Ross Ullbricht: The first NSA parallel case laundering challenge, and Carpenter v US: what are online influence operations?

Ross Ulbricht Is Serving a Double Life Sentence after the NSA laundered intelligence to two now-proven corrupt DEA and NSA agents.
ROGS asks: is the new MHCHAOS accompanied by COINTELPRO 2 actually designed this way? See my story about how I was followed around Chicago by a DOD/Pentagon connected military contractor, while I stayed at the Millenium Hotel in 2014.
His mother, Lyn Ulbricht, talks about her son’s life in maximum security prison and their Supreme Court hopes for the Silk Road case.
Katherine Mangu-Ward from the July 2018 issue – view article in the Digital Edition
This article is part of Reason’s special Burn After Reading issue, where we offer how-tos, personal stories, and guides for all kinds of activities that can and do happen at the borders of legally permissible behavior.
Lyn Ulbricht moved to Colorado last year. She uprooted her life to be near her son, Ross Ulbricht, who is an inmate in a federal maximum security prison an hour outside of Colorado Springs.
Ross is serving two concurrent life sentences for his role in the founding and running of Silk Road, a dark web bazaar where users could buy and sell drugs and other illicit items, often using bitcoin. The charges against him included money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. In a separate indictment, he was charged with procuring murder. Though that charge was dropped, Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York cited it as central to her decision to go well beyond the minimum sentence of 10 years and instead imprison him for life without parole.
At his sentencing, Ross made a modest request: “I’ve had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age.…Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel.” Although Forrest was not moved, the Ulbrichts hope the Supreme Court may feel differently. If their case is accepted, it could trigger a landmark decision about digital privacy and autonomy, as well as about what responsibility the creators of online tools bear for what others do with them. Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward spoke with Lyn by phone in April, shortly after she got a small piece of encouraging news from the high court about Ross’ appeal.
Reason: Since Ross’ conviction, there have been quite a few revelations about prosecutorial misconduct and other questionable practices related to his case. Can you describe what has happened?
Lyn Ulbricht: Even pretrial, there were so many issues. For example, the government deprived Ross of bail, based partially on allegations of murder for hire, then two months later dropped those charges. And those charges were never brought to trial. He was never tried or convicted for those charges, and yet Judge Forrest used those charges to enhance a very unreasonable sentence for all nonviolent charges.
That is one of the questions that [we’re bringing to the Supreme] Court: Is it constitutional for a judge to use uncharged, unproven allegations to enhance an unreasonable sentence? That deprives Ross of his jury trial rights.
By the way, there is still an indictment [on the murder-for-hire allegation] in Maryland. It’s been languishing there for almost five years, unprosecuted, based on evidence supplied by Carl Mark Force, a corrupt [Drug Enforcement Administration] agent who’s now in prison.
That was another one of the things that was a huge issue: The existence of this corrupt agent was precluded from trial. The jury was not allowed to know about him or another corrupt agent who was working for the [National Security Agency] and the Secret Service at the time, Shaun Bridges. The defense didn’t even know about his existence until after trial.
So this was not allowed to be known to the jury. And it seems to me that that could have easily led to casting a reasonable doubt on Ross’ guilt. These people not only stole over a million dollars [from Silk Road] using their access as investigators, but they had the ability to act as Dread Pirate Roberts, the pseudonym of whoever was running the site. They could change passwords, PIN numbers, keys, write things in chats—change evidence, essentially. And this was not permitted to be known to the jury.
Our readers’ ears might perk up when they hear that there was an NSA component of this, since it’s not really about national security.
That part was brought up by the defense before trial, and the government never denied it. They simply mocked the defense. [The DEA’s Force] said, “Oh, he’s bringing up this crazy stuff about the NSA.” This was around the FBI investigator Christopher Tarbell’s testimony under oath about how he found the Silk Road server, which experts worldwide basically called a lie. It was gibberish, according to them. In fact, [cybersecurity expert] Robert Graham even said, “We think it was the NSA.”
And this is all illegal. I think your readers probably know that, but the NSA investigating and using spying surveillance against U.S. citizens is illegal. When [Reason’s] Nick Gillespie interviewed [NSA whistleblower] Edward Snowden at Liberty Forum, he asked about Ross: “Can we assume that the NSA was involved?” And Snowden simply said, “Yes,” and later said it was unthinkable they weren’t.
Well, a few weeks ago it came out that there are classified documents from Edward Snowden showing that the NSA was tracking bitcoin users urgently. Not terrorists, mind you. Bitcoin users. And since they were illegally targeting bitcoin users, there are a lot of questions as to the validity of the investigation [against Ross] at all.
This is very, very troubling, because of course it brings up the whole question of parallel construction and what many call “intelligence laundering,” where the NSA uses their extensive surveillance abilities and invasion of Americans’ privacy to go after people, basically, and then turns it over to the DEA, the [Department of Justice], and the [Internal Revenue Service]. This is a real slippery slope, in my opinion, to horrible Fourth Amendment violations. And it’s something that everyone should be concerned about. We’re turning into a surveillance state. I don’t think most people want that.
What happened today with the Supreme Court?
Ross and his legal team have petitioned the Supreme Court on two very broad-reaching questions that affect a lot of people. They submitted that petition in December. And then in January, 21 groups, including Reason Foundation, joined in support of that petition in five amicus briefs. These are groups from both sides of the political spectrum. I think that’s important to note.
We just went through the process where a batch of cases are brought into conference to evaluate whether or not the [justices] were going to take the case. If they reject it, that’s very, very bad. If they are willing to take it, that’s very, very good. That was on Friday, so it was kind of a nail-biter over the weekend. And on Monday we found out that at least they did not reject it. There was a list of over 200 cases they did reject, and we combed that list and Ross was not on there.
It could have been relisted—just kicked down the road to the next week. But we found out today that it was not on the list for relisting, either, which indicates very strongly that they are probably holding it, pending another important Fourth Amendment case, Carpenter v. U.S. [which was argued last November]. So we’re happy about it. We’re still in the game. Ross’ case is still before the courts.

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