Sunday, January 19, 2014

Did the Feds Illegally Use NSA Data to Identify Alleged Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht?

That's what it appears Ulbricht is going to use as part of his defense. NYT explains:
The F.B.I. located and copied the contents of Silk Road’s main servers, the computers that powered the site’s operations and stored its data.

It is here that the government’s otherwise detailed account gets fuzzy. The F.B.I. has stated only that the main server was found in “a certain foreign country,” one that has a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States. Through the treaty, the F.B.I. was given a copy of the server — a “mirror” of it, in tech terms — on July 23. The site continued to operate, so D.P.R. would not be spooked.

What is unclear is how the feds knew where the servers were. Presumably, they were rented in some faraway corners of the globe — Iceland, Latvia and Romania are likely, according to experts who have studied the I.P. addresses. But the official vagueness has provoked speculation in academic circles and among security specialists. Was the National Security Agency involved? Did this process involve breaking laws, or violating constitutional rights?

That issue will be at the heart of Ross Ulbricht’s defense strategy, says Joshua L. Dratel, his lawyer, whose clients include a Guantánamo detainee.“It’s called the fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree doctrine,” Mr. Dratel explained. “If you think of the acquisitions of evidence as a chain, if you find one bad link, everything on the other side of that link is suppressible.”

In other words, if Mr. Dratel can prove that the government acted improperly when it found and copied that server, all the evidence it gathered after that — including the laptop taken in that Oct. 1 arrest — could be tossed out of court.

Mr. Dratel said he would also argue that Mr. Ulbricht is not Dread Pirate Roberts. But that contention could be hard to square with a sworn statement by Mr. Ulbricht, filed with the court Dec. 12. It says the Bitcoins seized from the laptop should be returned to him, because he “has an interest as an owner/possessor” of the money.

This seems a tricky needle for Mr. Ulbricht to thread. He is denying that he is Dread Pirate Roberts but demanding what the government maintains is D.P.R.’s money. How did Mr. Ulbricht earn millions in virtual dollars, if not through Silk Road commissions?

Mr. Dratel declined to say, citing a reluctance to discuss the facts of the case.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a case of "Parallel Construction"