Silk Road Update: Federal Prosecutors File Separate Forfeiture Complaint

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56 Responses

  1. dw says:

    I still don't get how forfeiture is consistent with the Fifth Amendment — at least in those cases (surely the overwhelming majority) where the owner of the property is known.

  2. Jason says:

    A more thorough coverage of forfeiture law might be in order, when you have time. That recent New Yorker article on forfeiture abuses made me interested in more on the subject (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman).

  3. Fnord says:

    Aren't these people supposed to be on furlough or something?

  4. Clark says:

    Glad to see you're still blogging Ken!

  5. Clark says:

    > I still don't get how forfeiture is consistent with the Fifth Amendment

    It's exactly as consistent with the Fifth as the rest of the government is with the Constitution itself.

    ("Of course the president can drone murder American teenagers! Says so right there in the interstate commerce clause!")

  6. darius404 says:

    @Clark

    I believe you're a bit wrong there, Clark. The authority for drone striking teenagers (sometimes of unknown affiliation ) comes, like most of the government's authority, from the Good and Hard Clause, which empowers them to give the citizenry what they know they want.

    edit: "Click to Edit" with a 5-minute window? By my stars and garters! Thanks guys.

  7. AlanF says:

    Thank you, Ken, for the education. I almost always learn something new from your posts.

  8. jdgalt says:

    I'm no lawyer, but I have read the Federalist (which puts me one up on most of the Supreme Court, IMAO). And if I were going to challenge forfeiture I would base it on the 4th (due process), 8th (excessive fines), or 10th (enumerated powers) amendments. The 5th (presumably you mean the last clause which deals with eminent domain) doesn't even seem relevant. Perhaps this is one of those places where the presence of too many lawyers distorts the English language the way Douglas Adams' "bistromathic drive" distorted the laws of mathematics.

    Also, I don't get why you predict that forfeiture will probably be stayed until the criminal case plays itself out. Wasn't the forfeiture system created for the express purpose of preventing people accused of drug crimes from hiring lawyers by grabbing their funds in advance of the criminal trial?

  9. En Passant says:

    Jason wrote Oct 10, 2013 @5:34 pm:

    A more thorough coverage of forfeiture law might be in order, when you have time.

    While Ken may wish to provide his particular insights, writing up an overview of forfeiture law and history is a longish task. So until then, you can find good general overviews here [FEAR.org].

  10. dw says:

    I was think of "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".

  11. Jim Tyre says:

    Ken,

    This leads to absurd-sounding case names.

    For in rem proceedings, I prefer California state court nomenclature over federal. A California case would be (for example) People v. $1,358,792.00. One of the rare situations in life where, when it's the people v. the money, the people usually win.

  12. JasonRitzke says:

    INCLUDING THE SERVERS
    ASSIGNED THE FOLLOWING INTERNET
    PROTOCOL ADDRESSES:
    46.183.219.244; 109.163.234.40;
    193.107.86.34; 193.107.86.49;
    207.106.6.25; AND 207.106.6.32;

    I just assigned a old Pentium 3 box all of those IPs as static addresses (on one NIC, no less). Does this mean that they can have it instead of all of the servers that they actually want?

    I think I may have an authority problem when it comes to people who don't know how IP addresses work having anything to do with tech cases.

  13. cpast says:

    @Jason

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but first, they say "including" (meaning they could take yours AND SR's). Second and more importantly, you have no authority to assign those IPs, which have already been allocated. You can tell a machine to respond to whatever IP you want, but they are *also* allocated centrally, and I think it's pretty clear that they're referring to the servers which were assigned those IPs from someone who was allocated them.

    Also, note that the operative thing is "Silk Road servers". There's nothing stopping me from creating an informal organization right now called the Silk Road. That doesn't mean they're seizing my operation's stuff. IP addresses should be less of a problem, as there is a centralized allocation system.

