Feds Say That Even If FBI Hacked The Silk Road, Ulbricht's Rights Weren't Violated

While alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbrichts trial wont start for another month, the legal battle is already heating up in court filings, centered around two questions: How did the Feds locate the Silk Road servers, and were Ulbrichts Fourth Amendment rights violated in the process? In its latest response, the government says it doesnt matter if the FBI hacked the Silk Road servers last OctoberUlbrichts rights still wouldnt have been violated.

Back in October 2013 when the Silk Road servers were seized by the feds in Iceland, no one knew exactly how the government had located the websites servers. Soon after, the feds arrested Ulbricht in San Francisco, claiming he was the Dread Pirate Roberts and the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar. Since then, Ulbricht has been charged with seven drug trafficking, narcotics, and ID theft charges.

But the details about how the government found the servers remained a mystery until last month. At the beginning of August, Ulbrichts defense filed a motion claiming that Ulbrichts Fourth Amendment rights had been violated by the government, and that by the fruit of a poisonous tree, all evidence stemming from the seizure of the Silk Road servers should be suppressed.

In order to respond to the motion, the government was forced to reveal for the first time how it discovered the Silk Road. According to a response filed last month with a declaration by FBI agent Chris Tarbell, the Silk Road servers were discovered by the FBI because of leaky code coming from the Silk Road website. When the leaking IP addresses were plugged into a non-Tor browser, part of the Silk Roads login page appeared. The feds then contacted Icelandic authorities, asking for imaging of the servers. The entire process was legal and not in violation of Ulbrichts rights, according to the FBI.

The defense was not convinced by the FBIs facile explanation and filed a response last week with a declaration by defense lawyer Joshua Horowitz, who specializes in technology and computer software. His analysis of six terabytes of discovery data presented to the defense poked holes in Tarbells account and likened the FBIs actions to hacking.

In his declaration, Horowitz claimed that the FBIs description of how the Silk Road servers were discovered was implausible. He notes that the governments account of how the servers were discovered varies from the description the FBI gave to Icelandic authorities, and that many modifications were made to the Silk Road servers before the FBI claims to have reached out to the Icelandic authorities. Horowitz argues that Tarbell failed to follow even the most rudimentary standards of computer forensic analysis. Highlighting a number of inconsistencies he found, Horowitz asked for more information from the government.

In a response filed on Monday, the government steered away from addressing any of Horowitz claims or questions. Instead, the prosecution argued thattrue or notHorowitzs claims are irrelevant because they dont prove that Ulbrichts rights were violated.

The Horowitz Declaration nowhere alleges that the SR Server was either located or searched in a manner that violated the Fourth Amendment. It merely critiques certain aspects of the Tarbell Declaration concerning how the SR Server was location, the governments response reads.

In any event, even if the FBI had somehow hacked into the SR Server in order to identify its IP address, such an investigative measure would not have run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the response continues.

The government also questioned why Ulbricht did not submit a personal affidavit explaining how his privacy was violated. In response, the judge gave the defense until Tuesday night to submit a personal affidavit from Ulbricht. The defense has asked for an extension until October 9, because of the short notice and because Ulbrichts lawyer Joshua Dratel is in the midst of another trial.

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Feds Say That Even If FBI Hacked The Silk Road, Ulbricht's Rights Weren't Violated

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