According to information recently revealed in a trial in Ireland’s notorious Special Criminal Court, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation had reportedly posed as firearm and explosive dealers in an attempt to attract buyers that posed significant threats to national security or the lives of others. In September 2016, the undercover FBI agents received a message from an individual who wanted handguns, grenades, and plastic explosives.
DeepDotWeb covered the story after Gardai forces in Dublin revealed that the FBI had played an essential role in investigating three suspected Irish Republican Army members who allegedly attempted to purchase weapons on the darknet. At the time, the Gardai had only revealed minor details in either an attempt to preserve a potential FBI undercover investigator on the darknet or simply due to a lack of information that had reached the Dublin Gardai spokesperson at the time.
However, following a recent arrest where the police apprehended the defendants, and guns were drawn in a crowd of people outside of a hospital, in subsequent non-jury court proceeding, the prosecutor revealed several pieces of information that shed some light on the questions raised by the initial press announcement. The majority of it was the unknown information surrounded the FBI’s involvement in the case. The Gardai had initially announced that the FBI had been “monitoring the darknet” for potential threats.
The phrase “monitoring the darknet” has often meant something completely different than a passive act of “monitoring.” One recent example of this manifested itself in the case of the former GP attempting to hire a hitman through Crimebay by the Chechen Mob. A man, according to court records, had allegedly used the fake murder-for-hire site in an attempt to have his financial advisor murdered. The UK’s National Crime Agency announced that they had caught the man by monitoring his activity on the site. Although the casual observer might believe law enforcement simply “watched the site” for would-be murderers, those with any experience know that no variant of watching or monitoring the site would allow law enforcement to collect intel without either seizing the server, running the murder-for-hire site, or gaining entry through a backdoor.
Since the NCA statement, it has been revealed that one of the above comments more accurately described the investigation into the former GP. When the Gardai revealed that the FBI had learned that a suspected IRA member had reached out to a darknet vendor on Alphabay, they left out a piece of information vital to the story: who ran the Alphabay vendor account that advertised explosives?
Those skeptical of the FBI’s methods of investigating darknet vendors likely knew that the FBI had not somehow backdoored Alphabay only to watch the customers of a specific explosives vendor. And in the most recent trial, the court heard that the FBI had not passively observed a suspected IRA member attempting to buy explosives on Alphabay; instead, an FBI witness revealed, the weapons account was controlled by an undercover FBI agent from the very start.
Although the news was not a surprise to many, the role played by the FBI had much more of an impact on the case than the public had been led to believe.