[Rumori] FBI Uses Patriot Act to Mess with The Critical Art Ensemble

Darren Wershler-Henry darren at alienated.net
Wed May 26 12:32:45 PDT 2004


May 25, 2004


Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism
 Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body

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

"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 'analysis.'"

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


A small fortune has already been spent on lawyers for Kurtz and other
Critical Art Ensemble members. A defense fund has been established at
http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/ to 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.

To make a donation, please visit http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/

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 .


More information about the Rumori mailing list