Trip report, October FBI conference

In October I attended an FBI conference, as part of my work to try to keep Tor on good relations with law enforcement. My first goal is to remind them of all the good uses of Tor, so if they ever find themselves lobbying to outlaw anonymity online, they'll understand what they're giving up. The second goal is to make sure they understand what Tor is and how it works, so if they encounter it in their investigations they'll hassle our exit relay operators less. (Here's a great way that one FBI person explained it to me: "I've got 10 leads, and 48 hours before this case doesn't matter anymore. If you can help me understand which leads *not* to follow, I can do my job better.") My third goal is to help them be able to use Tor correctly for their own jobs — remember that diversity of users is part of what makes Tor safe for everybody to use.

Overall, we've been doing a pretty good job at teaching US-based law enforcement about Tor. At the end of the conference, one of the FBI agents took me aside and asked "surely you have *some* sort of way of tracking your users?" When I pointed at various of his FBI colleagues in the room who had told me they use Tor every day for their work, and asked if he'd be comfortable if we had a way of tracing *them*, I think he got it.

I met a nice man from the DEA who worked on the "Farmer's Market" bust. This was in the news a lot back in April, where apparently some people were selling drugs online, and using a Tor hidden service for their website. At the time I thought the news stories could be summarized simply as "idiot drug sellers accept paypal payments, get busted." It turns out they were pretty smart about how to accept paypal payments — they just had random Americans receive the paypal payments, take a cut, and then turn them into a Panama-based digital currency, and the Panama company didn't want to help trace where the money went. The better summary for the news stories should actually have been "idiot drug sellers use hushmail, get busted." Way before they switched to a Tor hidden service, the two main people used Hushmail to communicate. After a subpoena (and apparently a lot of patience since Canada still isn't quite the same as the US), Hushmail rolled over and gave up copies of all the emails. Many more details here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/89690597/Willemsindictment-Filed-045

I should still note that Tor doesn't introduce any magic new silver bullet that causes criminals to be uncatchable when before they weren't. The Farmer's Market people ran their webserver in some other foreign country before they switched to a Tor hidden service, and just the fact that the country didn't want to cooperate in busting them was enough to make that a dead end. Jurisdictional arbitrage is alive and well in the world.

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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Good to hear! Thanks for all your hard work, I rarely use Tor, but when I do, I'm glad I am able to.

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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Awesome post, I especially loved how the fbi agent pulled you aside to quietly ask you what's the *real* way to track users.

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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You did not meet "a nice man" if this individual freely chose to join the DEA and collect a paycheck for ruining the lives of innocent people engaging in victimless "crimes". The correct term for the thing you met is "a sociopath". Please edit the article for clarity, thanks.

Between Anons, our ideas of 'victimless' must be very different.

I sense your indignation is rooted in veeery specific scenarios - possibly involving foppish suburban undergrads enjoying token amounts of ganja in the privacy of their own apartments (or something at a similar level of 'innocence'). But I can't help think of meth mouth, crack babies, and the enormous networks of quasi-military trafficking cartels that are funded by providing contraband to those 'innocents.'

If you truly feel your recreational pastime justifies the scale of corruption, murder, and misery that is currently required to get product into your hands, then I question your competence to label someone else as a "sociopath."

That's pretty damn circular: "prohibition causes violent horrible cartels to dominate the supply chain, therefore their existence justifies prohibition."

Also, free clue: there are drugs other than marijuana and stimulants. Prohibiting psychedelics is a horrific denial of access to a profound and worthwhile experience.

Background on the Farmer's Market events:

http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/045.html
http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/feds-bust-farmers-market-an-online-ill…
http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/04/23/farmers-market-tor-narcotics/

"The on-line marketplaces have multiple sources of supply offering various controlled substances, including LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), fentanyl, mescaline, ketamine, DMT, and high-end marijuana. "

Note the absence of any reference to meth or crack even by the damnable tyrants themselves.

Great convo! Reminder: you can contradict your own ideology, or support decriminalization, or support prohibition of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, etc... No arguing for the drug war or sanctity of federal agents enforcing the controlled substances act unless you support banning alcohol and tobacco.

Who is causing the criminality associated with drug trafficking? Is it the end-consumer who harms and threatens no-one, or is it the FBI who violently shuts down otherwise legitimate businesses and drives them underground?

