Surveillance

Why You Should Care That Trial of Ross Ulbricht, Accused of Running Silk Road, Begins Today

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The trial of Ross Ulbricht, whom federal authorities say ran the "dark web" site Silk Road, starts today after multiple delays. If you care about Internet freedom and basic civil liberties, you should watch the proceedings with great concern.

Silk Road is best known as a bitcoin-enabled online marketplace for drugs (read Brian Doherty's feature on the topic). But the case against Ulbricht, who war arrested in 2013, raises hugely important questions about Internet freedom and due process. When they nabbed Ulbricht, the feds made sure everyone knew that he had allegedly tried to hire hitmen to take care of drug-selling rivals. The New York Times Magazine ran a story that underscored the feds' one-sided portrait as Ulbricht's transformation from a literal Eagle Scout to the power-drunk "Dread Pirate Roberts" who was getting rich and insane from his role as proprietor of Silk Road.

Yet when it came time to, you know, actually charge him with crimes, the conspiracy to commit murder charges weren't entered. Well, not exactly. They're in the court documents but won't actually be vetted by the court:

In addition to the drug and conspiracy charges, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled last week that she will allow prosecutors to try to prove their case by presenting evidence that Ulbricht discussed six different murder-for-hire plots to protect Silk Road.

That's one way the feds are stacking the deck against Ulbricht, who may or may not be guilty of running Silk Road (I have no idea; but in the interests of disclosure, I contributed $100 to his defense fund out of concern of the way in which he is being prosecuted). The feds also have not explained to the defense how they tracked down Ulbricht, raising concerns that the evidence was initially gathered via intelligience operations that functioned without a legal warrant. That's troubling, as is the government's position that regardless of whether he profited from the site or actually trafficked in drugs himself, he should be responsible for what was going on at Silk Road. That charge flies in the face of existing laws that exempt ISPs and site operators from responsiblity for the actions and speech of users. The outcome of that specific issue could well chill the Internet well below absolute zero.

To paraphrase Joe Biden, this is a big fucking deal. Not simply because Ulbricht may be railroaded but because the way in which the prosecution is proceeding potentially threatens all of us who run websites, transact business online, and want to live in a country where the government has to be transparent about where it got its evidence against us.

Reason interviewed Lynn Ulbricht, who lays out the larger issues raised by the trial of her son:

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66 responses to “Why You Should Care That Trial of Ross Ulbricht, Accused of Running Silk Road, Begins Today

  1. “But the case against Ulbricht, who war arrested in 2013, ”

    Well, if he’s war arresting people, then I think that’s potentially much more serious than the online drug marketplace.

    1. Most people who are arrested nowadays are war arrested. What else would you call SWAT entry?

      1. That’s a really good point.

    2. What if they held an arrest, and war didn’t come?

      1. +1 Shitstorm, Randy.

        1. Fuck off, Lahey!

          1. Keep staring into that shit-abyss. This is winning.
            BOOYAH!
            hth

            1. And I just inspired in myself an imaginary 3-way between Randy, Lahey, and Dunphy. Kinda disgusted at the though of a powerlifting surfer eating onion rings off of a trailer park supervisor’s cock, but don’t want to dismiss it entirely. Time for a walk.

            2. God, the episode where Ricky kidnaps Alex Lifeson has to be my all-time favorite.

              Hotel Security! This man’s drunk as fuck, he’s on drugs, he’s a male prostitute. I’m gonna escort him out of here!

              1. The Conky episodes are awesomely creepy yet hilarious. They’re some of my favorites.

              2. That’s actually my favorite, too. Not just for how hilarious it is in its own right, but as an example for how celebrity guest stars should be depicted on comedies.

      2. Shitquake.

        1. Shithawks!

          1. They’re swooping down. Shitting on people. Taking them off to the big shit nest.

            1. Shit-apples never fall far from the shit-tree.

              1. Fuck off, Lahey!

  2. That’s one way the feds are stacking the deck against Ulbricht, who may or may not be guilty of running Silk Road…

    If federal prosecutors can’t overcharge him on the drug stuff alone, then they don’t deserve to go on to be attorneys general or governors.

  3. Hopefully he has competent counsel. I think conspiracy to distribute isn’t out of the question here, but the rest of the charges seem weak.

