The drug war is a ghastly thing, and the number of people we lock up in the US is more shameful than our foreign policy. You can begrudge the first DPR his lame security, shady murder contracts, and ill-gotten fortune, but he's the product of our system, and his shame is our shame.
Right now Silk Road is the eBay of drugs, where convenience is it's competitive advantage. I can get some drug without visiting a shady person in some shady place, but the drugs (in general) are still coming to the US the bloody, violent way via paramilitaries, druglords, etc. A huge part of the US war on drugs takes place among and between those parties, with the US not always supporting the side you might expect.
I'd be more excited about an Etsy of drugs, where people could buy whatever they want straight from the source, bypassing the blood trail. Good luck getting packages delivered from Afghanistan or Colombia though.
For example, if a druglord is competing directly with a mom-and-pop drug cultivator on SilkRoad -- the drug lord has higher costs (bribery, paramilitary force, etc.) and only marginally lower COGS from scale. Because they are unable to intimidate or kill other cultivators, like they do in meat space, the druglord could be at a real disadvantage.
I mean, cartels have been pumped up to pretty ridiculous heights by the war on drugs but it's not at the point where it would be realistic to have them say "here is a list of a few hundred usernames from SilkRoad spread out all over North America. Find them and murder them all."
Even considering that their MO is more along the lines of picking out the ones they can find and making a gruesome spectacle to scare the rest it still seems unrealistic, although so do a lot of things happening with drugs cartels these days to be fair.
This is not exact, unfortunately, because it depends also on some other factors. If the drug lords decide that they want to impose the fact that they don't accept opposition, they are actually going to do exactly that. They've done it already for several bloggers, it would make little difference if they decided to do it for the little indipendent dealers.
Keep in mind that in order to take out a few hundred independent dealears, they only need to torture and kill a few, and have the word spread.
First, drug cartels have very easily control of the IT infrastructures, and second, they now employ hackers exactly to keep the internet information under control.
They've killed several bloggers already, and you can be sure they thought they were anonymous.
These aren't all of equivalent difficulty...
Apparently not hard enough.
It is being done in Europe already.
Offline there is:
- competition via violence
- political narcoterrorism
- profit maximization by product dilution
- profit maximization by product deception (most street MDMA is amphetamine+nBOME mixture)
Online there is:
- competition via quality, price (violence impossible in anonymous marketplace)
- political separation via anonymity
- drastically reduced product dilution (people do reviews with sources like ecstasydata.org)
- drastically reduced product deception (see "The LSD Avengers" for example)
When you contrast these aspects you see that the online marketplaces do operate like a free market with the biggest difference being the incentives associated with deceptive vending. I think thats valuable just because it provides a real world simulation for what variables of legalization would look like without forcing any one country to take the initial plunge by themselves.
Remember, the vast majority of offline drug deals do not consist of driving to the hood to pick up something from a gangster. I think this mis-perception clouds a lot of the analysis of operations like the Silk Road.
You don't have to move far up the chain before you see some serious violence. Personal use weed dealer? Probably not going to get killed. But robbed? Yes, definitely, seen it happen many times. Personal use coke, ecstasy, heroin dealer? Much more likely to experience violence. The dealer one level above, supplying the personal use dealers? They get killed all the time, despite not being drug kingpins in any sense. It only costs 1000$-2000$ to have someone killed in many parts of the US, so that should say something about the chance of violence that small-time dealers face.
Silk Road was more than personal use sales, I'd bet the majority of its revenue came from pounds and half pounds of weed, sheets of LSD, and orders of 500+ ecstasy pills. Heroin and coke haven't caught on as much yet in the online scene, with prices still a little above what well-connected users can get on the streets, but give it time. Also keep in mind that the online drug scene is more than just SR/BMR/Sheep and that there are private forums that deal strictly in wholesale.
