) against Ulbricht can be found here.

Lots of other interesting rubble fluttering around the supposedly shuttered doors of Silk Road including, as anyone who understands that the human spirit cannot be fettered and that "black markets" are real markets, the rise to prominence of substitutes, as Digital Trends reports, most prominently Sheep Marketplace and BlackMarket Reloaded.

A more well-known Silk Road competitor called Atlantis, interestingly, shut itself down just two weeks ago.

This federally caused glitch in what was probably still the first thing most people think about when they think about Bitcoin also predictably caused some flutterings in Bitcoin valuation, Wired reports:

As news of the Silk Road shutdown spread, bitcoin values took a tumble, initially dropping by about 20 percent, or close to $500 million by mid-morning, Pacific time. But values soon crawled back. On the Bitstamp exchange, for example, bitcoins dropped from about $125 to $90, before climbing back to $115 at midday. On the slightly inflated Mt. Gox exchange, values went from $140 to 109, before jumping back to $128.

Analysis at The Genesis Block concludes that "a significant portion of bitcoin’s early traction and price gains can be traced directly to Silk Road, with that impact waning over time, most dramatically in the past six months."

Also in Silk Road fallout:

•Meghan Ralston of Drug Policy Alliance at Huffington Post notes how the Silk Road bust limns the foolish fecklessness of war on drugs.

The Verge reports, no surprise, that the hitman who Ulbricht allegedly hired was in fact an undercover cop.

The Verge also has some words from someone claiming to be Ulbricht's San Francisco roommate. As Jonathan Grubb wrote on Facebook, "Lesson from Silk Road: even the owner of an international drug cartel can't live in San Francisco without having housemates."

Popehat has a fascinatingly detailed account for fans of federal law enforcement about the hows and whys and likely nexts of the federal case against Ulbricht. It includes this useful summation of all the charges, from two separate investigations (in New York and Maryland) against Ulbricht:

The New York complaint charges Ulbricht with three crimes:

1. A conspiracy to traffic in narcotics in violation of Title 21, United States Code, section 846. That charge requires proof that (1) that two or more persons agreed to distribute drugs in violation of federal law, and (2) the defendant knew of the agreement, and (3) the defendant intentionally joined the agreement.

2. A "computer hacking conspiracy" in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1030(a)(2).2 That charge requires proof that (1) there was an agreement intentionally to access a "protected computer"3 without authorization or in excess of authorization and get information from the "protected computer," (2) the defendant knew about the agreement, (3) the defendant intentionally joined the agreement, (4) somebody committed an "overt act" — some affirmative step — in support of the agreement.4

3. A conspiracy to launder money in violation of Title 18, United States Code, sections 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and (a)(1)(B)(i). That charge requires proof that (1) the defendant conducted a transaction with money, (2) the money was the proceeds of an unlawful activity specified in the statute (including, for instance, drug trafficking), (3) the defendant knew that the money was the proceeds of that specified unlawful activity, and (4) the defendant intended that the transaction promote the activity or conceal the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the money.

The Maryland indictment charges Ulrich with three crimes:

1. A narcotics trafficking conspiracy, under the same statute discussed above.

2. Attempted murder of a federal witness in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1512. That charge requires proof that the defendant (1) attempted to kill a person (2) intending to prevent the person (3) from communicating to federal law enforcement or a federal judge (4) about the commission of a federal crime. The indictment charges Ulbricht as someone who aided and abetted this crime under Title 18, United States Code, section 2; under that theory, if another person commits a federal crime, the defendant is equally guilty if the defendant intentionally "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures" the commission of the crime.

3. Use of interstate commerce facilities to procure murder-for-hire, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1958. That charge requires proof that the defendant(1) used or caused another to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce (like the internet); (2) with the intent that a murder be committed; (3) in exchange for something of value.

Note to sticklers, the soliciting murder stuff does not require an actual murder to have occurred, which indeed in this case it seems there was not.

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  • RyanXXX||

    Guy made some stupid mistakes, but is still a hero. I'd put him up there with Snowden/Assange

  • ||

    Eh, I have a hard time once you throw in solicitation for murder. He apparently indicated that he had a "clean hit" done on someone for cheaper while trying to put the hit on the second guy (could be full of shit, but still).

