President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The committee is given rather broad powers concerning federal criminal law and internet privacy. During a quick exchange, hours into the hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked about the “dark web.” His answers might foreshadow what’s ahead for digital privacy and bitcoin users.
Jeff Sessions and Dianne Feinstein
Upon returning from morning recess, a skeletal assembly remained in the Senate hearing chamber. Even a sizeable number of the committee’s own members bailed.
At three hours, forty three minutes and thirty seconds into his testimony, ranking member Mrs. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, announced her line of questioning would focus on “the dark web.”
Citing a New York Times article, “Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail,” by Nathaniel Popper, Senator Feinstein began, “it seems to me, the dark web, being used by criminals, is going to grow in the coming years.”
The “dark web” refers to a tucked-away part of the “deep web,” which is purposely aloof from mainstream search engines. Authorizations, special software, are often required. If such is considered “dark,” then regular internet usage is known as clearnet.
The phrase strikes deep fear among government officials. Mrs. Feinstein in her questioning was sure to harden the ‘b’ when pronouncing “dark web,” adding a sense of seriousness.
“If you have any plans to address it,” she continued, “or would you begin to think about it so that we might have some conversations on this, because I think there’s a lot of concern out there in law enforcement communities,” the Senator emphasized.
Holding both his hands together, Attorney General Sessions sat fully upright and announced he “would be pleased to do so.”
“We are very concerned about that,” he elaborated. “The FBI’s very concerned about that. They did take down, I think, the two biggest, dark web sites. This last one, Alphabay, we took down recently. They had 240,000 sites where individuals were selling, for the most part, illegal substances or guns on that site, including Fentanyl. And, they use bitcoins and other untraceable financial capabilities, and it is a big problem,” he nodded.
“Thank you,” Mrs. Feinstein returned a nod, “I’d like to work with you on it, and if it requires legislation in particular. So, thank you very much. I’m going to quit while I am ahead.”
Looking for a Way In
More than a few histories of Bitcoin credit darker markets for moving drug traffic off streets, and onto safer environments, limiting potential violence. They’re also central, according to theorists, to advancing the idea that bitcoin could be a viable currency in its earliest days.
These both remain controversial claims.
Alphabay Market was accessed through the Tor network, and it was sacked during a coordinated, international, law enforcement effort known as Operation Bayonet. Authorities accused Canadian Alexandre Cazes of being its ringleader. Mr. Cazes died mysteriously in a Thailand jail just days later.
Fentanyl, also known as fentanil, is an opioid pain medication.
Senator Feinstein announced her bid for reelection recently, having already served a quarter-century as Senator from California.
What are your thoughts on dark web markets? Are they good for the ecosystem? Tell us in the comments below!
Images courtesy of: Win McNamee/AP, US Senate