As the last post made it to Slashdot, a good number of comments are happening on that platform instead of the post itself so I'll go through now and offer replies to some of them.
Yep, my take on the article was what you said, and that they have crappy records for that service, so they were on a fishing expedition to see if they could find anything good/relating to the silk road stuff. In all honesty, it sounded like due diligence to me, in other words, the Feds were doing the detective work they needed to be doing.
Now this is a reasonable interpretation of circumstances wherein BTCPak was largely mentioned in the context of being a potential icebreaker to start a conversation about Silk Road related matters. The naive appearance of anonymity BTCPak might have offered could make it a promising avenue to pursue for leads, but... I'm the sort who layers on the tinfoil a bit thick to have gone on The Silk Road in the first place. Or to imagine a prepaid code loaded into a debit card which is tied to my slave name and Social Security Number would be beyond the avenue of a dedicated investigator to follow up on.
No, as you say, it's a fishing expedition.
Sorry, officer, do you have some evidence of wrong doing on my behalf, or are you just asking around to see if you can find out anything you can use?
The answer, in both cases, is talk to my lawyer and come back with a warrant. Because when the police are on a fishing expedition, the last place you want to be is innocently answering questions they'll twist against you.
With parallel construction and every other dirty trick law enforcement is using, you have to start from the premise they're either lying to you, or hoping you'll slip up. Because, quite frankly, they probably are.
Even if there's no evidence you committed a crime or otherwise broke the law, you're still quite likely to get screwed over. Answering open ended questions is a terrible idea, because they're just as likely to use it to fabricate something about you.
Law enforcement is no longer trustworthy. Stop treating them like they are. Even if they're smiling at you, they're probably hostile to your best interests.
A distinct privilege of a citizen is the "unassailable privilege of speaking for yourself in public" and this includes the right to speak to your actual ignorance on matters to which you are ignorant. The reason investigators come to a persons door step and do not take them away in handcuffs is that they are looking for a person who is interesting and might have interesting information for them. What I knew of BTCPak was that it worked great and it worked fast.
Sure, with everything else you have to assume that they have a desire for you to slip and and incriminate yourself or that you might be willing to incriminate someone else in exchange for immunity or leniency. In the latter case an lawyer would be a valuable asset. In the former case... speak carefully? With the existence of parallel construction and the fact that not everything they need to present to you be true or complete there is an impetus to incredible caution. Still in Silk Road Matter the best defense is to have avoided the thing in the first place as with the rabid vigor the United States pursues drug matters, it is hard to believe that person could put some thought into the matter and not anticipated parallel construction et al. Reading even a brief description of the Silk Road it would be hard to imagine the thing ending other than in an orgy of prosecutions and people being pressured into turning State's evidence.1
Also given the prevalence of "No-Knock" warrants, insisting on a warrant can place yourself, your neighbors, and your family in danger. Risk assesment is a constant necessity when weighing whether to be a dick and maximally assert your rights, the Kelly Criterion is a thing useful in non-gambling ventures. I am also not against law and order, but have disagreements with the status quo on the degree and balance of order and disorder that is optimal.
- State's evidence is this arrangement where in the concerning matter you go from person to property and as a result of this transformation you require a lawyer to work for you in the way a circus elephant needs the humane society. [↩]