[lit-ideas] Critical Arts Ensemble busted by the FBI

  • From: "Torgeir Fjeld" <torgfje2@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 05 Jun 2004 20:00:05 +0100

>>May 25, 2004
>>Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism
>>Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body
>>       ______________________________________________________
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>>       |    For donations contact: CAEdefense@xxxxxxxxxx    |
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>>       |____________________________________________________|
>>Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called 911
>>early in the morning to tell them his wife had suffered a cardiac
>>arrest and died in her sleep. The police arrived and, cranked up on
>>the rhetoric of the "War on Terror," decided Kurtz's art supplies
>>were actually bioterrorism weapons.
>>Thus began an Orwellian stream of events in which FBI agents abducted
>>Kurtz without charges, sealed off his entire block, and confiscated
>>his computers, manuscripts, art supplies... and even his wife's body.
>>Like the case of Brandon Mayfield, the Muslim lawyer from Portland
>>imprisoned for two weeks on the flimsiest of false evidence, Kurtz's
>>case amply demonstrates the dangers posed by the USA PATRIOT Act
>>coupled with government-nurtured terrorism hysteria.
>>Kurtz's case is ongoing, and, on top of everything else, Kurtz is
>>facing a mountain of legal fees. Donations to his legal defense can
>>be made at
>>Steve Kurtz is Associate Professor in the Department of Art at the
>>State University of New York's University at Buffalo, and a member of
>>the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble.
>>Kurtz's wife, Hope Kurtz, died in her sleep of cardiac arrest in the
>>early morning hours of May 11. Police arrived, became suspicious of
>>Kurtz's art supplies and called the FBI.
>>Within hours, FBI agents had "detained" Kurtz as a suspected
>>bioterrorist and cordoned off the entire block around his house.
>>(Kurtz walked away the next day on the advice of a lawyer, his
>>"detention" having proved to be illegal.) Over the next few days,
>>dozens of agents in hazmat suits, from a number of law enforcement
>>agencies, sifted through Kurtz's work, analyzing it on-site and
>>impounding computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his
>>wife's body for further analysis. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Health
>>Department condemned his house as a health risk.
>>Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, makes art which
>>addresses the politics of biotechnology. "Free Range Grains," CAE's
>>latest project, included a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for
>>testing food products for possible transgenic contamination. It was
>>this equipment which triggered the Kafkaesque chain of events.
>>FBI field and laboratory tests have shown that Kurtz's equipment was
>>not used for any illegal purpose. In fact, it is not even possible to
>>use this equipment for the production or weaponization of dangerous
>>germs. Furthermore, any person in the US may legally obtain and
>>possess such equipment.
>>"Today, there is no legal way to stop huge corporations from putting
>>genetically altered material in our food," said Defense Fund
>>spokeswoman Carla Mendes. "Yet owning the equipment required to test
>>for the presence of 'Frankenfood' will get you accused of
>>'terrorism.' You can be illegally detained by shadowy government
>>agents, lose access to your home, work, and belongings, and find that
>>your recently deceased spouse's body has been taken away for
>>Though Kurtz has finally been able to return to his home and recover
>>his wife's body, the FBI has still not returned any of his equipment,
>>computers or manuscripts, nor given any indication of when they will.
>>The case remains open.
>>A small fortune has already been spent on lawyers for Kurtz and other
>>Critical Art Ensemble members. A defense fund has been established at
>>help defray the legal costs
>>which will continue to mount so long as the investigation continues.
>>Donations go directly to the legal defense of Kurtz and other
>>Critical Art Ensemble members. Should the funds raised exceed the
>>cost of the legal defense, any remaining money will be used to help
>>other artists in need.
>>For more information on the Critical Art Ensemble, please visit
>>Articles about the case:
>>On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions
>>regarding his case. Please direct questions or comments to Carla
>>Mendes <CAEdefense@xxxxxxxxxx>.

------- End of forwarded message -------
Torgeir Fjeld
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