  • ||

    I am suspicious of this charge. It seems completely ridiculous that a guy who decries the use of force ("I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end.") would then...engage in direct use of force and violence to fucking have someone killed.

    Either he's a massive fucking hypocrite and psychopath, or the government wanted to get him on something strong and set him up/trumped up charges/are overcharging/whatever.

    You'll have to excuse me if I currently favor the latter, considering what our government is like, especially regarding people who flaunt their drug laws.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Hiring a hitman doesn't make him a pscho or hypocrite if it was in self-defense.

  • Brandybuck||

    See what I mean?

  • RyanXXX||

    Exactly. It isn't immoral to kill somebody working for your unjust imprisonment/enslavement/death

    It would be pretty stupid in this case though

  • Brandybuck||

    I am suspicious of this charge. It seems completely ridiculous that a guy who decries the use of force ("I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end.") would then...engage in direct use of force and violence to fucking have someone killed.


    You haven't met too many real world Rothbardians then. The prohibition against the initiation of force is meant for *other* people. Besides, the target probably initiated the force first by applying for foodstamps, collecting welfare, or depositing his paycheck in a fractional reserve bank.

  • ||

    As someone who is utterly uninterested in the factions among libertarians or their sectarian battles, I just assumed people who claim to be against initiation of force were, you know, against the initiation of force.

  • Paul.||

    Sugarfree's scat porn is an initiation of force.

  • ||

    Not to me!

  • Killazontherun||

    Bookmarking this because I couldn't have said it better. I really despise that shit.

  • RyanXXX||

    No, in this case he was going to rat people out for harmless consensual activities. Fuck him, he deserved to die.

  • RyanXXX||

    the target, i mean

  • Killazontherun||

    I'm not buying the government interpretation. One, it sounds from the released material like he and the other guy were screwing around. Two, the feds haven't come up with a body. If the other guy was setting up Ulbricht to entrap him, that would be the heart of this case, they would have nabbed him for arranging a hit, not this shit involving him being traced.

  • Shmurphy||

    Such a load of bullshit. Non-aggression means non-aggression. There are other, better, NON-AGGRESSIVE ways to deal with a blackmailer. I seriously doubt the validity of these murder-for-hire claims, but if they do end up being true, then fuck DPR for violating his principles and defaming the rest of us who are committed to upholding them.

  • Super Hans||

    I'm pretty sure he considers the act of blackmail to be the aggression. So he's responding, not initiating.

    This interpretation however, is not very libertarian of course.

  • affenkopf||

    I've seen speculation that the person targeted was actually a government agent himself. Would make sense.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    O shut the fuck up.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The indictment charges Ulbricht as someone who aided and abetted this crime under Title 18, United States Code, section 2; under that theory, if another person commits a federal crime, the defendant is equally guilty if the defendant intentionally "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures" the commission of the crime."

    In the Forbes interview, Dread Pirate Roberts wrote about having done a project for small arms that ultimately failed. My guess is that they're saying someone else procured a firearm off of that site and used it to kill a federal witness--in which case, they're basically charging him as an accessory.

    It's a bit like saying Warren Jeffs was guilty of rape--because he told a couple during their marriage ceremony "to be fruitful and multiply". Warren Jeffs may have been an a-hole, a weirdo, a fundamentalist religious freak, and done all sorts of other illegal things, for all I know... Point is, that once you get on the government's hit list, they're coming after you for the worst thing they can find a way to charge you with.

    North Korea operates like that. Putin operates like that, too. And that's what our government does, too. If you're gonna cause the government a little interference, that's okay, just don't make yourself too noticeable, or they'll make an example of you. That's the America we live in. If the president hates you personally, like I'm sure Obama hates Snowden, then I'm sure it's even worse.

  • Paul.||

    That's why we send armed SWAT teams to raid businesses for alleged health-code violations. It's about sending a message.

    What I can't figure out is if our government is doing it more and more because they're feeling stronger, or doing it because they're feeling like they're losing control.

    It's hard to read the storm when you're in the middle of it.

  • ||

    It can be both, Paul. They know they can get away with this shit, so they do it. But at the same time, their own monster--government--that gives them such power is harder and harder to manage, and they are so high above the peasants down on the ground that they can't see what they are doing. And control freaks and power mongers don't like that; they like to be reminded of their power. So they are both bolder yet feel like something is slipping through their grasp.