  14. JasonRitzke says:

    @cpast

    I was being snarky, but you're mostly right-ish. The issue I raise is largely pedantic: computers with a static IP configured act as though they own it. Proving which server has the actual right to own it might be tricky, especially if you unplugged them all and played a shell game first :-)

  15. Just to give everyone a vague and highly inaccurate idea of where those IP addresses are…

    46.183.219.244 – Dataclub (company HQ in Belize, data center in Latvia)

    109.163.234.40 – Voxility (offices in US & Romania, with hosting possibly out of Kuala Lumpur)

    193.107.86.34, 193.107.86.49 – Advania Datacenters (Iceland)

    207.106.6.25, 207.106.6.32 – Julie Thomas Associates (Pennsylvania or New York); interestingly, this service provider announced mid-September that it was terminating all dedicated hosting (although that probably means they will only support virtual hosting after January 2014); they also take Bitcoin for payment

    If these truly are the servers behind the Silk Road Tor hidden service, how did the government manage to find them? The servers would have been running Tor themselves, with only indirect access to them through an ever changing list of other Tor nodes. I'd prefer to think that XKCD 538 applies and the feds had an insider leak the service's real-world locations. If not, it means that they were able to break Tor's protections against traffic analysis – which is kind of the whole point of Tor.

  16. Mike says:

    Clark: I'm glad you have discovered that people are killed in conflicts.

    dw: What kind of process would you accept as meeting due process?

  17. Clark says:

    Clark: I'm glad you have discovered that people are killed in conflicts.

    What?

  18. Dan Weber says:

    I just assigned a old Pentium 3 box all of those IPs as static addresses (on one NIC, no less). Does this mean that they can have it instead of all of the servers that they actually want?

    I just named my cat Ross Ulbricht. Does that mean the cops can arrest him instead?

    Nerds playing cute logic games are really really annoying in court. This isn't Star Trek and you aren't Captain Kirk who can win the day if you convince the super-computer to kill itself if you find a flaw in its logic.

  19. solaric says:

    If these truly are the servers behind the Silk Road Tor hidden service, how did the government manage to find them?

    Police work from the look of it.

    The servers would have been running Tor themselves, with only indirect access to them through an ever changing list of other Tor nodes. I'd prefer to think that XKCD 538 applies and the feds had an insider leak the service's real-world locations. If not, it means that they were able to break Tor's protections against traffic analysis – which is kind of the whole point of Tor.

    The NSA's own memos in the leaks backed up the math and reasoning that led people to be confident in Tor, and reveals that at least for now Tor seems pretty damn good privacy protection when used properly. There don't appear, at least for now, to be any fundamental breaks in either the crypto or overall routing system. If more people used it then it'd become even stronger, but it seems there's enough critical mass that even the government can't get enough poison nodes up (which has always been a known theoretical that can only be dealt with via scale).

    However, emphasis was added there because Tor is a very specific tool with a single specific purpose. Many people, including maybe you, seem to think it does more then it does. Tor aims to provide anonymization of network address origin and route, but it does absolutely nothing whatsoever about content transmitted (nor could it) or security of the end points. It's a anonymizing connection network, which is both a lot but also less then some seem to think. If you bring your ancient unpatched Windows XP SP1 box onto Tor you can get WTFPWNED in about 1.9 seconds just like anywhere else on the Internet. The exact same thing applies to any servers used for Hidden Services. There is nothing inherently special about them, Tor itself doesn't provide any magic security, they're still just web servers. If they're not properly secured and/or an attacker has a 0-day, they can get rooted just the same as anything else and then immediately ordered to fire off a message over the regular net, at which point the real IP is revealed. Again, we know that has happened before.

    Finally, Tor will do nothing whatsoever to prevent you from simply going to a Hidden Service forum and saying "yeah after me and the buds partied at the XYZ Starbucks in LA yesterday at 9:30, we went and jacked a car!" Anyone can in turn read that, law enforcement included, and promptly go look into exactly who was at XYZ Starbucks in LA yesterday at 9:30. Tor can be a critical part of the foundation for an overall anonymity plan, but all the foundation in the world doesn't negate the need for basic information hygiene or OpSec.

