Ross Ulbricht's Lawyers Uncover Evidence Showing His Silk Road Account Was Accessed While He Was Imprisoned
from the TWISTS-FOR-THE-TWIST-GOD dept
The government’s Silk Road prosecution is the gift that keeps on giving. On its way to a life without parole sentence for the man behind the dark web drug marketplace, nearly everything that possibly could have happened actually happened.
As more evidence flowed in, more dirt on both sides of the prosecution was uncovered. The government appeared to engage in parallel construction to cover up evidence likely obtained by the NSA. (But the only reason for the coverup would be to protect the NSA’s “means and methods,” not to provide some sort of Fourth Amendment sanitizing. The Silk Road server was located in Iceland, somewhere the NSA could have performed an interception without troubling its domestic restrictions.)
It also emerged that government investigators had engaged in plenty of illegal activities of their own, including stealing Bitcoin, freezing accounts, and setting up a sting operation designed to rope Ross Ulbricht into hiring someone to kill a thieving employee… apparently set up by the same DEA agent engaged in the theft.
Also uncovered during the trial was the fact that the government had paid Carnegie Mellon researchers to develop a method to de-anonymize Tor users.
Now, there’s this, reported by Jason Koebler of Motherboard:
Attorneys for Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of running the Silk Road online drug marketplace under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” say they’ve discovered evidence that someone logged into the Dread Pirate Roberts account on the Silk Road forums six weeks after Ulbricht was arrested. Ulbricht was in federal custody at the time.
Ulbricht was arrested on October 2, 2013. The Silk Road marketplace was taken down that same day, but the forums stayed up until November 22. His attorneys say that someone logged into the DPR account on the forum November 18.
These new details were uncovered by forensic analysts who studied backups of the Silk Road forums that were entered as evidence by the government during Ulbricht’s first trial. Ulbricht’s attorneys Dratel and Lindsay Lewis say that government tampering calls into question the evidence used to convict Ulbricht.
This could mean a few things. One possibility is that law enforcement agents continued to operate and access DPR’s account after the investigation had concluded. Or it may point to one of Ulbricht’s original defenses: that someone else actually ran Silk Road. It may be that Silk Road was run by multiple people, but the government was only able to track down Ulbricht.
Ulbricht’s attorney seems to believe it’s the last possibility on that list:
It’s unknown whether other Silk Road administrators had the username and password for the DPR account, whether there actually were other “real” DPRs, or whether government officials were somehow able to get the DPR login credentials.
“They had access only to Ross’s laptop,” Lewis told me. “I don’t think they had access to the login credentials.”
It could very well be that the government believes there were multiple DPRs, but felt that one DPR was more than enough for the purposes of prosecution. If so, its handling of this case echoes that of journalist Matthew Keys, who the government hung out to dry over 40 minutes of website defacement performed by someone else. Zero effort has been made to punish those who actually participated in the small-scale hacking of the LA Times website. The government seemed more than satisfied to let Keys carry all of this weight on his own.
This new information doesn’t make the government’s case look any more solid. Plenty of government deception and misconduct was uncovered during the trial and yet it was still able to obtain a life without parole sentence for Ulbricht and a $184 million fine. Now it looks like the government may have rung up the wrong Silk Road mastermind… or more likely, only one of them. The best case scenario for the government is that it was one of its own logging in and looking around, although it will still have to explain how it got ahold of Ulbricht’s login info.