  • OneOut||

    Episiarch, Paul already knows that it is both, not "can be both" like you tried to teach him.

    Did you read the part where he said,

    "It's hard to read the storm when you're in the middle of it ?

    I'm sorry if I'm wrong but Paul wrote like someone who knows what the inside of a storm is like and you wrote like some who has read about the inside of a storm and wants to tell others.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They're doing it more and more, and more and more, everything is a crisis.

    I think they need the crisis first.

    They got a lot of that SWAT stuff, ostensibly, to deal with terrorists, didn't they?

  • ||

    I think it's more insidious than that.
    Remember that governments work with their own kind of economics. People who work for government want more money just like everyone else. People who run agencies want to amass wealth and power. They want as many people working for them as possible. They want to expand the size of their departments. They amass big guns and toys for the same reason that any person or organization does - pure self-interest, survival instinct, GREED. And once they have the guns and toys, they want to try them out. Hey, look at my awesome new SWAT team! Because it's FUN. And because having a SWAT team sitting around with nothing to do is liable to make someone notice the unused, unnecessary SWAT team. It's the same use it or lose it principle that makes agencies everywhere spend more at the end of the fiscal year.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "In the Forbes interview, Dread Pirate Roberts wrote about having done a project for small arms that ultimately failed. My guess is that they're saying someone else procured a firearm off of that site and used it to kill a federal witness--in which case, they're basically charging him as an accessory."

    Just for the record, here's the quote:

    Forbes: "Speaking of future projects, let me jump right to another big topic: What’s next for Silk Road? You’ve mentioned a “next phase” of the site to me in our pre-interview conversations for a few months now, which you’ve hinted might go beyond selling drugs."

    Dread Pirate Roberts: "I’m hesitant to specifically declare the direction we’ll take next but let me give you a couple of examples. Firearms and ammunition are becoming more and more regulated and controlled in many parts of the world. We actually had a site up called “The Armory” at one point that specialized in the sale of small arms that ultimately was unsuccessful."

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/an.....oberts-qa/

  • Ken Shultz||

    Now, quoting from the post at the top of this thread:

    "The indictment charges Ulbricht as someone who aided and abetted this crime under Title 18, United States Code, section 2; under that theory, if another person commits a federal crime, the defendant is equally guilty if the defendant intentionally "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures" the commission of the crime."

    Occam's razor says that he never met a murderer or sold anyone a gun with the intention of it being used in a murder.

    He's no more guilty of murder than any gun store owner who sells a gun that is, unbeknownst to him, about to be used in a crime.

  • OneOut||

    He may have convicted himself by saying, " We actually had a site up" rather than, ' someone put a site up".

  • Mr Whipple||

    My understanding is,

    there was a major DDoS attack against SR a while back. Some faggot hacker was holding the site hostage demanding ransom. If that's not a justification to take someone out, IDK what is.

  • JD the elder||

    You know, the sad thing is that once upon a time, I would have considered that absolutely ridiculous - the idea of our government ginning up patently false charges against an unpopular figure. Stretching for a charge, sure, but just making one up out of whole cloth...

    Then I read a bit more and started observing a bit more. Now I consider it a definite possibility.

  • ||

    Who thinks he's unpopular?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    What if the hit was on a child molester who escapes prosecution because they work in an LEO capacity?

    I'm not saying it is - and would go further and say for someone to request such a service, it's unlikely it was for moral reasons and obviously I'd prefer a trial an due process, but maybe from a libertarian perspective a "hit" is an alternative to LEO...

    & in a world where anyone could order one - it might be sort of like the idea of a world where everyone is armed - a very polite one.

    But most of that's devil's advocate, as at first look I thought like you - I'm good with all of up to that point. So you're against coercion, but I can purchase coercion anonymously through your site?

  • Paul.||

    but I can purchase coercion anonymously through your site?

    Currently, we purchase coercion through the ballot box.

  • Gene||

    You get what you pay for.