    Most criminals, just like most humans in general, aren't actually particularly intelligent or careful. Running a Hidden Service doesn't make one a criminal mastermind with a volcanic island and a long haired Persian cat sadly, although that's also the point, it's supposed to be as easy/cheap as possible so that it can be widely used. Based on the complaint, it looks like basically Ulbricht was a fucking n00b and that for all the ballyhoo from the government about needing taps and hacks and SigInt, plain old fashioned police work that doesn't crush everyone's rights still has its place. From that Ars piece for example:

    In an October 11, 2011 posting to a Bitcoin Talk forum, for instance, a user called "altoid" advertised he was looking for an "IT pro in the Bitcoin community" to work in a venture-backed startup. The post directed applicants to send responses to "rossulbricht at gmail dot com." It came about nine months after two previous posts—also made by a user, "altoid," to shroomery.org and Bitcoin Talk—were among the first to advertise a hidden Tor service that operated as a kind of "anonymous amazon.com." Both of the earlier posts referenced silkroad420.wordpress.com.
    [...]
    The clues didn't stop there. In early March 2012 someone created an account on StackOverflow with the username Ross Ulbricht and the rossulbricht@gmail.com address, the criminal complaint alleged. On March 16 at 8:39 in the morning, the account was used to post a message titled "How can I connect to a Tor hidden service using curl in php?" Less than one minute later, the account was updated to change the user name from Ross Ulbricht to "frosty." Several weeks later, the account was again updated, this time to replace the Ulbricht gmail address with frosty@frosty.com. In July 2013, a forensic analysis of the hard drives used to run one of the Silk Road servers revealed a PHP script based on curl that contained code that was identical to that included in the Stack Overflow discussion, the complaint alleged.

    Hahaha! Oh wow. Yeah, when I want to get advice on my anonymous hidden service, I too am sure to use my real name everywhere. Er, wait a sec…

    So while it may turn out there was some super sekrit special sauce here it's doubtful. More likely they just tried rooting a server with off the shelf stuff as well as simply saying "let's just go see if he went to a typical big forum and and revealed himself" and he did. Welp!

  20. Mike says:

    Clark: That was rudely sarcastic of me, and I apologize.

  21. Mike says:

    Not only are the goods and services offered on the
    SILK ROAD HIDDEN WEBSITE overwhelmingly illegal on their face . . .

    Overwhelmingly illegal, huh? I guess if they were just whelmingly illegal, the government wouldn't be seeking forfeiture.

    Lawyers and their adverbs. Blech.

  22. solaric says:

    Overwhelmingly illegal, huh? I guess if they were just whelmingly illegal, the government wouldn't be seeking forfeiture.

    "Whelmingly" isn't a word, but yes, if illegal activity was only a minor part of the overall activities of a given business then it certainly would constitute part of an argument against forfeiture. Plenty of entirely legitimate businesses, particularly if they're general markets and particularly if big enough, are transiently used for illegal activity here and there, plenty of counterfeit stuff on EBay for example despite efforts to crack down on it. Or for an even more pertinent example engaged in ongoing legal controversy look at filelocker/cloud storage services, which of course have significant amounts of infringing material at any given time but also large amounts of entirely legitimate business. The ratios and in turn what the service owners know and are doing about it does matter. Absolutism isn't required, if good faith efforts are made and on the whole things are legit that gets recognized. Conversely, if it's obvious that the overwhelming majority is illegal and the operators do nothing or even encourage it, then some fraction of a percent of ok activity may not prove much of a fig leaf.

    Here the government is arguing that the entire foundational core of the business and nearly everything built upon that is entirely, blatantly illegal. If correct then that's not an irrelevant factor.

  23. Sinij says:

    If not, it means that they were able to break Tor's protections against traffic analysis – which is kind of the whole point of Tor.

    Sadly, it is possible to break some of Tor's protection if you control multiple nodes in the chain. For example, if it happens that you can access all nodes in the Tor chain, then traffic is not protected from you at all. It doesn't have to be that extreme, just controlling some allows you to build association/lookup tables that with enough data can be used to undermine Tor.

  24. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Isn't the civil forfeiture bit actually insanely important now, not just in the future, because it justified temporarily (at least) siezing all the Bitcoins on Silk Road they could get ahold of (the Silk Road working funds they transferred to their own account) and also using the information they got from the server to put up the "This hidden service has been siezed" page?

