WASHINGTON, DC ( release0 U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer Sunday called on the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice to launch an immediate crackdown on the underground website “Silk Road” that allows users to buy and sell illegal drugs and have them delivered directly to buyers’ homes. The website, which is only accessible through a secret network that hides users’ identities, allows users to purchase illegal drugs easily and conveniently from other dealers and users throughout the country and around the world. Drugs ranging from heroin to ecstasy, marijuana, and cocaine can be found on the site. Schumer and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin today, in letters to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice (DOJ), called on the agencies to immediately shutdown the website.
“By allowing users to buy and sell illegal drugs online, the website ‘Silk Road’ is nothing less than a one-stop shop for drugs that needs to be shut down immediately,” said Schumer. “Never before has a website so brazenly peddled illegal drugs online, but by cracking down on the website immediately, we can help stop these drugs from flooding our streets.”
Silk Road, launched in February 2011, uses layers of secrecy at all levels of the site to avoid detection from authorities: from limiting access to certain users, to hiding the identities of the buyers and sellers, to disguising shipments in the mail, and even using a form of untraceable currency to disguise payments. To access the site users need to be members of the anonymizing network “TOR”. Once users are inside, their identities are concealed so that neither the buyer nor sellers are aware of the identities of the person they are conducting the transaction with. To mask the delivery of the drugs, users are instructed to disguise shipments and vacuum seal drugs that could otherwise be detected through smell. To purchase the drugs, users have to use a new and untraceable online currency called “Bitcoins,” that is created by networks of peer-to-peer users.
Visitors to the website can purchase an array of illegal drugs including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines and prescription narcotics, in various quantities. Users post the product and the quantity they are selling and buyers can then do comparison shopping. In addition to drugs, visitors to the site can purchase illegal firearms. The website even allows user to rate the level of service they receive from drug dealers.
“This website, by allowing users to rate the delivery services of sellers and by offering any drugs imaginable under the sun, is nothing less than an all-you-can order buffet of contraband that needs to be shut down immediately,” continued Schumer.
Following reports by the website Gawker and other media outlets last week, Schumer’s office reached out to the Drug Enforcement Agency late last week, urging them to investigate. The DEA confirmed that they are aware of the site. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michele M. Leonhart, Schumer and Manchin urged the agencies to move immediately and shut down the site. Schumer noted that the under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, the Attorney General has the authority to shut down websites, like Silk Road, that are involved in the delivery and distribution of illegal drugs. Additionally, the DEA in the past has seized website domains that sell drug paraphernalia. Schumer noted they can do the same here.
A copy of the letter can be found below.
June 5, 2011
The Honorable Eric Holder Michele Leonhart, Administrator
Attorney General Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 8701 Morrissette Drive
Washington, DC 20530-0001 Springfield, VA 22152
Dear Attorney General Holder and Administrator Leonhart:
We write to express our grave concern upon discovery of an online marketplace for illegal drugs, known as “Silk Road.” Launched in February, this underground website allows users to hide their identities and freely purchase and sell illegal drugs, ranging from cocaine and heroin, to ecstasy and marijuana.
As you may know, Silk Road employs various layers of secrecy to ensure that the identities and activities of all users are obscured. By utilizing the anonymizing network TOR, Silk Road ensures that users’ tracks on the site are hidden. The only method of payment for these illegal purchases is an untraceable peer-to-peer currency known as Bitcoins. After purchasing Bitcoins through an exchange, a user can create an account on Silk Road and start purchasing illegal drugs from individuals around the world and have them delivered to their homes within days. After completing online purchases, users are instructed to disguise shipments and vacuum seal drugs that may be detected by odor.
The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act (21 U.S.C. § 841) defines the offense of operating an illegal website like Silk Road. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 853(a)(2), the Attorney General has the authority to shut down such entities involved in the delivery and distribution of controlled substances by seizing the website domain name.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has been and continues to be rigorous in enforcing our controlled substance laws and regulations. As part of this critical mission, we urge you to take immediate action and shut down the Silk Road network.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to working with you on this important issue.