Just in case you havenít read about the Steve Kurtz case in Buffalo, NY, national artists and scientists are rallying around this most bizarre and foolish misapplication of the Patriot Act thus far....
THE STEVE KURTZ CASE
By Mary Evans
June 16, 2004
Just in case you havenít read about the Steve Kurtz case in Buffalo, NY, national artists and scientists are rallying around this most bizarre and foolish misapplication of the Patriot Act thus far.
When I read about it at toward the end of May, I thought it was just a news story illustrating another moronic law enforcement mistake, a one day story that would never show up again. Not so.
Steve Kurtz, an Associate Professor in the Arts Dept. of SUNY-Buffalo called 911 when he discovered his wife had died in her sleep. When police arrived they discovered lab equipment and some innocuous bacteria used in an art exhibit for Critical Arts Ensemble (CAE) groupís latest project "Free Range Grains." This is an arts/political statement on misuses of biotechnology. The local police called the FBI suspecting bioterrorism, and the freshly bereaved fellow was not only descended upon by hordes of agents that examined everything from his manuscripts to his wifeí body, his house was condemned as a health risk.
Of course, itís been learned that the lab equipment was stuff anyone can legally own and isnít even capable of producing dangerous materials. Stupid mistake and an apology in order -- right? Wrong, the FBI has subpoenaed 8 people (think most are from Critical Arts Ensemble), and are planning to indict Steve Kurtz on unknown charges in a grand jury trial that began yesterday.
Paul Krugmanís article on John Ashcroft in yesterdayís NY Times, "Travesty of Justice," mentioned the case briefly:
"Then there is the lack of any major captures. Somewhere, the anthrax terrorist is laughing. But the Justice Department, you'll be happy to know, is trying to determine whether it can file bioterrorism charges against a Buffalo art professor whose work includes harmless bacteria in petri dishes."
Legal costs have ensued and thereís a website with a defense fund, information on letter writing, an overview, and press reports: http://www.caedefensefund.org.
The most recent article online, "The Persecution of Steve Kurtz," is by Ed Cardoni, board member of the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO), and can be found at: http://buffaloreport.com/2004/040616.cardoni.kurtz.html.
Who's next here? Please do what you can, and pass this information on.