    And the feds are right: Silk Road's sales are almost exclusively illegal content. The way I like to put it, its "Drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, books about drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, and a tiny bit of porn". (Even before the siezure, it was actually easy to estimate what Silk Road was selling)

    I actually publicly suggested (and the Feds might very well do this going forward, I know my "All About Bitcoin" slide deck has gone around DHS) identifying all Bitcoins transferred from Silk Road and do civil forfeiture on them and on the cash-out for all those which went Silk Road to exchange, since unless the seller shows that THEY were only selling books about drugs, they are stuck.

    Its even worse for the sellers now, since undoubtedly Silk Road needed to keep records of Bitcoin transactions for basic accounting, which means the Feds can say "Seller X sold Y product, Bitcoin transfers Z. Now analyze the blockchain, it went to exchange E. Hey E, tell us where the money went? Kay, thanks".

    The alleged DPR and his employees lived cheaply (DPR reportedly paid only $1K-$2K/week, and the alleged DPR did live cheaply), which meant he could cash out his Bitcoins in face-to-face sales.

    But any seller on Silk Road of appreciable volume needed to basically convert his sales into dollars immediately to pay the seller's suppliers. So if a seller sold just $10K/month in product, they'd need to convert $10K/month into Bitcoin, which is hard without going to an exchange.

  25. eddie says:

    Matthew, Solaric:

    If these truly are the servers behind the Silk Road Tor hidden service, how did the government manage to find them?

    My guess is that the NSA had a working non-publicly-disclosed exploit against PHP (which SR used for at least some part of its service) which gave them a shell, or at least a one-shot command. All they had to to was get the server to execute `ping honeypot.nsafront.org` one time and then just like that they've got everything they need.

  26. eddie says:

    Overwhelmingly illegal, huh?

    I strenuously object.

  27. L says:

    I'm no lawyer, but I have read the Federalist (which puts me one up on most of the Supreme Court, IMAO). And if I were going to challenge forfeiture I would base it on the 4th (due process)

    To remain "one up on most of the Supreme Court," you might want to read the 4th Amendment, and find that the phrase "due process" does not appear in it.

    My first thought was that "4th" was a typo for "5th," but later in your comment you say that the 5th Amendment doesn't seem relevant. So it's puzzling.

    The 5th Amendment says, in part: "No person shall . . . be deprived of . . . property, without due process of law; . . ." Which seems very relevant.

  28. Docrailgun says:

    I can see the headline now:
    "OBAMA HUSSEIN OBAMA'S JACKBOOTED THUGS SEIZING BITCOINS TO SAVE OBAMACARE!!!"

    News at 11.

  29. shg says:

    This seems an opportune time to add, for the benefit of readers who weren't around in the 1980's, that the law pertaining to in rem forfeitures developed in the context of narcotics seizures. Prior to that, the legal maxim, the law abhors a forfeiture, was the rule, and judges were generally antagonistic to forfeiture proceedings.

    In the 80's, with the crack outbreak, the feds began aggressively seeking forfeiture of proceeds, substitute proceeds and instrumentalities of crime. At the time, no one (except those of us actively engaged in the drug and forfeiture defense ) gave a damn, and the law that developed was quite harsh. Efforts to challenge in rem forfeitures on constitutional grounds were uniformly rejected. No one (again, but us) uttered a peep. After all everybody hated those evil crack dealers.

    And that is the state of law that now exists for use against others today. Of course, now that it's being applied against people other than crack dealers, people are taking notice. Sadly, it's a little too late to ask some very good questions about how it's possible that this nation can tolerate in rem forfeiture, given the wealth of precedent developed in the past 30 years.

  30. Andrew says:

    "Whelming" is a word, however. At least, I remember singing it in a hymn, "… the whelming flood…"

  31. Mike says:

    Solaric –

    "Whelmingly" isn't a word, but yes, if illegal activity was only a minor part of the overall activities of a given business then it certainly would constitute part of an argument against forfeiture.

