Deep Web’s ‘Silk Road’….the rest of the story
Remember the Silk Road headlines? People using untraceable bitcoins to buy drugs online? You probably didn’t hear the rest of the story. Nor did I until I watched the documentary Deep Web earlier today.
Ross Ulbricht, now 31-years old, was revealed by the FBI as the man who ran Silk Road, an encrypted site using Tor, a software that guarantees user anonymity. Ulbricht’s stated mission was to use economic theory to free humanity from the Draconian constraints of our legal and economic system. As a pacifist, he stated that allowing people to buy and sell their drugs online would reduce the amount of crime in the street as a result of the drug trade.
The FBI infiltrated Silk Road as sellers and users of product, mostly drugs. Ulbricht was arrested and stood trial last year, but little evidence and few witnesses were allowed to come to the stand in his defense. As the film stated, the trial was “the prosecution’s narrative.”
Ulbricht was found guilty and is now serving a life sentence. One of the film’s points was that the evidence garnered by the U.S. government was gathered illegally from a server in Iceland. How far a government can go in its search and seizure practices in the face of the 4th Amendment is a serious talking point. In addition, the U.S. prosecution accused him of hiring hit men for six murders, which was dropped as there was no such evidence, while the intended effect of leaving an impression on the jury worked.
Ironically, in the film, a former law enforcement official in Baltimore said most of his city’s violent crime and murders were in relation to drug trade, with innocent people being killed and maimed as collateral damage to the sales. He reflectively stated that, theoretically, if drugs were bought through the mail, the city’s violent crime rate would be significantly reduced.
Meanwhile, two of the FBI agents involved in the sting were having a field day and skimming off millions of dollars in bitcoins. They have sinse been arrested.
Again, a worthy film that raises many large questions.