    The feds can’t stop the floodgates of this stuff and they know it. Using the online marketplaces is hard post-silk road, but they exist and are slowly proliferating.

    1. http://www.slate.com/articles/…..watch.html

      But Ulbricht’s defense team, led by renowned terrorism-case defense attorney Joshua Dratel and financed in part by donations from bitcoin mogul Roger Ver, won’t make it easy for prosecutors. We may see a lively, dramatic and precedent-setting trial. Here are a few reasons to follow it closely.

      1. Now there’s some good news. Finally.

  4. It’s only a big fucking deal if you care about how the US has become a police state.

    Most Americans couldn’t give a damn.

    1. You must want my kids running around high on smack, you monster.

  5. Its important to see that DPR only got caught because he got careless and stupid and exposed himself to traditional policing techniques. If you are protecting yourself online you can be pretty anonymous, even if its true that the NSA/FBI controls big chunks of the tor network.

  6. Why should I care about that guy from the Twilight movies?

  7. Considering how one would normally expect to see him charged with about a trillion things in a standard overcharging prosecution scheme, the fact that he hasn’t been is a pretty big indicator of the weakness of their case. Combine that with failing to disclose key elements like how they found him and this may be all sound and no fury, and just overzealous investigators desperately wanting to do anything possible to shut down a site that was embarrassing as shit to them and also drove them out of their control-freak minds.

    Let’s hope they overstepped their bounds in their obsessive desire to get this guy, and that the judge actually respects the law at least a little.


    1. Let’s hope…that the judge actually respects the law at least a little.

      Since the judge is going to allow prosecutors to try to prove their case by presenting evidence that Ulbricht discussed six different murder-for-hire plots without ever having to prove those plots, I think that ship has sailed.

      1. Agreed. His only hope is on appeal (or with jury nullification, but you can bet that the prosecution will be extra careful to be sure that no one on the jury has ever heard those two words in conjunction!).

  8. “(read Brian Doherty’s feature on the topic). But the case against Ulbricht, who war arrested”

    No link to Doherty’s piece and “war” arrested?

    Who edits this stuff!

    1. Who edits this stuff!

      Nobody! Reason is the Somalia of websites!

    2. “Who edits this stuff!”

      They haven’t misused “comprise” in a week, so maybe they’re improving somewhere.

  9. well chill the Internet well below absolute zero

    Well Nick, I can well see that you did not do well in physics. Oh well.

    1. Absolute is a tool of the patriarchy Lynch

      1. Hey Bandit,
        Don’t know if you saw my reply in the AM links. Long story, short: yes, let’s drink.

        I’m in Boulder, but happy to drive some place.

        1. support AT theokydoky DOT com

    2. Did you know there’s actually a theoretical hottest allowable temperature in addition to absolute zero?

      http://io9.com/here-are-the-ho…..1678816967

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_hot

      At about 1.416785(71)?1032 kelvin it seems like we reach Planck’s lower limit of electromagnetic radiation wavelength and can’t proceed further.

      Fascinating.

      1. I saw that the other day. Very cool. I want a Tardigrade; they are the ultimate survivors.

        1. You probably have a few.

      2. This isn’t “new,” exactly. “Heat,” requiring energy, already had a limit; I don’t know whether Planck’s limit is just the sum of all theoretical energy in the universe or whatever, but an absolute limit for “hot” already existed long beforehand.

        1. It’s a quantum mechanical limit. It may not be so much a true physical limit as a point beyond which current theory can’t describe. At the energies needed to reach the Planck limit you need to use a theory of quantum gravity.

    3. Pretty sure Nick was just exercising his, um, poetic license, as he often does.

      1. “um, poetic license”

        (Dirty Harry Callahan looks license over)

        “This…. is expired…”

  10. I agree that Miguel `s st0rry is flabbergasting, last saturday I got a new Lotus Esprit from earning $8938 this past 4 weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . without a doubt it is the most comfortable work I’ve had . I began this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in minimum $86… per-hr . Visit Website ~~~~~~~~ http://www.jobsfish.com

    1. What’s flabbergasting is that you are still on about the fucking Lotus Esprit. Go Exige or go home, bitch!

  11. The New York Times Magazine ran a story that underscored the feds’ one-sided portrait as Ulbricht’s transformation from a literal Eagle Scout to the power-drunk “Dread Pirate Roberts” who was getting rich and insane from his role as proprietor of Silk Road.

