Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lessons from the Silk Road Arrest

There are a few important points to go over in light of the arrest of the alleged Silk Road operator, Ross Ulbricht.

1. It is extremely dangerous and not very smart to go after government directly. We see once again that government, as with the Adam Kokesh case, has superior resources. They will get you. Ulbricht was out there with a target on his back just by operating Silk Road, taunting government officials made no sense.

The operator of Silk Row, now alleged to be Ulbricht, told Forbes in August:
We’re talking about the potential for a monumental shift in the power structure of the world. The people now can control the flow and distribution of information and the flow of money. Sector by sector the State is being cut out of the equation and power is being returned to the individual.
As a friend said to me, if they weren't  looking for him before the Forbes interview, it sure helped focus FBI attention after the interview.

2. Given how the FBI presented Bitcoin in its complaint against Ulbricht, it doesn't appear that the government is going to attempt to shut Bitcoin down, but rather they will use Bitcoin as a tool in tracking transactions. They will allow it to exist as a vehicle similar in ways to paypal. But with many continuing to hold the false belief that Bitcoin is an anonymous vehicle. It is not. In fact, in the days and weeks ahead, we are likely to hear about others who have been caught in the Silk Road dragnet. Many, if not all, of those most assuredly held the false belief that Bitcoin use, coupled with TOR, prevented them from being identified.

3. This is not the time to be adding your name to crypto-currency newsletter lists or attending crypto-currency conferences, unless, of course, you are a big fan of the surveillance state surveilling YOU. The government is watching. It wasn't just one FBI agent with warn out shoes tracking down Ulbricht. As the Ulbbricht complaint points out, it was a joint federal agency operation that took down Silk Road:
I have been a Special Agent with the FBI for approximately five years. I am currently assigned to a cybercrime squad within the FBI's New York Field Office. I have been personally involved in the investigation of this matter, along with agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and Homeland Security Investigations. 
Bottom line: The Feds are watching, don't do stupid stuff.


  1. I'd just like to say that I object to telling people who resist the government they are "doing it wrong."


    The government is "doing it wrong." These people need our support, and encouragement.

    We should be OUTRAGED that Adam Kokesh is still in a cage. He did nothing wrong.

    It is the government that is at fault here, not Adam.

    1. True enough, we all agree.

      Bob is advising us that, strategically, this method of fighting the state is not smart. We are vastly outnumbered and need to focus all our resources on solving that problem, after which the state withers away for lack of support.

    2. The proper response, IMO, is to get angrier at the government, more infuriated at what they do. Not to sit back, self-satisfied at our own complacency, masquerading as "prudence", and criticize those who are actually taking action.

    3. Anon at 12:28: On the one hand, I think you've created a straw-man here. Bob is not advocating "sit[ting] back, self-satisfied at our own complacency, masquerading as "prudence", and criticize those who are actually taking action."
      On the other hand, I think you've got a point. Kokesh, and certainly Ulbricht, are heroes and martyrs. We need people like them, willing to stand up for what they believe. They are the Rosa Parks of modern libertarianism. Their sacrifice forces the rest of us to confront the reality of the state and get angry. It is our task to make others aware of the situation.

  2. 4. Don't try hiring someone to commit murder. Not only is this unethical, it also ensures that, if/when you're found out and arrested for your other, victimless crimes, you'll be seen (rightly) by the public as a villain, denied bail, demonized by the media and locked up for a long time.

    1. > 4. Don't try hiring someone to commit murder.

      5. Don't believe the Feds. They lie all the time, 24/7.

    2. 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 willfully 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.

    3. npcomplete: One of the "hits" that Ulbricht allegedly put out was against a guy whom Ulbricht merely *feared* would provide information to the feds about Silk Road in exchange for leniency on a theft charge. This person did not threaten anything.

      Furthermore, in order for defensive force to be acceptable from a libertarian standpoint, it must be proportional and targeted. The information Ulbricht passed on to the would-be assassins was not even correct (he was being duped by government agents). Ergo, what Ulbricht was attempting, by virtue of the inaccurate nature of his information gathering, could have resulted in innocent people being killed or injured, with Ulbricht being shielded from any liability.

      Oh, and this is not North Korea. In an absolutist, theoretical sense, you might be justified in violently resisting, say, the IRS or some other government agency that initiates force against you. However, that would simply result in you getting killed, possibly after you take out a few government drones who think you're crazy and don't even realize they're in the wrong. An ethics is useless if applied in this way, with a total disregard of the perceptions of the majority of people.

  3. The state is like a rapid dog. You have to watch your step.