    Thanks for the correction; I feel quite ruthful now. Anyway, I don't think you're describing overwhelmingly illegal activity, but rather pervasively illegal activity, which would have been a more useful and less ridiculous adverb. "Illegal" strikes me as a binary state — either an activity is illegal or not. Some illegal acts can be more serious, but murder is just as illegal as theft, and "overwhelmingly illegal" sounds silly to me. Maybe it's a little pedantic, but I didn't spend three years and a hundred thou at pedant school to leave that skill on the shelf.

    eddie –

    Oh! Well, if you strenuously object, then I should take some time to reconsider.

  32. With regard to shg's comment, I was around in the 1980's, and I remember discussions with other civil libertarians about this new civil forfeiture thing the government was doing. Not being lawyers, we didn't have a hand in fighting it, but we were appalled by the idea that the government was trying to evade the burden of proof, to impose what seemed an awful lot like a criminal penalty, simply by claiming to have stepped down momentarily from the throne to become just another humble civil litigant.

    After the Pittsburgh Press blew the story wide open with their "Presumed Guilty" series, which revealed that police agencies were keeping forfeited goods and cash for themselves (where do you think those Bitcoins are going?), we were expecting a backlash of outrage that would put an end to this process.

    That was 22 years ago, and it still seems like nobody cares.

  33. solaric says:

    @eddie

    My guess is that the NSA had a working non-publicly-disclosed exploit against PHP (which SR used for at least some part of its service) which gave them a shell, or at least a one-shot command.

    First, it's not clear there was any compromise-first scenario at all. It may have come entirely from the other direction: their attention was drawn to him in the real world through his lack of opsec and screw ups, and after they found that out and verified it they then went after the cyber part from the bottom up. Suspecting it was him, they could then go after his computers, tap him specifically, check his finances to find out if he was doing stuff like paying out of pocket for services, then go with a warrant to those services, etc. Tor helps prevent getting discovered in the first place, but it has much more minimal benefit, if any, if you've already been personally identified and you're important enough to be worth expending real world hard resources on.

    Second, while they're the current flavor of the month/year, the NSA is not behind everyting now anymore then they were before and I doubt they were much involved, if at all. In fact that seems more certain after recent revelations given how they were extremely careful in their use of exploits. It seems improbable they'd burn a valuable 0-day on something like this, and it also seems unlikely it'd even be necessary. Given the kinds of utterly basic flubs the administer is alleged to have made, and the advice he was asking for, it's way more likely that if they hacked at all the FBI just went and downloaded metasploit or black hole or something and tried it out, no need for anything secret. Distressingly large percentages of even servers aren't kept remotely up-to-date, or are still, even in 2013, vulnerable to stuff like simple database overflows. Alternatively, they could have done something like get him to visit another hidden service as had a browser exploit like they did earlier. At any rate the FBI does have internal IT capabilities of its own.

    Of course there are fusion centers, and it's not impossible there was some help either finding him or, after they had a suspect, with verification/analysis. It's possible if there was some sneaky business going on they found post-hoc explanations for it and plan to keep the whole thing secret so unless there are future leaks we won't know. More should become clear as the case proceeds. But still given the number of blunders Occam's Razor seems applicable: the guy made a bunch of basic mistakes and the Internet doesn't forget.

    @Mike

    Anyway, I don't think you're describing overwhelmingly illegal activity, but rather pervasively illegal activity, which would have been a more useful and less ridiculous adverb.

    Well, you can object to that use of the word in general English perfectly reasonably, but "overwhelming" is in fact commonly used to convey that "the majority of a population/collection has some trait." There's nothing wrong with using it in that sense as is done here. "The physics community overwhelmingly supports the usefulness of quantum mechanics" is a statement about the "community", not the "support". It's equivalent to "The overwhelming majority of the physics community supports the usefulness of quantum mechanics," not that everyone was willing to strap bombs to themselves over it or something. In fact I can't really think of any instance where it's used in the way you describe when referencing a group as opposed to something singular (ie., "overwhelming power"). English is a funny old thing but the use doesn't seem off here.

