Parallel Construction and Other Lies
Much of what the government agents and prosecutors stated to secure a conviction, even under oath, is highly suspect or outright false.
Below are some examples known to date.
FBI New York Special Agent Christopher W. Tarbell
- Finding the Silk Road server
September 5, 2014 – Tarbell was the lead FBI investigator in the case. He wrote Ross’s criminal complaint and led the arrest team. He testified under oath as to how he located the Silk Road server.
Tarbell claimed he discovered the location of the Silk Road server by “examining the individual packets of data being sent back from the website” where he found “a certain IP address” that returned “a part of the Silk Road login screen (the CAPTCHA prompt).”
Experts worldwide called his testimony impossible.
“The server logs which the FBI provides as evidence show that, no, what happened is the FBI didn’t see a leakage coming from that IP. What happened is they contacted that IP directly and got a PHPMyAdmin page.” But how did they know to contact that IP address in the first place? “The CAPTCHA couldn’t leak in that configuration, and the IP [Tarbell] visited wasn’t providing the CAPTCHA, but instead a PHPMyadmin interface. Thus, the leaky CAPTCHA story is full of holes.”
– Nicholas Weaver, researcher at ICSI and Berkeley.
“Many of us believe it wasn’t the FBI who discovered the hidden Silk Road server, but the NSA…We believe the FBI is using parallel construction…creating a plausible story of how they found the server to satisfy the courts, but a story that isn’t true,” Graham said. “I am a foremost…expert on this sort of thing. I think Christopher Tarbell is lying.”
– Robert Graham of Errata Security.
New York AUSA Serrin Turner, lead prosecutor
- The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
September 9, 2013 – AUSA Serrin Turner told the magistrate judge who signed off on the warrants used against Ross that the U.S. government had the legal authority to seize the Silk Road servers in Iceland because the U.S. has a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with Iceland. This was false testimony made under oath.
Months later, the prosecution admitted this in the footnote of a motion before the district court:
This “is not technically correct, as the United States does not have an MLAT with Iceland.”
– AUSA Turner admitting that his testimony before a judge was false.
- Corrupt agents
December 15, 2014 – AUSA Turner and AUSA Timothy Howard told Ross’s trial judge Katherine Forrest that Carl Force, a corrupt agent at the core of the Silk Road case, was unaware that he was being investigated. Their argument was that, if Force’s corruption were made public at trial, it would alert Force and jeopardize the investigation. This was a false statement made to a federal judge. In truth, Force had been made aware eight months prior, quit the DEA as a result, and was moving money offshore. AUSA Turner also hid the existence of Shaun Bridges, a second corrupt agent who worked hand-in-hand with Force.
“The only apparent reason for maintaining secrecy was to deprive [Ross] of the use of the information.”
– Joshua Dratel protesting against keeping Force a secret from Ross’s jury.
December 15, 2014 – At the same hearing, AUSA Turner told Judge Forrest that the Silk Road admin account Force and Bridges hijacked could not be used to take over other accounts on the site:
Judge Forrest: “Could he have faked being someone else?”
AUSA Turner: “No, you can’t do that. No.”
This was false too.
Force and Bridges “could have reset the PIN on DPR’s account and usurped control of it,” even “without DPR losing access.” They could have “changed anything in the Silk Road database, including message text in the Forum or Market,” all without “the government’s knowledge of what they did.”
– Dratel describing the capabilities Force and Bridges had in the Silk Road system.
- Hiding evidence of multiple DPRs
February 3, 2015 – In exchange for a “significant concession,” AUSA Turner told Dratel that he would admit a statement in trial from Andrew Jones, one of DPR’s employees, that showed that different people controlled the DPR accounts at different times. Then, once in court, AUSA Turner objected to its admission, and Judge Forrest sustained his objection and precluded the evidence.
IRS New York Special Agent Gary Alford
- Connecting Ross to Silk Road
January 26, 2015 – IRS agent Gary Alford testified that he found a post on bitcointalk.org containing Ross’s email address, using only a simple google search. He claimed the address could be linked back to the first mention of Silk Road online by a user named “altoid” on January 29, 2011.
This testimony defies belief. Scores of investigative journalists, extortionists, hackers, and numerous law enforcement agencies had tried and failed to connect DPR to a real identity for years.
Alford’s testimony also contradicted Special Agent Der-Yeghiayan’s much more thorough investigation. Der-Yeghiayan had already scoured everything to do with Silk Road for over two years, and concluded that the first-ever mention of it online was on March 1, 2011 by a user named “silkroad.” This appeared on the same website, bitcointalk.org, owned by Mark Karpeles, who Der-Yeghiayan had identified as the “mastermind” behind Silk Road. Planting the evidence Alford “found” would have been trivial for Karpeles, or anyone with high-level access.
HSI Chicago Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan
- When someone new took over the DPR accounts
January 15, 2015 – At trial, Dratel questioned Der-Yeghiayan about his statement in evidence that there were multiple people behind the DPR accounts at different times.
Dratel: “You yourself thought that DPR changed over time, didn’t you? You told people inside your organization, [HSI]…that DPR had changed in April of 2013?”
Der-Yeghiayan: “I’m not sure if the April I was referring to was 2012 or 2013. I think it was April 2012.”
Dratel: “But the email [was written] August of 2013, right?…And when you said it changed in April, you didn’t say April a year ago, you [just] said April, right?”
Dratel: “Have you taken any acting courses?”
- ▲ – Declaration of Christopher Tarbell
- ▲ – Declaration of Christopher Tarbell (page 4)
- ▲ – Brian Krebs’s article, October 2, 2014 (“Silk Road Lawyers Poke Holes in FBI’s Story”)
- ▲ – Robert Graham’s article, October 3,2014 (“Reading the Silk Road configuration”)
- ▲ – List of all the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties in existence for the U.S.
- ▲ – Memorandum of Law in opposition to Ross’s motion to suppress evidence, obtain discovery and a bill of particulars, and strike surplusage (in the footnote page 3)
- ▲ – Pre-trial transcript, December 15, 2014 (page 26)
- ▲ – Letter from Serrin Turner to Judge Forrest, March 31, 2015 (Appeal appendix page A650)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 33)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 18)
- ▲ – Reply Memorandum of Law in support of Ross’s post-trial motions (page 2)
- ▲ – Pre-trial transcript, December 15, 2014 (page 31, 40, 41)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 3)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 36)
- ▲ – Appeal brief (page 90)
- ▲ – Trial transcript, day 11 (page 2054)
- ▲ – Trial transcript, day 7 (page 1253)
- ▲ – Trial transcript, day 7 (page 1258)
- ▲ – Affidavit from Jared DerYeghiayan (Appeal appendix page A774)
- ▲ – Trial transcript, day 3 (page 495)
- ▲ – Trial transcript, day 3 (page 428 )