Andy Greenberg, anonymous, bitcoin, christopher tarbell, dark net, Dennis LaHane, Dread Pirate Roberts, EPIC, Forbes, Joshua Davis, lulzsec, Penthouse Magazine, Ross Ulbricht, sabu, screenplay, Silk Road, snitches, Sony, TOR project, Ulbricht
October 18, 2013 9:37 p.m., sitting in 401 home office, under Penthouse Magazine deadline for Bitcoin feature (extension till Monday)…
by Robin Postell
Since Ross Ulbricht’s reign ended as the iconic Dread Pirate Roberts on October 2, bitcoin has proven to be a standalone and hearty lil engine that could. Many believed, being under/misinformed, that since bitcoin was the only currency accepted as payment by SR it obviously was created for the purpose of – and dependent upon – SR to endure and thrive. Prices quickly rebounded almost immediately from the briefest flinch, proving this herd mentality was, well, herd mentality. Tweaking bitcoin holders sold in a knee-jerk panic to the bust, dipping below $100 – which only made eager buyers that much more eager – and up-jumped-the-ticker. As of this writing they’ve made a nice new peak at $163, higher than before the SR bust since April 12, 2013 peak of $266.
Much is being written, of course, and will continue to be written forevermore about this archetypal moment in bitcoin’s history. It is interesting to look back only a few months ago – on February 5, 2013 – when Vitalik Buterin’s “January 2013: Bitcoin News Roundup” for Bitcoin Magazine almost sweetly extolled the luminous spotlight bitcoin was basking in since troubles in 2012.
“January has been an exciting month for Bitcoin. We have seen a number of news articles about Bitcoin from various mainstream media sources, nearly all of which have been positive, as well as reports of record-breaking revenues from Bitcoin businesses, increasing adoption and, last but not least, a rapid growth in the Bitcoin price. Over the past three months since WordPress started accepting Bitcoin for its premium services, the mood within the Bitcoin community has turned much more optimistic, and with good reason; many of the scams and scandals that had been holding Bitcoin back in 2012 are now well past us, and the currency’s positive fundamentals are showing through ever more clearly. Many have predicted that 2013 would be a landmark year for Bitcoin, and so far, reports from all sides of the Bitcoin community show that these predictions have been spot on.” (VITALIK BUTERIN, Bitcoin Magazine, Feb 5, 2013)
Indeed, predictions of 2013 being a landmark year have proven Nostradamus-worthy.
A film is already in the works based on Silk Road’s undoing, made all the juicier for Hollywood fodder by the shocking alleged hits taken out by Ulbricht to “disappear” threatening customers. Big shot Dennis LaHane (Shutter Island, Mystic River) is penning the screenplay, who awaits Joshua Davis to finish writing his longform tale for EPIC website. (Davis was the first to attempt tracking down the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto for The New Yorker, and EPIC is a new hub he’s contributing longform journalism to in hopes of jacking up interest in a dying genre.)
The take-down of Silk Road will remain a head-scratcher, since Ross Ulbricht – as Dread Pirate Roberts – seemed unflappable, impervious, and older, wiser and more clever in theory than in actuality. His sloppy blunders which are gleaned from the criminal complaint (see link below) if not kill, wound severely, the beyond-the-reach-of-mere-mortals mystique which he had managed to create as his alter-ego. He was just your average 29-year-old after all. Not really. He’s full of big lofty rhetoric that sounds revolutionary because it is – which is why he’s in jail and being represented by Joshua Dratel, a high profile regal eagle who has repped an al Quaeda operative, a taxi driver targeted by the NSA, and a Guantanamo Bay inmate. His court-appointed attorney gone, one has to wonder – has he managed to access some of that bitcoin he’s sitting on and causing the FBI to slobber over trying to figure out how to get to? We shall see if pleading the 5th, as some attorneys weighing in on his hefty charges, will prevent him from being forced to hand the keys over. (How would they “force” him to do this, one must wonder.) Not doing so, if required, would presumably gain him a contempt of court charge, which could presumably land him in jail until the court chose to release him.
Or, maybe good man Mike Gogulski, who notably revved up the movement to free and support Bradley Manning, managed to round up the dough in his defense fund for Ulbricht he set up last week.
Those who believed SR was a triumph, and Ulbricht a hero, revolutionary, philosopher, should be hopeful this case will shed light on more than just the issue of drug-dealing, but reveal some of Ulbricht’s strongly-held convictions, as well as the issue of a failing “war on drugs” waged futilely by the U.S.
A lot was going on during the months leading up to the SR bust, like Bitcoin Foundation meeting with the Feds galore, and Andy Greenberg’s exclusive interview with the Dread Pirate Roberts for FORBES in August 2013:
Almost as soon as his untouchable aura had seemed to reach a near-supernatural level, bam – he was down; nabbed so achingly innocently while being a good boy at the library near the apartment he shared with roommates who barely knew him in San Francisco, only as “Josh,” who stayed in front of his computer all the time.
Shortly thereafter, of course, 13 members of Anonymous were indicted/arrested for their at-the-time heart-poundingly superheroic OPERATION PAYBACK, following Aaron Swartz’ suicide. This was another shocking and discouraging blow for the believers in superheroic-level cyber-revolution.
And on that note is Sabu, the infamous hacker whose arrest for cyber mischief landed him in the hands of the feds facing 124 years for his offenses as part of LulzSec. Interestingly, his help cited by FBI for bringing down members of Anonymous jarring enough (where’s the honor among hackers? they seem to roll faster than a UGA freshman named Kevin busted for selling 13 sheets and 2 vials of liquid LSD to an undercover cop who looked like your friendly DEA agent), he’s also being rumored to be “Agent 1” mentioned as the help the named FBI agent, Christopher Tarbell, who supposedly gumshoed Ulbricht into custody. If there’s any truth to this, it might be why he gained a reprieve recently by the feds for helping them out:
Always interesting in the bitcoin universe.