WASHINGtON - The Justice Department should review and possibly ramp up tactics aimed at thwarting online drug trafficking, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday. His concern follows reports that illegal drug listings online have nearly doubled since last year, even though the FBI shut down one of the most popular illicit markets, the Silk Road.
Schumer had pushed the FBI to close the site in years past and said Monday he would fight to get the Justice Department more money to fight "drug-related cybercrime" in next year's budget.
"Federal law enforcement must remain vigilant in your efforts to combat this growth, and that is why I ask that you conduct a comprehensive review of federal efforts to address the expansion of narcotics trafficking on the internet," he said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The extra money could be used for more FBI computer technicians and the purchase of new computers and software. Schumer said there are not enough law enforcement officials to punch through encrypted websites on the “dark web” that hosts the illegal drug markets.
"These websites, by allowing users to rate the delivery services of sellers and by offering any drugs imaginable under the sun, are nothing less than an all-you-can order buffet of contraband that need to be investigated and targeted with more intensity," he said in a statement accompanying the letter.
Schumer cited statistics from a recent Newsday article finding the number of listings for illegal drugs — like heroin, cocaine and meth — had reached 40,000 since last year. Last October, the FBI took down the Silk Road and arrested the alleged operator of the site, Ross Ulbricht.
The FBI at the time said the Silk Road had seen more than $1 billion in sales using the online currency bitcoin. The market and others were accessed through the Tor network, which disguises a user's location by bouncing a user's traffic through a series of proxies around the world. But Schumer said a number of other markets have popped up in its place.
"Though the Internet has become essential to many Americans day-to-day lives, it has also helped to facilitate an illegal market for dangerous narcotics including prescription drugs, cocaine, and even heroin," Schumer said. "The 'dark web' has assisted in shielding these criminals from law enforcement."
The Hill/Oct. 27, 2014
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