  • ||

    You want devil's advocate for procuring a hitman? Here you go:

    [I]f person X facilitates a sale of thoughtcrime books and person Y says "I intend to call person Z and have him put your customers in a cage in his basement torture dungeon for 20 years for your thoughtcrime", I think that it is morally legitimate for person X to defend his customers from that enslavement with violence.

    Reading the New York complaint, I see that we have the fourth situation – an extortionist is not threatening the release of information per se, but is threatening to have consenting adults caged in torture dungeons.

    Thus, I consider that the Dread Pirate Robert's most moral response is defend his customers by ordering – and paying for – the hit on the extortionist.
  • RyanXXX||

    I like it

  • Super Hans||

    I /like/ it, or you *like* it?

  • Paul.||

    Many have argued that movement libertarians need to stop wasting their time with mere ideological education and get down to the actual practice of building alternate institutions that show-not-tell the world that government isn't necessary to meet human needs.

    This is where I really appreciate people like this Silk Road guy, and others, but they are going to be Martyrs for the cause.

    Along the lines of the fluff and minor disagreements on yesterdays thread, let me make this point:

    I'm personally concerned about the humanity of the people like Ross Ulbricht.

    People rightly counter that sure, the Feds can't stop IT from happening, the 'it' being the big IT, the mass process of people trading goods and services for money outside of a regulatory framework. But the government can stop Ross Ulbricht and throw him in a dark hole (and maybe you or the next guy to try it) for a very long time.

    If we don't care about Ulbricht, then march on, Libertarians, fight the state and build your extra-federally approved systems for trade. But if you do care about what actually happens to people like Ulbricht, be careful and keep your eye over your shoulder, because they will make a martyr out of you, and enjoy every minute of it.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    For major societal change, aren't martyrs required?

  • Paul.||

    Possibly. Again, I appreciate martyrs.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't want to be one - but I don't see how major change is possible without it.

    It's either this type of martyr or full revolution with bodies as martyrs... though I'm sure some of these people will pay with their lives in the end with current LEO tactics and prison sentences, but war bodies seems worse.

    As almost all great war strategists have said/written - the best way to win a war is to win without having to fight.

    Though I guess Silk Road is fighting...

    Sorry - I'm random now - things that make me think - encryption, security, change :)

  • Zeb||

    The fear, I think, is that most people will (quite rationally) feel as you do about the prospect of martyrdom and their sacrifices will not lead to major change. ButI certainly appreciate people who are willing to put it on the line like that (assuming that the murder stuff is bullshit).

  • Paul.||

    The murder stuff is definitely a problem for me. I'm withholding hero status because of that. I admit I'm more talking about the idea of Ulbricht than Ulbricht himself.

  • ||

    I have no idea what the murder stuff is about. It could turn out to be complete bullshit. It could turn out to be some progressive dipshit who found out he was a libertarian and decided to turn him in because he thinks libertarians are evil.

    I would totally support offing said progressive dipshit in that case.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "[Ulbricht] lost his interest in physics and chemicals sometime after he graduated from Penn State in 2008, in favor of a new passion — libertarianism."

    Ulbricht: "To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force."

    He could have just become a meth manufacturer.

  • RyanXXX||

    He broke badder by actually challenging the state, rather than trying to sneak around it a la Heisenberg

  • SweatingGin||

    IF HE HAD OBAMACARE, HE WOULDN'T HAVE HAD TO START RUN THE SILK ROAD!

  • SweatingGin||

    IF HE HAD OBAMACARE, HE WOULDN'T HAVE HAD TO START RUN THE SILK ROAD!

  • Ken at Popehat||

    "for fans of federal law enforcement"

    wut

  • Paul.||

    Law geeks, pundits, the like.

  • SIV||

    Ken, you jack-booted thug.

  • Brian Doherty||

    Yes, I meant, cheekily, fans of the in and out minutia of following how federal law enforcement works, of course.

  • Paul.||

    I sometimes refer to them as the politics-as-sports types.

    People who don't seem to have a coherent or strong allegiance to ideals, but love the game.

    "Ooh, ooh, the Democrats might block that resolution with a rules change while in committee, but the Repubs might counter with a..."

    Yeah, I love those people.

  • OneOut||

    They aren't too different from football fans and announcers.

  • SweatingGin||

    BTW, thanks for your blog and twitter, both are very enjoyable.

