Annapolis, Maryland (TFC)— An alleged drug ring operating out of the US Naval Academy is currently under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Reports suggest several midshipmen distributed an assortment of substances through the dark web.
According to Stars And Strips, the accused dealers bought and sold drugs using bitcoin over “the dark web”. Accessible through TOR (The Onion Router), an encrypted browser first developed by the US military, the “darknet’ embodies the internet underground. Websites normally hidden by more traditional search engines appear at one’s fingertips. Monitoring internet traffic and location is also more difficult if routed through TOR.
Bitcoin has seen increasing news coverage in recent months. While advocates praise it as a future currency in a privacy starved era, opponents rely on a wide variety of arguments. From its shaky economic stability to making Bitcoin more accountable. Critics blast the crypt-currency for propagating transactions throughout a vast black market. Governments worldwide, including the US, often use such cases to push for backdoors around secure services.
Investigators say 10-20 midshipmen of the Naval Academy’s Annapolis campus are under the radar. Though unable to independently verify this, Stars And Strips cited a Fox article stating the drug network sold LSD, cocaine, and ketamine. It’s unclear at this time, however, if these sales happened on campus grounds. Naval Academy spokespeople didn’t have much to add, and NCIS declined all comment.
Similar NCIS investigations into drug rings in the Navy have been known to end dozens of careers at once. Last month, a drug ring operating out of the 7th Fleet in Japan selling the same types of drugs was also reported. That too is a pending investigation, and authorities are looking into encrypted internet access also was involved.
It’s unknown at this time how exactly authorities honed in on these drug ring whether through a confidential informant, or electronic surveillance. Despite the similarity in both these cases, and how recently they both occurred, it’s also unclear whether they’re related.
This marks the second time in recent memory that the Navy has been hit with widespread drug investigations. In August of 2017, the alarm was sounded over alleged rampant drug use in the US Special Operations Command. Several operatives, particularly Navy SEALs, were noted as having tested positive for various drugs including cannabis and cocaine. Fickle levels of accountability mean such violations among America’s best are almost always handled in-house.
Not long after these reports surfaced, International Business Times reported US Spec Ops was considering using performance-enhancing drugs to augment their best troops. Another recent case in Mali implicated a Navy SEAL in the death of a Green Beret who’d discovered at least two SEALs were stealing money fueling an informant program.
President Donald Trump’s first year deployed US Spec Ops to unprecedented degrees. Weeks after taking office, Trump’s first Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) raid killed several villagers in Yemen including a 6-year-old girl and a Navy SEAL. That operation eventually saw the Yemeni government suspend all US special operations in-country due to international outrage.
Drone strikes are also up, with an army of Reaper Drones having shipped off to Afghanistan recently alongside thousands of troops. Drug use among drone operators was also noted by three former pilots in 2015 as being widespread. According to The Intercept, some operators would fly kill missions while impaired.
Besides drug abuse, the military has attained bad fan fair across all branches. A slew of Navy officers and sailors faced discipline and even criminal charges after the USS John Mccain crashed into a much larger merchant ship. This was the second such crash just weeks apart, with both incident’s killing personnel. In the Army, anonymous Green Beret instructors issued an open letter claiming the special forces unit is lowering training requirements.
It’s a pattern of mishaps which has progressed over the last year but isn’t necessarily contained to the Trump Administration. Most branches of the military, at all levels, appear to be experiencing a variety of operational challenges. Whether these issues stem from financial cuts, demand for more troops resulting in lower training standards, or incompetent leaders grabbing metals and promotions the end product remains.