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US DoJ Launches Dark Web Drugs Taskforce

The US Department of Justice has launched another high-profile attempt to uncover drug-dealers hiding their tracks on the dark web.

Backed by attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, the new Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team will focus specifically on illegal opioid sales.

President Trump declared opioid abuse a “health emergency” back in October 2017. Over 64,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2016, a 21% increase on the previous year, with three-quarters coming from drugs derived from the opium poppy.

Now his government is looking to make headlines with an eye-catching taskforce to tackle dark web sales.

J-CODE will more than double the FBI’s investment in fighting internet-based opioid trafficking, with dozens of Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts and other staff being assigned to the new taskforce.

“Criminals think that they are safe on the darknet, but they are in for a rude awakening. We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice,” said Sessions in a statement.

“In the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in American history, the FBI and the Department of Justice are stepping up our investment in fighting opioid-related crimes. The J-CODE team will help us continue to shut down the online marketplaces that drug traffickers use and ultimately that will help us reduce addiction and overdoses across the nation.”

However, where law enforcement has been able to crack dark web drug dealing in the past, it has largely relied on offline work and mistakes by the perpetrators to infiltrate networks.

For example, one dealer was caught out after eagle-eyed postal workers’ suspicions were raised when he handed over packages wearing latex gloves.

In another case, the DEA traced a Bitcoin address for tips from satisfied customers and found it registered to suspected dark web dealer “OxyMonster.”

J-CODE's detractors could claim that the current online crackdown is a distraction from the real problem: legal opioid sales and over-prescription — a problem not seen to such an extent in the UK thanks to stricter NHS guidelines.

Abuse of the system appears to be growing, with bipartisan lawmakers flagging alleged “pill dumping” last September.

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