If you're interested in an observed account of a drug gang, there is a book called "Gang Leader for a Day" where the author spent a lot of time in a housing project, with the guy who ran that faction of the gang. It has its flaws but it was an interesting read:
Anybody running a small delivery line is almost always carrying an illegal gun, and willing to shoot competitors over peddling 8ths of coke.
if you read the report about the 1st silk road, you'll see that's not true
Alcohol and tobbacco dealers aren't involved in shootings in the streets - instead we find them in their shops, carefully following laws and doing business peacefully. Nor are their customers suffering from adulterated goods, or committing robberies to afford black-market prices.
Zetas do not hold up trucks full of tequilla and beer going into the US for extortion because they would be arrested. When your business is legal the solution for dealing with thugs is simple: call the cops or sue them. When you are gray area/illegal your only negotiation is to pay them or pick up a gun creating an all out war.
There are problems with some of the manufacture of cannabis. Criminal gangs use trafficked workers, forcing them to work in cannabis farms.
If I was a criminal gang using slaves to grow cannabis I think I'd market it as some home grown organic low yield crop with images of open fields and nice trees.
Just like eggs from caged hens don't show battery farms, but happy chickens walking in green fields. http://www.ecolovers.co.uk/wordpress/labelling-matters-the-r... etc.
It happens in England.
I think you mean more of an Amazon Marketplace of drugs.
> the drugs (in general) are still coming to the US the bloody, violent way via paramilitaries, druglords, etc.
If the information and payment infrastructure is good enough, it should make producers and shippers invisible to other producers and shippers, including the paramilitaries and drug-lords.
Not necessarily. A lot of them appear to be shipped in via post from outside the US direct to the buyer.
For one thing, no one's bothering to attack the US border, whereas in Brazil the government is fighting numerous active paramilitary groups which are basically all just fighting each other for control of the drug trade.
Cocaine and heroin are different stories, but are probably the exception compared to marijuana, various drugs that need to be lab-synthesized, and prescription pills being resold.
It has symbolic value I think. While I don't feel particularly anarchistic, I think a solid dose of a rebellious streak in society is good. Just to keep the government on its toes. A counterforce to governments tendency to do NSA scandal type stuff if you will.
That is probably the dumbest thing I've read in months.
It's actually quite spot on. The only reason the Silk Road is used is because there's a need for it. A need that's created by our current litigious and unproductive drug laws.
Let's parse it:
> You can begrudge the first DPR his lame security, shady murder contracts, and ill-gotten fortune,
I spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out what that meant until finally it occurred to me that the OP simply does not seem to know what the word begrudge means. He saw a similar construction used in a well written piece and copied it.
> but he's the product of our system,
Utter abnegation of personal responsibility. What about the rest of us who don't try to have people killed? Are we not also products of the system?
> and his shame is our shame.
Most assuredly not. I have on occasion behaved shamefully. I have not tried to have people killed. I have not facilitated what I consider dangerous and debilitating behavior. His shame is not my shame, nor is mine his. Society is not to blame.
You say "The only reason the Silk Road is used is because there's a need for it." Nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason the Silk Road exists is because there is a desire for it. In the language of the moral theorists, not all desires are ordered desires. It's a tough pill for the libertarians to swallow, but disordered behavior does not warrant the same privilege as well-ordered behavior.
The way this site launched so soon after the original was shut down--with the same name, same styling, even the same "Dread Pirate Roberts" moniker--makes me very suspicious.
In The Princess Bride, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/ it was actually a title that was handed down, and the current Dread Pirate Roberts is the third one.
The Princess Bride has wonderfully quotable dialogue, e.g. "Have you ever considered piracy? You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts."
"Roberts isn’t actually the site’s founder, he revealed in our interview. He credits Silk Road’s creation to another, even more secretive entrepreneur whom he declined to tell me anything about and who may have used the “Dread Pirate Roberts” nom de guerre before it was assumed by the person I interviewed."
From what I understand, at the time of Silk Road's creation, he was not nearly technically capable of creating a site like it. He seems to have learned enough to administer and update the site, but the initial construction was done by another.