  • Paul.||

    Ross William Ulbricht, 29, who allegedly operated the site as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was charged in the Southern District of New York with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy

    Huh, what computers was he hacking or conspiring to hack?

  • SweatingGin||

    They're probably saying selling hacking software. A lot of the charges seem weird, though. How does it hit NY and MD? No federal charges as well?

    Was the supposed hitman in one of those states? Did some TOR nodes in NY do it?

  • SIV||

    Read the Popehat piece.

  • Paul.||

    I'm reading a wired piece on it now, and watching a video with Ulbricht and a friend yakking about San Francisco. Will read Popehat piece shortly.

  • SIV||

    for Sweatingin's question on Fed jurisdiction.

  • SweatingGin||

    Popehat piece helps a lot, btw.

    Snark first, then read articles :)

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Not sure - likely in the document linked in the article (I guess I will read it soon) - but he found an exploit in bitcoin & per Clinton's DMCA - it's illegal to even attempt to break into other systems unless you are LEO, in security and testing, or have academic reasons.

    Recall they arrested that Russian in the late 90's for simply giving a speech on how he broke Adobe's encryption. 98 I think...

  • SweatingGin||

    Any links on a bitcoin exploit? It can't be much, or must have been fixed, or the value would plummet.

    Bitcoin is like a cash prize for security auditing.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    It was in the forbes article linked in the blog post. FTA:

    Regarding the Bitcoin wallet exploit you found: Can you tell me anything more about how that worked? Would it have allowed theft of Bitcoins from the Silk Road’s wallet?

    It would have allowed deanonymization of the wallet servers.

  • SweatingGin||

    I read that when the interview first hit. To me, it looks more like "found a way to de-anonymize silk road's wallet". That's just my quick glance, though.

  • ||

    Yeah, as I said to jesse above, some of these charges stink and seem completely counter to 1) all this guy's supposed beliefs, and 2) common sense.

    What computer would he need to hack? Wouldn't that be trespassing/theft and therefore against what he stands for?

    Who knows what the truth is (and we may never know), but this smells more like the kind of shit that sleazy prosecutors and investigators would drum up when trying to get a very elusive target.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Well yeah, it's a common LEO tactic... charge them with 88 charges, each with up to 20 to life and say:

    You can pled guilty under the following terms and we'll only sentence you to 20 years - with good behavior, parole in 10, if not out in 15.

    OR.... you can take your chances at the 1600 years you're facing.

  • SIV||

    No fed parole

  • Paul.||

    Always take the sweetheart deal where they cut 130 years off the 1600.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Would that include hacking into a private WiFi? Tor users have been known to do that on occasion. Well, not just Tor users.

  • Paul.||

    In July, the FBI identified an overseas hosting company used to host Silk Road, and with the cooperation of local law enforcement they obtained a complete image of the server, giving them access to all the private messages on the site.

    Remember, if the data isn't sitting on a hard drive in your room, behind a locked door, you don't own it.

  • Paul.||

    In fact, wow... 4th amendment conundrum. U.S. citizen owns property overseas, are you under 4th amendment protections from searches and seizures?

  • Mr Whipple||

    I thought for sure he had his own servers. The money he was raking in he could afford it. And you can buy all that shit with bitcoins.

  • SweatingGin||

    Also, what was his handle here?

  • SIV||

    accused "Dread Pirate Roberts" Silk Road founder and operator Ross Ulbricht is a classic Rothbardian libertarian of the Mises Institute variety.

    Ahem

  • Cytotoxic||

    classic Rothbardian libertarian of the Mises Institute variety.

    WTF is this? Rothbard was anarcho not libertarian.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's like saying Ayn Rand was an Objectivist not a libertarian.

    To the outside world, if you're neither enamored of Obama nor think politicians are the solution to our problems?

    Then you're a libertarian. Hell, we're lucky if they make a distinction between libertarians and the Tea Party.

  • SweatingGin||

    Some of us are Rothbardians of the Mises Institute variety that hang out over here for the company, topicality, and variety.

  • SIV||

    We're not all cocktail-swilling cosmos 'round these partz.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Many of us. Reason isn't perfect, but it's easily the largest libertarian/liberal hub on the web today.

