District Judge Richard A. Jones has denied a motion to compel discovery filed by the lawyers of Brian Farrell, who is accused of being “DoctorClu”; one of the “key players” in Silk Road 2.0. The motion was filed in an attempt to find out how Farrell’s IP address was discovered.
According to the criminal complaint, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) received a “lead” which ultimately led to the arrest of Brian Farrell.
“On July 30, 2014, HSI Seattle received a lead regarding one of these IP addresses, 126.96.36.199. According to Comcast records, the IP address resolved to an account maintained by a cooperating witness (“CW1”) at 4238 l63rd Avenue SE, Bellevue, Washington 98006. Washington Department of Licensing records showed that two individuals maintained vehicles at that address, CW1 and BRIAN FARRELL. Over the next few months, agents observed multiple vehicles at the residence, including one belonging to FARRELL. Agents also observed FARRELL on one occasion outside the residence.”
In the denied motion to compel discovery, it is revealed that this “lead” was actually the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) who were apparently conducting research on Tor – research that was funded by the Department of Defense.
“The record demonstrates that the defendant’s IP address was identified by the Software Engineering Institute (“SEI”) of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU”) [sic] when SEI was conducting research on the Tor network which was funded by the Department of Defense (“DOD”). The government previously produced information to the defense that Farrell’s IP address was observed when SEI was operating its computers on the Tor network. This information was obtained by law enforcement pursuant to a subpoena served on SEI-CMU.”
The subpoena was served by the FBI, but it isn’t known how they knew research was being conducted on Tor.
Jones didn’t disclose how CMU discovered Farrell’s IP address saying,
“The evidence before this Court indicate is that SEI obtained the defendant’s IP address while he was using the Tor network and SEI was operating nodes on that network, and not by any access to his computer. For these reasons, any other discovery about the methodology or technique used to identify the defendant’s IP address is not material to his defense.”
The Tor Project criticized this in a statement made for journalists which was published in a blog post; “It is clear that the court does not understand how the Tor network works.”
They ended the statement reassuring everyone that Tor is still secure.
“The Tor network is secure and has only rarely been compromised. The Software Engineering Institute (“SEI”) of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) compromised the network in early 2014 by operating relays and tampering with user traffic. That vulnerability, like all other vulnerabilities, was patched as soon as we learned about it. The Tor network remains the best way for users to protect their privacy and security when communicating online.”
Brian Farrell is being charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine by virtue of his alleged operation as an administrator of Silk Road 2.0; his trial is set to begin on April 25.