    That portrayal with the whole hitman allegation, even though it’s not part of the charges, is related to:

    Jury Nullification and Why Ross Ulbricht’s Prosecutors Are Trying to Evade It

    The prosecutors, in their dread of nullification, are trying to suppress all of Ross’ opinions on politics, justice, and more or less everything. A passage from their motion reads:

    [T]he defendant should be prohibited from raising any arguments or presenting any evidence regarding the defendant’s purported political views?including but not limited to views concerning the propriety of U.S. or international drug laws? or anything else meant to convince the jury that the defendant’s conduct should be excused, even if criminal, for any reason.

    also worrying is:

    It involves something called “transferred intent.” In practice, transferred intent makes an Internet site liable for what a bad guy does there. If, for example, two thugs discuss criminal strategies on your site, it’s also your fault, and you can go to jail.

    1. It’s fascinating to me that the first amendment does not apply to a defendants own speech at their own trial.

      1. not a law, just a judge

  12. AFAIK, the interesting constitutional issues were decided on pre-trial motions. We’ll have to wait for the appeal to see something interesting, unless the jury does something drastic and nullifies the law.

    1. like this one…

      Judge Forrest rejected the defense’s Fourth Amendment argument that a warrantless hack is an illegal search

      1. Sweet! That means we can hack government agencies legally, right?

      2. So that means hacking is perfectly legitimate? Oh, not when peasants do it?

        Fuck You That’s Why.

        1. Seriously; how the fuck do these people get to *be* in charge lacking such basic reasoning skills?

          1. Fuck You That’s Why doesn’t need reasoning skills, just thuggery. And they are very, very good at that.

            1. And in 2016 they’ll all vote the same fucking fucks back into office, because it isn’t *their* congressfuckwad that’s the bad guy.

              1. They bring home the bacon.

  13. prosecutors already have shown in pre-trial hearings that they caught Ulbricht with his laptop seemingly logged into a Silk Road page called “Mastermind,” showing a detailed accounting of the site’s activities and finances. They’ve also revealed that they found a logbook on his hard drive and a journal that allegedly detailed his day-to-day activities running the site.

    If you don’t presuppose vice laws (AND I FUCKING DON’T), then this guys “crimes” were running a website. Unless of course he really did try to have people murdered.. but subject that to cross examination and get back to me.

  14. “Why You Should Care”

    FREE ROSS ULBRICHT!!
    FREE ROSS ULBRICHT*!!
    FREE ROSS ULBRICHT!!

    (*i expect a voucher for every time i post this)

  15. Oh, Ulbricht. I thought you were talking about Ulfberht, as in Viking sword Ulfberht.

  16. If it’s “conspiracy to distribute,” does that mean I can offer some LSDfor sale on Slate and get them shut down?

    If so, I have mixed feelings.

    1. Or buy a burner phone and send some kiddie porn to the phones of the prosecutors, then nab them for possessing kiddie pr0n.

  17. ” The feds also have not explained to the defense how they tracked down Ulbricht, raising concerns that the evidence was initially gathered via intelligience operations that functioned without a legal warrant.”

    This is exactly what they did, parallel construction. If the feds actually followed the restraints of the constitution here, I’ll kiss a good man’s ass.

    1. Great, here comes the argument about “good.”

      See what you did here?

    2. Moo moo buckaroo?

      A cowboy walks into a bar after he has been on the trail for days. He says to the bartender “I am so thirsty I could lick the sweat off a bulls balls.” A guy in the corner replies, “Moo, moo, Buckaroo!”

  18. This is about ONE thing only…the US government trying to take over & regulate the internet. From a childhood friend who’s been with the FBI for 20 years, I’ve been told that’s all this case is about. He said it’s based on weak evidence and is being used as a scare tactic. As a veteran of the military & one that actually saw combat on behalf of our nation, I am completely disgusted at how low our law enforcement agencies will stoop & how many laws they will break (those are the cases where they arrest someone for something but don’t charge people With when the case goes to trial…but they got the person locked up & have time to stack bullshit charges on them) to arrest someone. Got a lotta cop friends & family, so I know how the system works…and it makes me wanna puke because our protectors are the ones who tell the biggest lies & break any law it takes to get what they want.

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