    Plus, libertarianism writ large has always been a nexus of human weirdness and entertainment.

  • SweatingGin||

    LvMI is great, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't go for the Adventures of Warty Hugeman.

    Hmm... Warty Hugeman and the Praxeological Axiom of _fill in the blank_

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Yes. Reddit is too 19-year-old, and Mises (if their moribund forums are even back at this point) is too stuffy, in the early 20s, grad-school sense.

    Reason is where paleos, cryptos, and cosmos live together in relative harmony with the occasional intrusion of a Gutfeld interview and Pelosi-centric slash fic.

  • Paul.||

    Also, what was his handle here?

    Episiarch Sr.

  • ||

    Does...does that make him my dad?

  • Paul.||

    No, your mom.

  • ||

    So all you guys have had sex with him?

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Damn you.

    I need to refresh more.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    So, you've got carnal knowledge then?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Awful, but there is something worth noting here. Ulbricht made a bunch of silly mistakes (leaving your Google address around really?) and it still takes the FBI years to shut this down. I hope most of his BTC are away in storage. The next bunch of guys doing this-and there are alternative black markets on the deep net-probably won't make similar mistakes. They'll get smarter and more professional. We're winning.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Well, with TOR and stuff like that - in many cases FBI and such knows who the main players are by their online IDs - but so long as those online IDs are only accessed through anonymous ways and so long as you never cross streams - sure, they know DPR, but they don't know DPR is Ulbricht.

    Same thing with anonymous - recall they found the one guy's real id because of a mistake he made - all other arrests came from him exposing online ids of others.

    That's why it's truly open - as you don't know who you're trusting - you are basically trusting whoever is behind the id - and they are only trusted insomuch as they have proven worthy of it in some way.

    But tell a 23 year old - cooperate or die in jail....

  • Paul.||

    Interesting how they're claiming they found Ulbricht, early posts promoting Silk Road with the handle "altoid". Apparently, in those early stages, it was easy to trace Altoid to Ulbricht.

    I makes one think about how you might build ideas organically. Like something any commenter here might have said under a not-so-difficult to trace handle- and then later goes on to build something high profile, but ostensibly does it under more untraceable handles. It's connections all the way down.

    You begin to realize how hard it is to build something like Silk Road and have zero connection to yourself.

    Also, from reading the Wired piece, it seemed like a matter of time before a friend ratted him out. You're only as strong as your least well-liked friend or associate.

  • SIV||

    claiming they found

    Exactly. The case investigation presented could well be "reverse engineered" rather than how they actually nailed him.

  • Paul.||

    There are some though-provoking comments on the wired piece (unfortunately speculative) about how the FBI probably found him with the NSA Whole-internet-vacuum- and that the gumshoe angle is a front for the media.

    While I find it an interesting theory, I don't find it extremely unlikely that they could find old posts on internet forums using traditional gum-shoe methods.

    There are, unfortunately, old posts on technical forums from the early, early internet days with my first and last name on them.

    It doesn't require whole-internet-vacuum to find those.

  • SweatingGin||

    It would take one subpoena to tie this handle to me. I have accounts with my real name on them, too.

    That said, even without a whole internet vacuum, just scraping bitcointalk (or using the DB dump that got swiped a couple years ago), it wouldn't take much to find.

    Imagine a system scraping public internet forums (including facebook, twitter, etc), just tossing that data in databases. Forums in SQL, toss comments in Cassandra. Use a couple of map-reduce jobs and some fuzzy logic to start assigning probabilities that particular forum:handle combinations belong to the same identity. Tie that in to FB or anything with a real name, and you've got a great way to find anybody. Toss an IP and timestamp into the identity table any time you can. Now you've got location. If it's a TOR IP, then you've got even more.

    Probably wouldn't take a huge number of forums scraped like that to start matching people up. It's not even really a privacy violation if it's public forums.

  • Zeb||

    Dude.

  • ||

    I posted this in response to someone above, but I'll go ahead and put it here as well. For A devil's advocate argument for procuring a hitman, go here:

    [I]f person X facilitates a sale of thoughtcrime books and person Y says "I intend to call person Z and have him put your customers in a cage in his basement torture dungeon for 20 years for your thoughtcrime", I think that it is morally legitimate for person X to defend his customers from that enslavement with violence.

