Posts Tagged ‘war on drugs’

Yesterday I posted Silk Road moderator Peter N’s story. It gained a lot of attention from supporters and haters alike. It also got noticed by someone else. And I’m no longer sure which category they belong in.


I was surprised to receive not only a comment on the blog, but also a personal email from the Chief Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, SDNY. It seems they had taken umbrage at the line:

It must have been disappointing for the prosecution who asked for an extra 10-12 years to add to the 18 months he’s already spent inside.

It may have been my unnecessarily bitchy reporting of those numbers that got up the Chief Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, SDNY’s nose so much that they took the time to write personally. I was quite wrong, they assured me:


Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted earlier this year of being Dread Pirate Roberts, owner of online drugs bazaar Silk Road, is due to be sentenced next Friday.

Australians were over-represented as customers of Silk Road (third largest user base by identified country according to FBI documents) and now it seems we will be over-represented at Ross Ulbricht’s sentencing hearing too. On both sides of the courtroom.



The prosecution is seeking to admit testimony of six families of Silk Road customers who died from drug overdoses or other complications whilst using drugs alleged to have come from Silk Road. Three of those victims – Preston Bridge, Jacob Lyon-Green and Scott Wilsdon – are Australians.


… at his sentencing next week

Ross Ulbricht, convicted of being the Dread Pirate Roberts, owner and operator of the original Silk Road, is due to be sentenced next Friday. And his family would be happy to see you there.

Ross Ulbricht (far right) and family

“It would be good to have some support. I think it’s going to be very difficult,” said Ross’ mother, Lyn, who has campaigned tirelessly on his behalf. It is clearly taking its toll on her and the rest of the family and no wonder – even the “best” outcome is pretty shitty.


After last night’s 60 Minutes, any parent could be forgiven for barging into their teen’s bedroom and confiscating their computer, terrified that their offspring is accessing the 90% of the hidden internet filled with hitmen, weapons and drugs. Teens everywhere are doing it apparently.

Image: "Dark Web"

Image: “Dark Web”

The 60 Minutes report is available here: 60 Minutes report on The Dark Web from

Whilst parents need to be vigilant in protecting their children, this sort of scare-mongering does nothing to advance the drug debate. Parents would do better educating their kids and being aware of where the true dangers lie in illicit drug-taking: adulterated substances being sold as something else, dodgy clones of well-researched drugs, misinformation about the effects of different types of drugs and potential violence in a drug deal.

Here is an analysis of what I believe the 60 Minutes piece either got wrong, misrepresented or exaggerated: (more…)

SSBD had no role to play in the Silk Road marketplace where drugs were bought and sold.  He was a moderator of the Silk Road discussion forum, which had its own URL and was hosted on a different server to the marketplace. So why is the US so determined to extradite someone who may or may not be him?

Peter Philip Nash has been sitting in a Brisbane jail cell since 20 December 2013.

He is facing extradition to the United States to face allegations of narcotics conspiracy (maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years); conspiracy to commit computer hacking (maximum 5 years) and money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.


According to the US Indictment, Nash was known online as “samesamebutdifferent”, better known to Silk Road members as SSBD. SSBD was a well-loved moderator of the now defunct Silk Road discussion forums (new forums, colloquially known as SR2, have replaced the old). His job was to answer questions, explain the rules, move posts to their proper forum (with over a million posts, many were bound to wind up in the wrong place) and generally attend to banal administrative tasks.

In any event, Nash may or may not be SSBD.  But even if he is. What exactly was SSBD’s crime?


I owe much of this post to the work of Nicolas Christin, the researcher who previously provided the analysis of Silk Road’s income. He is much cleverer than me or you. Give him a follow on @nc2y

One of the most dramatic revelations to come out of the New York Criminal Complaint in relation to Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts, was that Silk Road had enjoyed a turnover of $1.2 billion since its inception 2½ years ago, which equated to a commission of $80 million for its owner.

This is how we have been reporting the FBI's claims

This is how we have been reporting the FBI’s claims

Actually, that’s not exactly what the document said. What it said was:


There are certainly winners from last week’s shutdown of Silk Road, the online black market where every illicit drug imaginable could be bought at the click of a button. But it’s not a win for the War on Drugs, nor for people affected by drug addiction, or for the Australian taxpayer.  The people who will welcome the FBI’s seizure of the site most enthusiastically will be bikie gangs and other organised crime involved in illegal drug importation.

Back when I first started reporting in the mainstream about Silk Road, I wrote a post, ‘Why politicians and law enforcement should embrace Silk Road‘. I argued it was a safer alternative than the current model and reduced the violence associated with the illegal drug trade.

Winning! You can buy your drugs from him now

Winning! You can buy your drugs from him now

Now that Silk Road has been closed down and hard-earned tax dollars all over the world are being spent busting computer nerds, amongst the hyperbole and hysteria that comes from much of the mainstream media, there are some commentators piping up with the same arguments. Because they make sense.