This makes no sense at all. Why the heck can't the 'right' to an anonymous exchange facilitating illegal activities 'be debated'? Just cause the author says so, apparently. Why does he think no government should be able to shut-down a 'conglomeration of like-minded people' (what?) who want to buy and sell weapons, computer intrusions, and murders? I don't know, he doesn't say, it's just obvious, right?
He doesn't 'support' people selling murder on an anonymous exchange, but does 'support' 'the right' to have an anonymous exchange where you sell murder? He thinks you can debate 'the morality' of 'this' (what?), but you can't 'judge' the people doing the thing whose morality you are debating, and in fact apparently can't (can't? ethically?) judge anything that can be described as a 'habit or predilection'?
What does all that even mean? It's just nonsense put together into sentences.
There might be some ethical defense of Silk Road that makes sense, but that sure wasn't it. This is what passes for thought on the techno-libertarian internet? Really, tech crunch?
I agree that it's strange to say this isn't up for debate (I don't think there is anything that isn't up for debate and this exact point is being debated all the time). The article seems to be a reiteration of the author's beliefs on the issues of privacy and drugs, to which Silk Road is only tangentially relevant.
If you believe the former, then the shutdown of the Silk Road doesn't threaten the right to anonymous exchanges or communication any more than the police getting a warrant and searching the house of a murder suspect threatens my right to be secure in my house. But if you believe the latter, the shutdown of Silk Road IS a problem because it demonstrates that being able to technically and absolutely guarantee your ability to engage in anonymous exchanges might not be possible. In the same way that the police searching a suspect's house might trouble you if you believe that the right to be secure in your home means you should be able to physically prevent the police from getting in.
It's an interesting concept, but one that becomes a little hard to justify when you look at what some people do with those absolute rights. The author's defense, that he doesn't support what they did but supports their right do it comes across, at least to me, like a cheap cop out (not to mention a bit nonsensical). I'm not so sure you can easily shrug off your Utopia leading to the Wild West by saying, "Well, I don't support the Wild West".
EDIT: Changed 'Silk Route' to 'Silk Road'; the former is actually an Indian restaurant near me!
Certainly you can gainsay that, as you do. So if that's what you mean by it can be debated, point taken.
But I'd agree with the author that it can't be debated - if you are referring to a free society. Unless we adopt an Orwellian New speak version of the word free.
I am all in for legalizing drugs, but don't pretend that all weapon trade, offering hacking services or other nasty stuff needs to be protected in a free society. Freedom of speech is about inconvenient opinions, not about "everything you can do by communicating with others".
The possibility that any speech may slide into commerce would mean any speech is open to observation.
Too high a price IMHO
If the answer is anyone but the people engaging in the speech, isn't that a little dangerous?
Additionally, the person making the statement "I don't think you should measure other people up to your own standard of morality" is actually doing exactly what they purport to rail against.
This is an interesting thought because where I think it works well in our thought experiments and our online forums, it's the very business of government to do just as you say: measure people by a social standard. And it's not like government just popped up out of nowhere one night, the standards and institutions that it uses are ones that have evolved over time to deal with specific problems. It's an organic development and as such it has all the weird inconsistencies of an organic creature.
So where I think lots of us (myself included) probably think what you say in our heads, I doubt many of us (if we were totally honest with ourselves) go about our daily business not actually measuring people by our standards and expecting the state to do the same.
That is just one form of democracy. There's a lot of works that discusses forms of authority and democracy and various ways of balancing the rights. One of my favourites on the subject is "After the revolution? Authority in a good society" by Robert A Dahl - particularly because it is short, clear and to the point.
But incidentally, your reasoning is the basis for Marx use of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" - in Marx view, a state wielding power over one group against another is a form of dictatorship whether or not the group wielding the power has a majority or not.
The same law enforcement tactics we might sadly accept to save us from murder are obviously outrageous when they're applied to crimes we don't really consider crimes.