    Reading the New York complaint, I see that we have the fourth situation – an extortionist is not threatening the release of information per se, but is threatening to have consenting adults caged in torture dungeons.

    Thus, I consider that the Dread Pirate Robert's most moral response is defend his customers by ordering – and paying for – the hit on the extortionist.
  • np||

    Exactly. No need for playing devil's advocate either, as that would be a legitimate reaction; as I wrote yesterday:

    But even if everything is true, the extortioner was not an innocent person. He was threatening the use of violence by the state--initiating the act of aggression--on other peaceful participants.

    If someone threatens directly to assault, kidnap, and cage you, I think most of us here would agree that deadly force would be justified to prevent that.

    If someone threatens to employ other people--state agents--to assault, kidnap, and cage you, why should that be any different?

    I think most people have an easier time accepting the ethics of this were this to occur in N.Korea, with a snitch threatening to use state violence against those involved in voluntary exchange aka smuggling of books, videos, electronics, or helping get people out, than the very same situation occurring in the US.

  • Kaptious Kristen||

    Alt-text: "look at this fucking hipster"

    Anyway - the charges of solicitation stink to me, too. Perhaps the cops have a patsy willing to make shit up for a coupla bucks or time off a sentence.

  • sarcasmic||

    Criminal needs be lucky all time.

    Copper needs be lucky only once.

  • Mr Whipple||

    1. A conspiracy to traffic in narcotics in violation of Title 21, United States Code, section 846. That charge requires proof that (1) that two or more persons agreed to distribute drugs in violation of federal law, and (2) the defendant knew of the agreement, and (3) the defendant intentionally joined the agreement.

    Don't they need to, at least, name the other person involved? Who is the second person he conspired with? An anonymous, fake username?

  • SweatingGin||

    I'd imagine they could use anonymous fake usernames, yea. Just call it John Doe. Two people (not him) agreed to distribute drugs by engaging in a voluntary transaction. He knew of it and joined the agreement by taking the site's cut.

    IANAL, though.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Nope. Unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator.

    Sounds like something they came up with for witness protection.

  • Capo||

    Not trying to nit pick, but his handle is Dread Pirate Roberts (not Dread Lord Roberts), it's a reference to the character Wesley's alter ego in "A Princess Bride."

  • Brian Doherty||

    Yes. I don't know why I made that mistype in the second reference. It's fixed, and first one was always correct. I might have had Sith Lords on my mind instead of Princess Bride. (Which I've never seen.)

  • JeremyR||

    Although there is a movie, it's mostly a book. Brilliant book. Funny as heck.

    (Sort of like calling The Hobbit a movie)

  • Super Hans||

    "as heck"? WTF is this? Kindergarten?

  • ||

    Has anyone noticed that all the people going to prison or on the lamb for their beliefs these days are libertarians?

    When was the last time some socialist dolt got locked up?

  • Killazontherun||

    Good point. What would a socialist really have to complain about modern EBT America where the Federal Government is the largest employee, anti-capitalist doctrines are the bulk of civic education, regulation keeps everyone in line to their societal preferences and specifications. They won. Their hysteria is magnified when a pocket of resistance like on non urban gun control (they pretty much do what they want in any city outside the South) because they are just so close to total rule they can feel it in their grasp.

  • SweatingGin||

    HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT WHILE TEATHUGLICAAAAAANS HAVE IT SHUTDOWN!?!?!

    But yea, this probably falls under "regulation keeps everyone in line to their societal preferences and specifications."

    No opiates for the New Socialist Man. Except TV.

  • PapayaSF||

    Some "I voted for Obama multiple times" types went to the slammer recently. Of course, the major media does not want to highlight those cases.

  • SIV||

    When was the last time some socialist dolt got locked up?

    Eugene Debs in 1918?

  • CatoTheElder||

    When was the last time some socialist dolt got locked up?

    Angela Davis.

  • ||

    Also, I should note that when the news broke last week that the NSA had cracked TOR, he should have closed shop and relocated immediately.

    Also, on NPR today it was strongly implied that the info on Silk Road came from the NSA.

    So much for the notion that the NSA's domestic surveillance is only directed at terrorists.