  34. solaric says:

    Mark Draughn (Windypundit) wrote:

    After the Pittsburgh Press blew the story wide open with their "Presumed Guilty" series, which revealed that police agencies were keeping forfeited goods and cash for themselves (where do you think those Bitcoins are going?), we were expecting a backlash of outrage that would put an end to this process.

    Probably a lot of Popehat readers have expected the same thing each time the latest SWAT no-knock fuckup hits :(. Both ultimately are yet more pernicious but perhaps predictable effects from the "War" on Drugs being run like, well, like a war. In many old wars prize-taking and privateering and the like played important parts, so perhaps its inevitable to see some of the same basics reappear.

    But I take some solace in the fact that while the public is rarely moved to a huge degree by any single event, the pebbles do seem to add up. It's taken quite a long time, but the tide does seem to be against the WoD on an ever increasing number of fronts. From the most local level of outrage all the way up to international politics, there is more questioning and pushing then ever before, and while the entrenched interests are in turn fighting back as expected they don't seem to be able to turn the tide so well this time. Demographics and time can be painful to wait for, just like it can be painful to wait for the legal wheels to slowly grind, but they're all the harder to stop for that. I don't know what might finally cause the dam to burst, or if it even will be a huge burst rather then a long drawn out wind down, but I don't think it's a lost cause that the WoD will end as Prohibition did and that at that point some of the edifices built upon it can be attacked in turn, with a reassertion of property rights being high on the list.

  35. Nice write-up, and I rarely get to say that. Drop by #bitcoin-assets sometime.

  36. Doctor X says:

    Since "whelm" is a perfectly cromulent noun and verb. . . .

  37. En Passant says:

    Andrew wrote Oct 11, 2013 @9:01 am:

    "Whelming" is a word, however. At least, I remember singing it in a hymn, "… the whelming flood…"

    "Whelm" is a perfectly runcible transitive verb: to flood, bury, cover or engulf. It was whelped by Middle English "whelven", from Old English "gehwelfan".

  38. Ken White says:

    "Whelm" is also the name of the trident you can get in White Plume Mountain. Nice, but nowhere near as nice as Blackrazor from the same module.

    [/oldschool geekcred]

  39. Clark says:

    @solaric

    the WoD will end as Prohibition did

    The people will realize that they were wrong to ammend the Constitution to give the government more powers, and will return the Constitution to the same no-federal-drug-enforcement-powers state that it had in 1789, and then the government will stand down ?

  40. Ted says:

    Since it appears a few folks from the 80s are around. Spin magazine (yeah, the music one) started covering the "Drug War" and these seizures back in the 80s. My view of law and government would never be the same. My brother is still a rabid Randian Libertarian because of those articles (and subsequent behavior of our government).

  41. johnl says:

    There is also a 6A problem with forfeiture. It's much harder to pay your lawyer when all your property has been taken.

  42. Shane says:

    @Clark

    … then the government will stand down?

    No they will then just move on to another stigmatized class and proceed to ass rape re-educate them on the error of their ways.

  43. Nate Gabriel says:

    What if some of those Bitcoins are yours, not Ulbrichts? What if Silk Road is holding some of your Bitcoins as part of some transaction? Why, all you have to do is show up and make a claim for them — in a case in which the government is saying that all or substantially all of the transactions through Silk Road are federal crimes. Bring a toothbrush.

    What if some of those Bitcoins are mine, not Ulbricht's, and Silk Road holds them as part of an obviously legal transaction? If all I did was buy a substantial number of toothbrushes through Silk Road, and then I show up to make a claim, surely they'd have no choice but to agree that some transactions are whelmingly legal…right?

  44. jig says:

    Just wanted to add: the "adequate" due process in place to constitutionalize forfeiture laws is the statutory right to petition (within a fairly narrow window of time) for the funds/assets to be returned, which typically requires a showing of non-criminality, sometimes burden, and some other things, to be successful.

    In the 9th Circuit, you can successfully petition for return of funds, even though you were guilty of attempting to transport hard cash in excess of the limits set forth in export laws, by being Armenian (the rationale was that Armenians have a tradition of being mobile with hard currency due to the fear/risk of genocide, and so it was excusable to attempt to board a plane in SF with a money belt with more than $100k stashed in it).