I would define a sociopath as someone who initiates violence against someone who does not. Which of the following four fit that definition?
* peaceful end-consumer
* peaceful drug trafficking businessman
* violent gangster drug trafficker
* FBI

* Cartels: simply wouldn't exist if the drugs were legal and DEA didn't exist
* Crack babies: could just as easily be fetal alcohol syndrome babies - there are already laws about protecting the welfare of children that would be just as applicable if drugs were legal.
* Meth mouth only affects the user, just like drinking alcohol ruins your liver or smoking cigarettes destroys your lungs.

Drug use affects families - children, spouses; friends; co-workers.

Alcohol affects those killed by drunk drivers, those who have to pay for the medical treatment of those without insurance.

Second hand smoking...

Get the idea?

This.

By allowing free use of drugs, health care could become much worse for everybody.

If this happens, we have all lost because controlling risk, such as the risk involved in getting sick, is one of the main pillars of society.

How is s/he responsible for the side effects of Prohibition? It's not as if the politicians behind it didn't know that drug laws reward criminals more than they punish them.

I would be willing to advocate the pseudo-decriminalization of drugs on a few conditions:

To grow, produce or sell drugs, one would be required to meet the same requirements bars, clubs and other stores have to meet in order to sell alcohol;
Addiction to drugs would no longer be a "get out of jail free" card in criminal cases (and yes, despite the arguments of many in the pro-drug legalization camps it does happen often. I know, I have seen it.). No rehab, nothing. Instead, if you are arrested for a crime (obviously non-drug related) and you test positive for any drug whether alcohol or the ones currently controlled/criminalized, your sentence is automatically doubled and there is no chance for probation;
The sale and purchase of drugs would have to meet the same age requirements as alcohol;
"Sin" taxes be assessed much like they are now on tobacco and alcohol;
Otherwise, the sale, purchase and use of drugs would be legalized.

If, as many who have commented here, it is true that all drug users are merely peaceful, innocent victims in the drug war, then this should be an acceptable compromise in its entirety. Again, from personal experience (>8 years in prison) I can tell you that is not true.

Assuming you're not a disinfo agent with the obligatory credibility-building statement concerning your experience with the system, do you honestly expect us to believe that being a drug addict is a way to stay out of jail? Try that defense next time you get arrested and tell us how that goes.

How does this make any sense?

Decriminalize drugs and at the same time double sentence when testing positive for drugs, now a legal substance?

What are you smoking?

DEA agents are responsible for consistently subverting our constitution, rampant perjury (I've never heard one testify truthfully), widespread theft via self-serving forfeiture claims, and frequent outbreaks of military-scale violence against civilians (some of whom are involved with drug trafficking, some of whom aren't), and don't forget that attitude of scumbag entitlement.

What makes them so much worse than the everyday scumbag criminals of the cartels is that the DEA agents are doing this in our names, under cover of our laws, and with our tax dollars. It's also worth noting that many of the people involved in drug-related violence have a plausible claim of being forced into it by the circumstances of their lives. I don't know many feds who can make similar claims. A lot of cartel gunmen were forced into the business, sometimes literally at gunpoint. I doubt a lot of feds could claim similar mitigating factors.

Obviously you have no understanding of or respect for the concept 'rule of law'. Democracy doesn't work without respect for the law among its citizens. The DEA and FBI, e.g., uphold the law, and the will of the majority forms the law. Your vilification of law agents is as philosophically sound as the promotion of killing abortion providers by people who disagree with abortion. You're an anarchist. Given that, nothing you have to say is of any value.

The 'will of the majority' is a ludicrously incoherent concept that exists only to be twisted to justify whatever tyranny the person invoking it wishes. Even if there were such a thing, if the 'will of the majority' is to assault the liberty of those who are harming none, then the majority is *wrong*, and to act in its name is to partake in that wrongness. Law on such terms deserves no respect. You're a statist. Given that, you have the ethical maturity of playground bully combined with the self-righteous pomposity of a Puritan preacher, and the only possible value anything you have to say could have is as a practice target for relentless mockery.

I guess you think that those law-men who tracked down and shot fleeing slaves before the civil war were rightous dudes huh? Afterall, they were enforcing the laws, the laws made by the same democratic government you speak of. Did you actually ever bother to think the concept of democracy through instead of just repeating the BS your state paid educators brain washed you with.

its called democide, look it up. and look up the numbers associated with that word. the nice man you met works for the people who really fund all the murder and corruption and misery you speak of. i think sociopath is accurate.

Not to mention the various shady dealings the CIA is involved in. They have a long history of overthrowing democratically elected leaders, funding terrorist organisations, perpetuating human rights abuses, drug trafficking, among other things. And this is just what we know.

So, yes, congratulations - you attended a meeting with and aided a known terrorist organisation.