  • SweatingGin||

    Pretty sure NSA stuff has shown up in DEA cases already.

    What news on TOR/NSA do you mean? I don't remember seeing anything on that. (although I can see a few ways TOR could be vulnerable).

  • ||

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/.....r-traffic/

    The vast majority of Tor servers run version 2.2 of the software which uses 1024 bit RSA/DH encryption. This is the same encryption standard that has been publicly cracked by the NSA and can be subverted in a few hours using very expensive custom chips.

  • Mr Whipple||

    When was Tor cracked?

  • ||

    God I'm fucking depressed about this.
    Who gives a fuck about the stupid shutdown?
    We have undeniable proof staring us in the face, that we live in a police state.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It really is starting to get depressing.

    We may live to see a day when our last best chance for freedom is outer space.

  • ||

    That's not even funny anymore. I'm going to have to change my handle.

  • Mr Whipple||

    The FBI says that their suspect made mistakes in operational security, and was found through actual detective work. Remember: Tor does not anonymize individuals when they use their legal name on a public forum, use a VPN with logs that are subject to a subpoena, or provide personal information to other services. See also the list of warnings linked from the Tor download page.

    Also, while we've seen no evidence that this case involved breaking into the webserver behind the hidden service, we should take this opportunity to emphasize that Tor's hidden service feature (a way to publish and access content anonymously) won't keep someone anonymous when paired with unsafe software or unsafe behavior. It is up to the publisher to choose and configure server software that is resistant to attacks. Mistakes in configuring or maintaining a hidden service website can compromise the publisher's anonymity independent of Tor.

    And finally, Tor's design goals include preventing even The Tor Project from tracking users; hidden services are no different. We don't have any special access to or information about this hidden service or any other. Because Tor is open-source and it comes with detailed design documents and research papers, independent researchers can verify its security.

    http://bit.ly/1a0DnP4

  • RyanXXX||

    OT: are the comments on Sheldon's Iran article representative of people's views here? It's like the fucking Bill Kristol Arena over there

  • KDN||

    Nope. The usual complaint here is that we're a bunch of apologists for Islamic extremists, largely because of our natural skepticism towards anything the USG tells us.

    That being said, I sure as shit hope somebody sweeps those deranged fucks out of power and that my taxes play no tangible part in the matter.

  • np||

    Also, I would say his methods were less Rothbardian and much more akin to the Counter-economics advocated by Samuel Konkin III (who was also Rothbard's friend, though they disagreed on some details of how to achieve their shared goals)

    According to Konkin, counter-economics also allows for immediate self-liberation from statist controls, to whatever degree practical, by applying entrepreneurial logic to rationally decide which laws to discreetly break and when. The fundamental principle is to trade risk for profit, although profit can refer to any gain in perceived value rather than strictly monetary gains (as a consequence of the subjective theory of value).

    Voluntary practices of counter-economics include:[4]

    Arms trafficking
    Bartering and alternative currency use
    Being or hiring illegal immigrants
    Drug trafficking
    Mutual credit
    Smuggling
    Subsistence farming
    Tax evasion
  • Mr Whipple||

    Voting for the candidate most likely to crash the economy.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Looking through available data, Silk Road racked up tens of million$ in Bitcoin commissions but this guy had not been living particularly large and the Goonsquad only managed to seize ~$4 million of Bitcoin.

    Where did all that other lucre go?

  • Christophe||

    It's hidden away waiting for the day he gets out of jail. By which point it'll be worth a lot more.

    That's what I hope anyways.
    It's definitely possible to do, read up on Brainwallets if you're interested.

  • ||

    uptil I saw the bank draft for $9693, I didn't believe that my sister woz like realey taking home money parttime at there labtop.. there uncles cousin has done this for only about eighteen months and at present cleard the depts on there villa and bought a great Jaguar XJ. he said

    http://WWW.WORKS23.COM

  • ||

    Why did Saul never suggest Silk Road? He knew about that hacker with the PayPal based money laundering software, you'd think he would have heard of Silk Road. It would have saved Walt a lot of the troubles he got into. And $80M in Bitcoins doesn't require 7 barrels and a desert to conceal.

  • wooffjordy||

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job I've had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to Economy tab for more detail ...

    =============== http://WWW.MAX34.COM

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