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The Silk Road bust almost didn't happen

If it weren't for one man insisting that the digital evidence trail was worth pursuing, Dread Pirate Roberts would still be free.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 27, 2015
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Officials like to boast about taking down Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts), but it turns out that they almost didn't get him at all. The New York Times has learned that the Internal Revenue Service's Greg Alford spent months sifting through chat logs and other details to link Ulbricht to the online black market, but the DEA and FBI didn't take the tax investigator's work seriously. If it weren't for his insistence on pursuing the case and reviewing evidence, Ulbricht might still be running the Dark Web service today.

The details suggest that US law enforcement still has a lot to learn about collaboration, especially in the internet era. On top of downplaying the evidence identifying Ulbricht, the other agencies didn't even relay some of what they knew to the IRS -- Alford could have pieced things together sooner if the bureaus were working together. Some of this stems from institutional biases toward dedicated law enforcement divisions (the IRS is relatively low on the ladder), but it's clear that the government needs to share more data.

[Image credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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