Read this and take a long hard look at who you are cooperating with:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Intelligence_Agency#Controversies

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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Excellent info, but I wish you wouldn't have uploaded the indictment to a service that wont let me download the pdf unless I login with facebook or pay to be a "premium" downloader.....

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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Fuck the FBI. Good to see they don't have anything on bitcoins, tor, and pecunix.

Long live the jootgatter!

Anonymous

December 16, 2012

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After making some disparaging remarks about the TSA on the Blog of a prominent media company, I found myself receiving repeated e-mails informing me someone had been checking my name for "criminal violations," would I like to pay to check myself. Suspicious, huh?

I don't think so. I didn't use my real name or leave my e-mail address, but since I wasn't using Tor, the media company did have my IP Address and I never had received those e-mails before.

While I do not know about this specific instance it is possible sometimes to get personal information from your visitors without them ever knowingly providing them to you.
Short writeup:
http://42floors.com/blog/youre-not-anonymous-i-know-your-name-email-and…

Some more links:
https://plus.google.com/u/1/106142598193409336347/posts/2jLJ5B4yPYF

Anonymous

December 17, 2012

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The violence associated with the drug war is appalling as is the ravages of addiction. However if prohibition were not at the root of the problem we would see a different picture. Prohibition creates the situations where violent gangs battle for turf and money. Governments use it to fund covert ops through drug sales and property seizures. Portugal has proven that decriminalization is successful at lowering crime and helping closeted addicts lose the fear of asking for help thus lowering addiction rates.

Cognitive liberty is the same as any other liberty we seek. So long as Government profit from prohibition we will see no end to it.

Interesting, if I provide you with a counter-example, perhaps, you would see the problem differently. I offer you ... the Oxycodone and Hydrocodone problems. They are legal, regulated, and the cause of more drugstore heists and shootings than anything else in this country. Having lived through my cousin murdered by being shot in the face by someone trying illegally to get this legal, controlled drug, because CVS stopped keeping supplies of it, I can tell you that simply legalizing and regulating a drug does not remove the violence, gangs battles, and the like. Yes, that falls under the DEA's jurisdiction as well. "Closeted addicts" of it aren't in closets, they are shooting pharmacists, trying to get their supply of what they are addicted to, because some people can get what they need from the same pharmacists. Legalizing and regulating something isn't a simple panacea that gets rid of crime, gangs, violence, and addiction.

By the way, the U.S. Government openly profits from the tax on (legal) cigarettes, and yet, the BATF continually finds those who are trying to sell them without the tax stamp, often in gangs, who want turf and money.

I'm sorry, what Admiral Poinexter did was inexcusable, and that various governments continue to do such _is_ appalling, BUT simply waving the magic wand of legalization is not going to fix the problems, just shift them so that legal businessmen, and pharmacists end up taking the risks, and being on the front lines, as opposed to people who decide to violate the social contract, and become criminals.

Your argument is poignant. Not all drugs have such a devestating impact, though. We're starting to recognize the application of largely non-addictive psychoactive drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA on addiction itself. Certainly its more complicated than a magic wand, but there could very likely be two birds, one stone anecdotes developing as a result of readdressing drug scheduling. I could even support the argument that addictive drugs deprive citizens of freedom, and are therefore unconstitutional...but I think I'm still on the side of free will trumping federal reinforcement of drug laws that are close to 50 yrs old...

Anonymous

December 18, 2012

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"Obviously you have no understanding of or respect"
"DEA and FBI, e.g., uphold the law"
"nothing you have to say is of any value."

Shure.Maybe. *laugh*
Nothing against laws.
But the ........prohibition-laws are a big fail only.
They create massive extrem violence without much sense.
Do you know the comedy-serie D.E.A.?

To work against drugproblems with violence and weapons is at best ..... comical.

Anonymous

December 19, 2012

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How likely is it that targeted hidden sites will be taken down?

Anonymous

January 04, 2013

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law-men who tracked down and shot fleeing slaves before the civil war were rightous dudes huh? Afterall, they were enforcing the laws, the laws made by the same democratic government you speak of.
the fleeing slaves weren't allowed to democratically influence those laws of that "democratic government".

And yet, by the very words of the Constitution, all men were created equal...apparently, it was quite difficult to define the word "men".

Some democracy, at that rate.

Anonymous

January 17, 2013

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In your blog post, you said:
"The Farmer's Market people ran their webserver in some other foreign country before they switched to a Tor hidden service, and just the fact that the country didn't want to cooperate in busting them was enough to make that a dead end. Jurisdictional arbitrage is alive and well in the world."