I'd rather buy heroin from Silk Road (where it's peer-reviewed and often tested by third-parties) than on the street.
Buying online is just overall less risky.
And I thought it was a memorable way to phrase it... I've never seen heroin, except on The Wire.
For all drugs, it's quite possible that online offers better quality. I've known cocaine users whose local dealers only sold shitty quality, afaik I don't know anyone who has bought online but it might make sense for them in that case. And drugs like weed, might well be that you want a choice of strains whereas most dealers just have whatever they managed to buy, not a supermarket range of choices.
I think the sooner we realize how fleeting a battle it is to fight them, the sooner we can place the money where it belongs.
My cousin is dead now, but I think my tax money would be better spent helping him kick his habit, than locking him up.
His belief was that tax money should be spent on rehabilitation instead of the drug war. Shouldn't you be against using tax money for this and instead supporting private charities?
Therefore, it's actually better and fair to use a small tax for rehabilitation than it is to use prisons to keep drug users locked up. This is according to the Libertarian point of view.. Strictly Libertarians are against tax, however in this case a more middle road can be argued for and be within the Libertarian's view.
So true. The privatization of jails in the US seems to be the root cause of this. Private jails want to increase profits, so they lobby for “3 strikes” laws that play well for politicians who want to seem “tough on crime”. The end result is a lot more people in jail, but without the reduction in crime and certainly absent of actually helping people stop their drug habits.
May I ask what drugs he was battling with?
“This new website – launched barely a month after Federal agents shut down the original Silk Road -- underscores the inescapable reality that technology is dynamic and ever-evolving and that government policy needs to adapt accordingly. Rather than play ‘whack-a-mole’ with the latest website, currency, or other method criminals are using in an effort to evade the law, we need to develop thoughtful, nimble and sensible federal policies that protect the public without stifling innovation and economic growth. Our committee intends to have that conversation – among others - at our hearing this month on virtual currency.”
Of course the genius of the Princess Bride with respect to the DPR character is that the character cannot be killed or captured or prosecuted, because it isn't really a person, it is an idea. And that was wonderfully illustrated in the book, film, and now in world around us.
If these guys get caught then I think we can more safely assume that it was a case of parallel construction after the targets were initially identified by the NSA/GCHQ tracking them via Tor. Only the biggest dealers and the operators would be worthy of the resources required to undertake that task.
Of course, there still has to be some level of trust on the part of a buyer, that the seller they're connecting to is actually a real drug dealer and not an undercover cop. But that was still an issue even on the original Silk Road. It was partially addressed by the feedback/review system -- which does involve a certain amount of trust in the site not to fabricate reviews -- but more importantly by the fact that high-level law enforcement is really only interested in tracking down sellers. And assuming the users are competent, running a honeypot gives you very little information about the sellers.
Many users over in Europe took to themselves to review sellers on trusted third-party sites, such as flashback.org.
There trusted sellers were "greened", as it were, and word was quickly spread when some seller tried a bait-and-switch by giving good drugs to the first buyers and scamming the second wave.
Full Disclosure: I am a user of flashback.org but I never used drugs or silk road.
Buyers slightly less, considering that the sellers might be cops (which is also the case on a non-honeypot site), or because the PGP-keys of the sellers might be fake (for MITM).
But considering that feds generally seem to target sellers, I don't think the usefulness of this as a honeypot would be huge. But it's definitely possible, especially given that the feds have the source code and all.
Why wouldn't law enforcement pose as buyers, as well? This is a common tactic in narcotics enforcement. Entrapment often isn't an issue, as the seller took the first step of advertising the drugs for sale.
Are you getting at the fact that the buyer must have a receiving address, while the seller can ship anonymously? I would be skeptical of that. If I were attempting to track the source of a package, and I had the full force of warrants behind me, I bet I could track down most shippers.
Every shipping company has its own tracking information. Much of this may be opaque to the end user. The tracking might be much more detailed than what you can see as an end user with a tracking number. Assuming the carrier cooperates with law enforcement, tracking could (presumably) be further enhanced for targeted post offices, routes, etc..