Quite a lot of the middle class, a vast majority of techies, and a majority of the working class and underclass consider drug use and trafficking to be less of a crime than double parking. The cops and statutes treat drugs as if they were in the same class as rape and murder.
The result is going to be some foolish opinions and practices about law enforcement and privacy.
Citation badly needed.
Taking about the right of exchange is a bit more nuanced. I suppose you could make the argument that it's moral to possess a drug as long as you don't use it? Like if you own a machine gun but never load it, you're clearly not hurting anyone.
You say this as though there is something immoral about selling drugs. There has never been a strong moral argument for drug prohibition, and in fact many "illegal" drugs (many that were sold on SR) are legal by prescription (cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, etc.). Drug prohibition is and has always been a combination of racism and corporate profits.
Absolutely immoral. Drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc, make you into an addict once you start taking them on a regular bases - and that happens quite easily.
The dealers know this full well, but will do it anyways to make a profit. A very small one at that, since most of these guys don't even make more than they could working at McDonalds.
> and in fact many "illegal" drugs (many that were sold on SR) are legal by prescription (cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, etc.)
So a prescribed 5mg Desoxyn (dextro-methamphetamine) pill swallowed once per day for Narcolepsy is no different than the typical 100mg of crystal Meth put and smoked in a pipe to get wired for 24h?
Or a couple of Vicodin or Percs for pain in you back is no different than shooting black tar heroin?
> Drug prohibition is and has always been a combination of racism and corporate profits.
The difference in effects between powder-cocaine insufflated and crack-cocaine smoked is so great that it literally feels like a different drug.
The difference between frequency and types of crimes committed by powder-cocaine users and crack-cocaine users was also so great that laws were enacted to treat the drug differently.
One of many counter-points to the "it must always be a race thing" argument.
This is racism, pure and simple. It may not be intentional, but that doesn't change it. The frequency and types of crimes committed by powder and crack users are a function of their socio-economic backgrounds, not their drugs of choice, which are a co-incidental cultural preference which was convenient in the repression of lower social classes. The same thing happens now with white meth users.
Yes, they are different drugs. No, one is not considerably more addictive or dangerous than the other.
Plenty to read on the subject in the references here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Sentencing_Act
(Note my emphasis) You are begging the question here.
Consider the alternative hypothesis, that things went to shit and they switched to a cheaper form of cocaine. 'And', not 'because'. In fact, one can hypothesis that both changes were triggered by another factor that you have failed to mention.
You've listened to and believed too much propaganda. It has been and is illegal to conduct studies on most of those drugs. So their actual effects are unknown. What scientific knowledge there is indicates addition rates are low ~20%. Not nearly a sure thing. btw nicotine and alcohol dependence probabilities are higher.
[My opinion] It is likely that probability has more to do with the individual user than the individual substance.
I speak of cocaine specifically of that you mentioned and not crack-cocaine as I have no experience with that.
Using personal anecdotes about your casual or social cocaine use is pure nonsense that has no bearing on the grim reality that addictive drug users experience every day.
To be at least logically consistent, please spend your energy fighting the sale of alcohol and nicotine.
or is that against your belief system?
Under the assumption that selling an addictive product is immoral. Coffee shops must be the work of the devil himself, and it is immoral for a company to provide its employees with free coffee. Video games are also very addictive, so you have just condemned the entire video game industry. Social networking is addictive too, so you just condemned social networking (ironically, you may have even condemned Hacker News, the very site on which we are having this discussion).
Basically, your standard of morality is beyond extreme.
"So a prescribed 5mg Desoxyn (dextro-methamphetamine) pill swallowed once per day for Narcolepsy is no different than the typical 100mg of crystal Meth put and smoked in a pipe to get wired for 24h?"
No, but that is because you are describing the difference between use and abuse of a drug, which is not relevant to the question of whether or not drugs should be illegal. It is also worth pointing out that pharmaceuticals are far less damaging because of the regulations on their production and that one of the biggest problems with black-market methamphetamine is adulterants.