    It was a strange basis for the result at the time (and maybe still is), but there are few "excusable" cases here and there.

    Also, it's a little glib to blame the forfeiture laws on drugs. I think if you look back, it's really about access to good defense attorneys.

    Even back in prohibition days, criminals would have a bunch of cash on hand from illicit sales, then use that cash to pay for the best defense around – and it was working for them. That's when the first round of forfeiture laws arose – the feds made it illegal to move large amounts of cash without reporting it. If the cash was from illicit sales, you didn't want to report it, because then it would be seized or at least taxed.

    If an attorney accepted more than $10k (it was probably a different number back then, but that's approximately what it is now) in a cash payment, and neither the payee nor the attorney reported it, then it was subject to forfeiture under the money laundering laws. And, it was (and still is) illegal to structure the payment into multiple groups less than $10k just to get around the reporting laws. So, some attorneys accepted payment in cash, then the feds seized the cash from the attorneys (or they were indicted on laundering charges if they attempted to side-step the reporting laws), and the attorneys were left having to defend criminals without payment. Which means, in a fairly short period of time, the good defense attorneys stopped representing criminals who didn't have a clean retainer payment ready to go. Some attorneys stopped altogether because it was too much work to verify the retainer payment was actually clean.

    So, forfeiture/seizure laws weren't really about "drugs," they were about access to competent criminal defense attorneys, and US attorneys who were getting their asses handed to them on a regular basis.

  45. There is also a 6A problem with forfeiture. It's much harder to pay your lawyer when all your property has been taken.

    The other Sixth Amendment problem is that the Sixth Amendment and Gideon only apply to criminal proceedings. So if you cannot afford an attorney for your forfeiture case, one will not be provided for you, and they're keeping your car, you pathetic broke loser!

  46. Eric says:

    What is missing from the complaint, at the bottom of page 11?

    (http://www.popehat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/UlbrichtCriminalComplaint11.pdf)

  47. Sad Panda says:

    @Nate Gabriel:

    What if some of those Bitcoins are mine, not Ulbricht's, and Silk Road holds them as part of an obviously legal transaction? If all I did was buy a substantial number of toothbrushes through Silk Road, and then I show up to make a claim, surely they'd have no choice but to agree that some transactions are whelmingly legal…right?

    Sure, tell that to Kyle Goodwin, former Megaupload client.

  48. Jim says:

    I think the most important question is; does this hurt the popehat brand?

  49. Dan Weber says:

    Second, while they're the current flavor of the month/year, the NSA is not behind everyting now anymore then they were before and I doubt they were much involved, if at all

    +1

    The NSA cares a whole hell of a lot about keeping their own capabilities secret. There were lots of leads on DPR. A murder-for-hire is really quite pedestrian as far as NSA is concerned, but even if they thought they should get involved, they would realize that regular law enforcement was closing in on the guy just fine.

    Remember, during WWII the US government let lots of bad things happen to lots of US troops that they could have stopped based on their deciphering of German codes, but they didn't because it would reveal that they had deciphered German codes. As important as some of you may think DPR is, the NSA doesn't care about a few murders.

  50. PeeDub says:

    @Ken — Oooh, I remember those! But I think Whelm was the mace (or hammer?) and Wave was the trident.

  51. Quarthinos says:

    A quick wikipedia check reveals that @PeeDub is correct, Whlem was a warhammer, Wave was the trident. I have to admit I got the reference, but only remembered the the names of the not-Blackrazors (which is Elric's, dammit!)

  52. David C says:

    I'm still wondering if anyone's challenged civil forfeiture as a taking without just compensation. If the fiction is that the action isn't against the property owner, doesn't the property owner need to be compensated for the taking of his or her property for public use?

    It should be easy to determine the fair market value of, say, a given amount of seized cash…

  53. babaganusz says:

    only remembered the the names of the not-Blackrazors (which is Elric's, dammit!)

    the original back-cover illustration for S2 was a strenuously overwhelming indulgence of a melnibone fanboi.

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