For example, suppose I, as a law enforcement agent, receive an order from a Silk Road seller. Let's say it was shipped in an envelope, dropped off at a USPS street-corner box. From the tracking info, I identify which post office first handled the envelope. Thus I narrow my search to a few possible mailboxes served by that post office.
I instruct the carriers at that post office to assist me. As they follow their routes, emptying mailboxes, I have them sort outgoing mail into separate bags, one per box. I have the post office flag any mail going to my address.
I place another order from the same seller. When it hits the post office, it gets flagged, and because of the per-box sorting, I know which mailbox was used.
For round three, I place yet another order, this time with the mailbox under surveillance. I also install a camera inside the mailbox that sees the destination address of every envelope deposited. When the seller drops his shipment, my surveillance team detects it. They then follow the person who dropped the letter. Now I have the shipper's identity.
Can these measures be defeated with appropriate opsec? Maybe, if you know exactly what tactics law enforcement will employ. But you don't. You could spend all your time defending against the tactics I just described, only to get caught because law enforcement came up with a totally different strategy.
My point is, opsec is really, really hard.
For sellers, proper OPSec requires that they do not leave fingerprints in/on the package, that mailing locations are reasonably random and not isolated to a small geographic area, and that the sender masks his identity (veiled face, no cellphone, no car) when dropping off the packages. Additionally, a seller should use a variety of packaging types for shipments to make detecting the illicit shipments harder.
Given these precautions, it would likely be infeasible for law enforcement agencies to identify a given seller. However, they would also reduce profits for the vendor.
For example, conceivably when you package the drugs in your warehouse, local pollens and molds could find their way into the insides of the packaging. If the distribution of pollens and molds is unique to a reasonably small area, that would be an information leak.
A bit sci-fi? Sort of. You'd need a database of mold and pollen distributions for the whole country, plus tools to analyze the distribution in a given package. That's daunting, and maybe it's more trouble than it's worth for drug enforcement. But it's not outright impossible. And I have no idea what's the maximum effort DEA is willing to spend to track down Silk Road sellers.
This is just one example of a possible information leak, off the top of my head. I'm sure we could come up with others, if we thought hard enough about it. All of this is to say that it's not the information leak you're worried about, it's the one you haven't thought of that will ruin you.
Agents need to make busts in order to get promoted, therefore 'rational' agents will catch those easier to catch before devoting resources to harder to catch suspects.
Not that I'm disagreeing with you at all. Your point seems spot-on.
If you're smart enough to devise these opsec procedures, you're probably smart enough to make a decent living doing something legal. So being a drug dealer is only worth it if you can do it at scale and make serious money. But these opsec procedures would significantly erode your hourly rate, making Silk Road an unattractive proposition. Unless, of course, you're willing to throw caution to the wind and optimize for efficiency rather than security.
The post office also happens to have a list of these mailboxes, if you use random selection and travel during peak hours they can't reduce much below the 'people who live in the metro area and commute' level.
"...while the Royal Mail intercepted several other packages, which had been held up because insufficient stamps had been put on them."
"After receiving the second letter, which had been damaged by fire, police made enquiries with the Royal Mail and discovered that a fire had been reported in a postbox on Bradpole Road, Bournemouth, leading to speculation that "Sally"—the alias by which all the letters were signed—had changed his mind and attempted to destroy the letter."
"The police received another letter from "Sally" on 7 December. Once again, the letter was traced back to the Bradpole road postbox, where the surveillance operation had continued. The operation had captured good-quality footage of all the users of the postbox that day, but, as it was close to Christmas, the postbox was busier than normal, with 172 items posted by 38 people. Royal Mail regulations meant that detectives could not open or delay the letters, so they made enquiries with the recipients to identify the senders. They eventually managed to identify all but a small number of the senders."