In what country was "The Farmer's Market" hosted in, before they were on Tor?

I'm curious, because it's hard to imagine that any country would stand up to the US government on a drug issue, given that the drugs they were selling are illegal in every country.

Anonymous

February 01, 2013

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I knew the farmers market people decently, they were indeed idiots. The more technically sophisticated members of the online drug scene had warned them plenty about the risks they were taking, in using Hushmail and in taking Paypal as well. I agree with the earlier comment that there is no such thing as a good DEA agent. They are vicious slave traders, and they are never going to stop us now that we have Silk Road and reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, helping them to secure their transactions and additionally supplying them with access to top notch vendors.

Do you know how many people die every single year because of the War on Drugs? Almost all "Ecstasy" deaths you hear of are actually overdoses on PMA, a dangerous drug that unscrupulous dealers pass off as MDMA to unsuspecting customers. This is allowed to happen because of the war on drugs, and then these drug warriors convince the masses (idiots) that they need to crack down even more on drugs because people are overdosing. The blood of these innocent kids is on the hands of the DEA.

Do you know how many heroin overdoses are because of the fact that purity between batches varies enormously, and users never know the exact right dose to take because of this? Almost all heroin deaths are preventable. The blood of these deaths is on the hands of the DEA.

Do you know how many people are killed by drug cartels that would go out of business over night if drugs were legalized? Tens of thousands of people a year are brutally murdered by killers who are indirectly funded by the DEA. The blood of these people in on the hands of the DEA.

Do you know how many people become infected with HIV because these drug warriors have outlawed needle exchanges and/or made it hard to get clean needles without prescriptions in some areas? The spread of HIV to these people and all the people they infect is on the hands of the DEA.

Do you know how many people turn to unresearched designer drugs because the more researched drugs they would prefer to use are illegal? Countless, especially young kids just starting using drugs who have not got access to the more illicit ones. They outlaw these drugs all the time, but the chemists of course can tweak them slightly producing more and more drugs, and I am a witness to the fact that these drugs are becoming less and less safe but the supply of new ones is limitless. The deaths and the problems caused by the epidemic of designer drugs is on the hands of the DEA!

Do you know that intelligent and good people are being sent to die in prisons for the profit of these slave traders? Do you know that everything they say about drugs is complete bullshit and that they are liars spreading propaganda with no basis in reality, deceiving the world? Do you know that the terrorists funded with drug profits are only able to profit from drugs because of their prohibition? The DEA funds terrorist organizations!

Do you know how distrustful the American youth are of the police and of even each other? We know they are not trying to help us, they are trying to force their religious bullshit morality onto us, or they are trying to save themselves money because they are worried about the effect drug use will have on their socialist healthcare systems or the lack of income to them from their socialist taxation. We are their slaves, and we are dying because of them and we are going to prisons because of them and nobody gives a shit about us because they believe the lies that they are told and they live in a complete fantasy world. We cannot even trust each other because they try to infiltrate us they turn us against each other and they viciously attack us!

You did not meet a good man Arma, you met a vicious slave trader who deserves to be shot in his fucking head for the crimes against humanity he has perpetrated against the world.

Not that I would, in any way, dispute your opinion of corruption in the "War On Drugs", or any law enforcement organization, but your argument assumes an innate disability to abide by the law in the first place. None of the people you mention would die of the causes that you mention, if they simply did not violate the law.

What you are saying is tantamount to saying that people should be allowed to ingest strychnine if they wish, but that they cannot, because it is a controlled substance.

Let me elaborate, I hit post comment quicker than I should have.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses_in_N…

"Unlike Jews and Gypsies who were persecuted on the basis of their ethnicity, Jehovah's Witnesses could escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs by signing a document indicating renouncement of their faith, submission to state authority, and support of the German military."

What you are saying is tantamount to saying that the Nazi war criminals are only responsible for killing the Jews and Gypsies, because the Jehovahs Witnesses did not have an innate disability to abide by the laws of Nazi Germany to spare themselves persecution and death.

Sorry, when war criminals take actions that result in the deaths and persecution of those who have not violated the rights of others, the responsibility for the deaths and persecution does not fall on the dead and persecuted, even if they could have followed the law to spare themselves. I find your Nazi apologist attitude to be disgusting.

I would also like to point out that as far as I am aware, strychnine is not a controlled substance.

Additionally, I have a friend who actually took it in a recreational capacity as a stimulant. No I do not think the government should have prevented him from doing this, but actually I don't think they tried to. He is a chemistry Ph.D :D (also a criminal!)