Let's put it this way: would you rather have a meth addict get their drugs in regulated dosages and purities, or leave everything up to chance? When my doctor asks me if, when, and how often I drink alcohol, I can give a meaningful answer because alcohol is legal and regulated. Why shouldn't a meth user be able to do the same?
"Or a couple of Vicodin or Percs for pain in you back is no different than shooting black tar heroin?"
In fact, pharmaceutical opiates are more habit-forming than heroin, due to their purity and the fact that they are basically engineered to be effective drugs. That is why people wind up in this situation:
"The difference in effects between powder-cocaine insufflated and crack-cocaine smoked is so great that it literally feels like a different drug."
Likewise with injecting cocaine, which was once the common way to use the drug, versus drinking coca tea, which was the original way to use the drug. This is like comparing beer to grain liquor; all you are doing is comparing one form of a drug with another form of the drug.
"One of many counter-points to the "it must always be a race thing" argument."
The counterpoint to which is the history of powder cocaine prohibition. Yes, powder cocaine was once legal in the United States, and then people started saying that black men who used cocaine would become more accurate with a pistol, impossible to stop with a shot through the heart, and prone to rape white women. Don't believe me? Here is a New York Times article from the early 20th century:
("Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are A New Southern Menace")
It is not just cocaine. Marijuana was make illegal under equally questionable premises: claims that it fueled black Jazz musicians, claims that it caused white women to want to have sex with black men, claims that Mexican vagrants were using it to corrupt the white youth, and so forth. Heroin was made illegal to punish the German company Bayer, and people were told that opiates in general were part of the bad habits of Philipinos and other Asian immigrants. You can look at the Congressional Record and see the overt racism that surrounded the early debates about drug prohibition, debates that we have never revisited.
When you look at the history of drug prohibition you will find racism and hand-outs to corporations. That is because drug prohibition is and has always been about racism and corporate greed, never about public health (unless you care about the propaganda used to support it). While people were (and continue to be) told racist nonsense to justify drug prohibition, corporations that benefit from said prohibition have lobbied hard in favor of it. It should come as no surprise that tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical companies are big contributors to "The Partnership for a Drug-Free America" -- they have enjoyed inflated profits as a result (the irony of a tobacco company pushing a message about the deadly consequences of marijuana or methamphetamine is off the scale).
There is a vast difference between crack or heroin addiction and things like - drinking coffee, playing video games, and wasting time on social networks.
Making the connection between those two groups (and equating them) via the word "addiction" made me stop reading after the quoted line.
I started out the post with "Drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin".
In fact, in many ways, addiction triggered by prescription painkillers and stimulants can be more difficult to deal with. We have gotten fairly good (with a lot of improvement to go) at treating "standard junkies" but people who don't consider themselves to be in that "class" will often fail to seek out treatment because they fear association with that "class".
Basically, the stigmatization of illegal drugs and addiction in general causes collateral damage. The attitude that addiction is immoral or signals some sort of personal defect (more or less, the sort of attitude powertower is showing here) causes harm.
Those are some radical statements.
The rule of law is the foundation of civilization.
People most certainly do have the right to enact laws which protect themselves and their families from chaos and anarchy.
It is well known that the ostensive purpose of prohibition -- the reduction of harm from drug addiction -- is not served by going after kingpins and cartels. There are always candidates to replace kingpins waiting in the wings and catching them only promotes violence as the candidates vie for status.
The effective policing tactic is to arrest middle class casual users and subject them to the shame of felony records and probation. You hunt down the soft targets at their homes and parties in vast numbers and hit them where they care -- in their job prospects, reputation, and freedom -- by briefly imprisoning them long enough to disrupt their jobs or school. Then you require them to report for weekly drug tests for years with a guarantee of longer imprisonment if they use unauthorized drugs again.
But the middle class voters won't support the drug war if you do that and there's no cash reward for cops in it or big media display either. So we're stuck with the wasted effort and public violence of going after kingpins.