"On 17 February 2001—over six months after the receipt of the first demand and three months since the last letter from "Sally"—the police made a major breakthrough. Detective Constable Alan Swanton, a junior detective on the case, spotted one of the people caught by the surveillance of the postbox who had yet to be identified. The man was carrying a fuel container, which Swanton believed had come from a nearby filling station. Officers obtained CCTV footage from the filling station, where their suspect had paid by cheque, and identified the man as Robert Edward Dyer."
And then you end up with covert LEO buying, and covert LEO selling ... and find yourself knee deep in a Philip K Dick novel.
Because as a buyer you don't know who the seller is. You just receive your package.
But as a seller, you know your buyer's mailing address. It becomes trivial to catch the buyer.
And would it be even legal for the police to do this?
If the government is running a drug marketplace as a honeypot to catch sellers and buyers, it's possible that some of those buyers and sellers might mount an effective suit ... but I'd say the expected result is much more likely to be jail time for the buyers/sellers.
Moreover, the courts will rule that only people directly harmed by such things can sue for it, and then will deny THEIR suit unless they are able to prove that it happened. Since it'll all be classified up to the moon, the government will deny its existence, and no suits will happen.
This is a deliberately cynical take on how that would go down, but I fear it's probably not inaccurate.
There is no other way to run a honeypot. Reminder that the feds ran the two largest carding forums on the web:
They almost entirely destroyed English-language US-based carding forums in the process.
What I don't really know, I guess, are the legal implications of entraping people on such a mass scale.
I'm also not sure about the usefulness of such a honeypot, since you can't actually track the buyers. Just because someone pays you to send drugs to some address, doesn't mean it's their own address
That said, I agree with other comments here as to why it's unlikely to be a honeypot.
Of course they would. The makers of a maximally-effective honeypot aren't going to shy away from making fun of TLAs. They'll do what's most effective.
With that said, I doubt it's a honeypot. Of course I don't plan to test that hypothesis.
This may result in your neighbor being raided and possibly being injured (and small chance they might be killed). Please read the description of some of these botched raids http://www.cato.org/raidmap before you willfully endanger people you should be looking out for.
If you get drugs shipped to your house, they will charge and probably convict you. Doesn't mean it would hold up in an appeal, but why would you risk an innocent's life, freedom, finances, and social standing just to order drugs off the internet?
All I was responding to is your statement, "One of the most irresponsible things I've ever read." If I ranked all statements I've ever read in order of irresponsibility, this is pretty middling.
If you don't see the irresponsibility of implicating an unknowing third-party in a serious life ruining felony, I don't know what to tell you.
Given that this is most likely filled with vendors who are either agents or guys who have been popped and are now confidential informants, your statistics are way off.
But that is just low. What kind of psychopath do you have to be to ruin some innocent persons's life just because you want to check some theory.
There is some role for law enforcement to play in discouraging the supply of drugs (if the society we live in remains one where drug use is considered negative). However, the vast majority of resources should go towards addressing the demand (making people want them less, treatment, etc., I don't mean just arrest all the buyers).
Are my fears unfound? On one hand, the idea of buying drugs online is probably more safe than doing it on the streets, but the anonymity this offers has a potential downside like the one I mentioned above.
There is risk in everything. Generally people aren't sociopaths and aren't out to harm others. Risk is minimal but exists.
Sellers on Silkroad do have reputation? Anonymous does not mean "unknown".
Not really a fair comparison. If a grocery store assaults or defrauds you, you have legal recourse.
There is nothing you can do if an illicit transaction fails.
The rest of what you say is true, of course.
This is more recourse than you have in practice against a grocery store if they refuse to give you a refund - what are you going to do, sue them?
On the original silk road, it cost a very large amount to get a vendor account. So if you decided to start selling bad shit, you'd have to play nice for a while to break even, a while longer to build trust, and then go out in a blaze of bad shit.
I don't really see why anyone would do that. If you have good enough connections to get a good rep on the Silk Road (or similar site), you have good enough connections to never need to sell bad shit. As Stringer Bell would say, it's all about the product. If you have better product than your competition, you'll win in the end.
