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How many pirates are there? An update

If the Bitcointalk hackers are reading this, can you please let me know if I’m a lousy journo and missed the smoking gun, or if it was part of a deleted post?

I originally wrote the below in response to a lengthy, well thought-out comment by a reader on a previous blog about the changing face of Dread Pirate Roberts. But then I figured, why waste what became the length of a blog post in itself? So here is my comment, recycled and slightly amended.

I’ve been mulling over the conclusions I drew in my blog post a few weeks ago, “Which Pirate is That?” in light of revelations from the FBI documents following the arrest of Ross Ulbricht.  Clearly, if the FBI docs are accurate – the gmail address was linked to altoid in 2011 and they swooped on Ulbricht as he was logged in as DPR – then it looks like there was only ever one DPR.

Allegedly the previous 'nym of Dread Pirate Roberts
Allegedly the previous ‘nym of Dread Pirate Roberts

I also found the altoid connection on Shroomery and Bitcointalk when I was researching the chapter in my book on Silk Road’s inception and I also concluded it was the owner spruiking his site. But I never spotted the gmail address, which surprises me. Naturally I can’t check now because Bitcointalk is down. But what I wrote at the time was: “The user ‘altoid’ on Bitcointalk apparently deleted those early posts (or the site did), which can now only be found quoted in later members’ responses . However, altoid remained active on the Bitcointalk forums until August 2012.”

I could, of course, have overlooked the gmail address, but given the time I put into researching those early days I would be surprised. It makes me wonder if the FBI was able to retrieve deleted posts by subpoenaing Bitcointalk.

I am 100% sure that there was more than one person posting in the forums as DPR. The most recent, chatty, incarnation was nothing like the former DPR, and the “change my style to fool everybody” explanation doesn’t cut it. He didn’t just change his style, he changed his IQ level and entire personality. I’m also pretty sure the DPR I exchanged PMs with over the years changed at least once.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there was a change of owner – DPR could have done an Atlantis and hired a mouthpiece who was essentially just a PR person and had no connection with the actual business.

As for the interview with Forbes, it surprised me too. DPR *always* gave me a quote for any article I was writing, but it was always of the soundbite variety – a couple of lines. Then in August he delighted me by granting me a long interview on a specific topic (which I haven’t written up yet) on the proviso it was embargoed until September. I thought my two years of correspondence with him had finally paid off and gave myself a grand old pat on the back.  I later realised the embargo was because he must have already done, or been part way through, Forbes and promised Greenburg the exclusive.

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for replying. That all makes sense. So there was one owner of SR but several people using his forum account including himself but in the past year or so not so often. (Which explains why it logged on after his arrest).

    You should give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for getting an interview with DPR.

    It was still a great coup whether he did Forbes or not.

    The fact is that by the time on the Forbes interview, I think Ulbricht knew he was toast and wanted to get the ‘there were lots of DPRs’ story out there as part of his future defence.

    Remember a few weeks ago “he” said on the forums he’d meditated over spending life in prison? That post sounded like whoever wrote the SR charter (in other words Ulbricht). I think that the whole thing became way larger than he’d ever imagined back in 2011 (he was even supposedly dealing shrooms by the post back then) and by the time of the Forbes article he had decided that he was to become a sacrificial lamb or future folklore type figure and his life spent in prison was no biggie given the exposure the bust would bring to the idea of Silk Road and drugs not being subject to prohibition to the masses.

    However, I remain unsure on the murder for hire part. ‘Am hoping that turns out to be bollocks.

    This person (from the comments of another site) explained the whole thing really well for my poor old fuddled brain to understand. I’ve copied and pasted it:

    “The charges rest on logs obtained from a wide variety of sources including Google, Comcast, a VPN provider he is purported to have used, and especially from an image of the Silk Road server. The software found on the server contains a line, now commented out, that would have restricted server administration to a single IP address, one connected to that VPN service. There are is a Stackexchange post linked to him which contains a snippet of source code also located on the server, which also includes a public key for SSH signon by a computer with the same pseudonym to which the Stackexchange account was changed after initially being registered to ‘ross.ulbricht@gmail.com’.

    “The most I know about the hitman stuff is that the Silk Road server contains message logs for DPR negotiating to have another user killed along with pictures which were sent back as ‘evidence’ of the act having been completed.

    “If there’s anything that might be in doubt it is the status of how the FBI identified the hosting provider of the Silk Road server in the first place. That is not shown in the criminal complaint, and if for some reason it was not obtained in a legal manner (it was imaged with the help of a foreign nation where the hosting provider was based, but no one seems to know how it could have been located without, say, the NSA triangulating based on logged data) it would take a good amount of evidence out of play.”

    >>>>>>>>> which is probs why he’s pleading not guilty.

    So yah anyway you’re not a bad journo the FBI subpoena’d bitcointalk by the looks of it.

    xxxx

    1. Hey, thanks very much for that. That’s really weird, because from what I wrote at the time, all of altoid’s posts were gone, now they are all up. But I’ll be honest, I don’t completely remember what when down at the time.
      Cheers!

  2. There never was an email address. The whole thing is horseshit. It is part of the parallel construction deal. Remember Orwell’s quote? He who controls the past controls the here and now.

    Unlike the real world you cannot have original sources online.

    1. @wootles: I’m one of Bitcointalks’ Moderators, and the email is really there, with no signs of it being added at a later time, as you can see in the link I posted above.
      I’m not saying parallel construction wasn’t used to get probable cause for a warrant, but you shouldn’t dismiss Ross’s carelessness and stupidity as something non-existant.

    2. I suppose next you’ll tell me that when I dug up archived copies in the Internet Archive to check that possibility, the archived copies were just fakes cleverly planted in the IA to fool us all (despite there being zero legal authority for the NSA compelling the IA to serve falsified content and the IA having always been spitting mad about the NSLs they’ve had to comply with).

          1. No need to be so harsh, Comprar. At least blerg *tried* to find a copy in the IA, which puts him above something like 99% of the people online (who when told ‘you could’ve looked that up in the IA’ then proceed to do anything but that).

            Anyway, some additional comments:

            1. looking for http://web.archive.org/web/*/https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=47811.msg568744 is doomed to fail, since the IA has limited resources and it is unlikely that in the IA’s limited sporadic crawls of bitcointalk.org, it would pick up each and every single forum post. What you should be looking for are pages in the thread, or the entire thread; you need to be flexible and consider alternate URLs the relevant content may be at. Hence why Comprar was able to find it by looking at ‘topic=47811’ rather than ‘topic=47811.msg568744’
            2. the bitcointalk.org URL is not invariant; for example, if you look at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.bitcointalk.org/* you’ll notice that thousands of the hits are for ‘bitcointalk.org:80’. Weird, since by default all HTTP traffic is to port 80 in the first place, but nevertheless.
            3. coverage is not guaranteed, unfortunately. I’ve had difficulty finding IA copies of altoid’s SR announcement earlier than June 2013: http://web.archive.org/web/20130606034616/https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=175.60

          2. > Bitcointalk.org wasn’t always at this domain.

            Yeah. I knew it wasn’t always there but I was having trouble finding the old domain and you already provided the necessary IA link, so I gave up quickly, just noting the :80 shift I’d already seen in the IA.

            > It lives only on a quote by someone else at the link you posted, gwern.

            So it does. What of it? It’s not like anyone is going to argue that wosshisname fabricated the quote way back in February 2011 or whatever, just to get Ross in trouble years in the future. It could be a quote of a quote of a quote, it still serves the same purpose.

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