And the credulous public always goes for the lie that the really important work is going after kingpins. Somehow it sounds meaningful to people who haven't thought about the subject. It's the opposite of effective policing, though.
I'm not in any way justifying his actions or anything like that. But I too was surprised that they just shut it down instead of just assuming control and going after what could have turned out to be cartels (assuming it wasn't just small time growers, etc.).
In case people have forgotten, SR itself was a target. There was pressure from Congress to shut it down, and it was probably the only goal of this operation:
Tor hides the source IP of people connecting to the server and tracking bitcoin transactions is pretty difficult as well.
I was never actually a customer, but it clearly filled a need many had. It would be a shame if the void it left isn't filled.
But as covered in this article, it is far more likely that it will be filled and in fact improved on.
The more they tighten their grip ...
It's a cat and mouse game where mouse have an distinct edge.
I am neither applauding nor deploring this; just predicting it.
(One of the things the mice may learn is that the slightest identity leak can give them away. One mis-click on a Facebook login or something and that could well be that. If I were a mouse, I would be working on building something like an encrypted VM image that only contains "safe" software on it, like browsers configured with TOR or whatever, and make sure to do all my business in that VM, and only my business in that VM, while maintaining a "normal" identity on the outside of the VM. The best way to prevent identity leakage is not to share it at all. And I would not install clipboard sharing between VM and host, and I would not enable shared windows; I would deliberately leave the VM console up, and distinctly less than full screen, so it is very visibly obvious that I am either in or not in the VM. I would not use any of the conveniences designed to blur that line.)
That is, assuming you don't go for some NSA parallel construction thing. But if that's the case, it will probably become clear after a couple more site busts.
Whoever does this next will know how much of a risk they're at, and will probably take appropriate steps to protect their real identity from day 1.
It sounds like they need to harden the server better too. Not just the code base and platform, but even configuring things such that whatever OS the site is hosted on can only see the outside world through Tor.
I've been reading on it and it seems they kept in escrowe the Bitcoins until the package had been marked as "Shipped"?
Was there a central wallet that one would send/receive coins from or was it flushed on the in/out through random wallets? Can the blockchain be traced to DRP's primary wallets?
From memory (which may be wrong), it sounded like he had something like 11 internal hot wallets, but while the coins were in escrow he used a database to link what user had what amount of coins. The government seized those 11 wallets, and based on the average daily holdings, now have like $3mm worth of BTC which they transferred to a single wallet (if you google, you can find the public record of that govt controlled wallet).
The indictment also explains that Silk Road used a "tumbler", which would route the BTC's through a series of random wallets so that it was not possible to match a user's initial sending of BTC to Silk Road with the eventual withdrawal by a seller of BTC's to another wallet or exchange.
Government seized real and tangible personal property is regularly either used by government or auctioned off, so I don't see why bitcoins would be any different.
Most vendors would ask for early FE or no product would be shipped but that was too risky for most buyers. FE was supposed to occur when the buyer received the product and gave it thumbs up.
I could assume that major vendors with high ratings could do early FE as their means, but would unrated vendors have to essentially front and hope that the buyer would FE?
Was the FE ever automated based upon FedEx/UPS tracking numbers?
P.S. federal agents, I don't use recreational drugs (anymore), I'm simply a longtime occasional reader of the SR forum... so please don't come kicking down my door.
Saying this will not make a difference. Given the general lack of consequences when paramilitary raids occur against innocent people, and the strong financial incentives for attacking people and seizing their property, you would not be safe even if you had never been near illegal drugs in your entire life.
I've actually had my home raided before... not fun. Fortunately I no longer live in America.
I think most drug busts are incidental: discovered when dealing with another crime (someone questioned for robbery, domestic violence or erratic driving). Large operations like this, or even medium ones on the local level, are generally about busting large gangs and even then it’s usually the violence that brings those gangs into law enforcements crosshairs. The sheer size of SR -- and the political pressure -- made it an exception.