Hypothetically. If you have enough money. And enough evidence. Good luck with that. I'd rather take my chances in SR's dispute resolution center...
Point is there is a huge web of people everybody trusts to not be evil. They are trusted for no good reason (other than as stated most people aren't sociopaths). But some are. Protecting against them isn't worth the tiny risk of exposure.
Likewise fretting over being "defrauded" by anonymous (but reputed) persons whom you buy illicit goods from is not worth worrying about. Same with ebay, kickstarter etc.
These are all inspected by governments. You can argue that this is imperfect, does not happen frequently enough, leaves something to be desired, won't catch everything, etc., but speaking personally, I do take those inspection scores seriously when I see them posted on the walls of places.
The LSD Avengers are a group of individuals that perform trip, reagent, and lab tests on LSD that is found on the Silk Road in order to verify the legitimacy of the product and to weed out scammers. Their primary goal is to aide individuals in easily finding the holy grail of psychedelics.
They do, but they take the risk. Shows how much people want that stuff in their body.
If you kill people slowly, so, booze, fags, fatty food, pollution, and so on, then its fine. Killing people really fast, well, that's then it gets iffy. Oh, unless you are a government waging a jihad, or is it "war", on something.
Im sure they must be a line some where...
The clients would openly share the buy and sell orders and then communication would moved to an encrypted channel that supports perfect forward secrecy.
The only part that ostensibly needs to be centralized is a ledger maintaining the reputation tied to some pseudonym.
i.e. the identity of DPR is passed along to all the users of the site collectively.
The single dumbest thing the last DPR did was continue living in the US
2. Liability and safety. It's safer to assume your pharmacist is giving the right drug and the right amount and the right quality. I am all for reducing the cost and I think we should lower the cost whenever possible, but getting through silk road because it's cheaper/easier to get doesn't meet my standard.
I have seen heroin ruin people's lives and I wish with all my heart that it could be eradicated. However, this is just not possible, and we have to figure out how to live in a world that includes such terrible things. The only people who benefit from criminalization are law enforcement and prison owners.
Not disagreeing with you, but I (personally) have seen far more people's lives ruined by legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and various painkillers than I've seen from hard/illegal drugs (heroin/crack/cannabis/etc).
What is this society that you refer to. Surely it can be the people of the nation, because only 30%-ish of the population votes, so the majority can't be said to be in agreement (I also never recall a nation wide vote on the legality of drugs). Are you referring to politicians' decisions? They are an even smaller part of the overall population and don't even represent the people that they are said to (Money in politics etc). Plus, even if 99% of the entire population were to decide that these drugs are dangerous, why is it then ok to violently stop the 1% from doing something that only harms themselves? If that is just, would it the be ok if 51% of people decided that all soda was dangerous and banned that too? What about cheese burgers, we, as a society, have to stop obesity right? What about cars, which kill more people than drugs ever will?
The idea of the morality of democracy is just another version of the might makes right argument.
The choice to let other people choose for you is still a choice.
Yes, choosing not to vote is allowing other people to choose for you. You have the choice to participate in the decision or not, and you choose not to participate. That means you are choosing to allow other people to choose for you.
> Not giving consent to any action of any kind can not give consent
Consent is not the same thing as choice (it may require choice, but it is not equivalent to it.)
Is this only for drugs? If so, why only for drugs? If not, does that mean you want to be governed by popular opinion?
I'm actually astounded someone on HN would make this statement so I'm genuinely interested in the rationale.
I don't buy stuff like that and never will. But if I did, I wouldn't go near anything using the Silk Road name after a seizure/arrest has been publicly documented.
Remember, on the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog. Or a teenager living in your mom's basement in Russia. Or an FBI agent munching on donuts in Washington DC. Etc.
As a black hat, that would of being my first play. The presence of ex Silk Road moderators does a little bit to assuage those fears, but they could be fooled just as any other person. Truly, I would never trust this Silk Road. Then again, I wouldn't of trusted the old Silk Road either.