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Re: [BKARTS] Patriot Act takes and artist



I just received this and thought to pass it on to the list in light of
the comments of support.
SRotolo

June 2, 2004
       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

       Contact: Beatriz da Costa, mailto:media@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

       ARTISTS SUBPOENAED IN USA PATRIOT ACT CASE
       Feds STILL unable to distinguish art from bioterrorism
       Grand jury to convene June 15

       HELP URGENTLY NEEDED - SEE BELOW

       Three artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a
federal
       grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a
       university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology

       equipment.

       The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre
investigation
       in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken
an
       art project for a biological weapons laboratory (see end for
       background). While most observers have assumed that the Task
Force
       would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of
Steve
       Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen
to
       press their "case" against the baffled professor.

       Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve
Barnes--are,
       like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art

       Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to
       educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were

       served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art
show
       at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third
artist,
       Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University
at
       Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.

       The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly
bizarre
       case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate),"
said
       Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that
this
       investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is
positively
       frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made
freedom
       of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the
       University of California at Irvine.

       According to the subpoenas, the FBI is seeking charges under
Section
       175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989,
which has
       been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law
prohibits
       the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery
system"
       without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide

       research, or other peaceful purpose." (See
       http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/175.html for the 1989 law
and
       http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/patriot/sec817.html for its
USA
       PATRIOT Act expansion.)

       Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is
difficult
       to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other
than a
       "peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted
mainly of
       CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to
test
       store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically
modified
       grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any
university's
       basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see "Lab Tour"
at
       http://www.critical-art.net/biotech/free/ for more details).

       The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in
Buffalo,
       New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict
Steve
       Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being
planned at
       9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in
       Buffalo.

       HELP NEEDED

       Financial donations:
       The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in
amounts
       ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of
sympathy,
       but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the
case.
       To make a donation, please visit http://www.caedefensefund.org/

       Letters of support:
       Letters and petitions of support from biologists, artists, and
others,
       especially those in positions of responsibility at prominent
       institutions or companies, could be very useful. See
       http://www.caedefensefund.org/ for a sample letter of support.

       Legal offers and letters of support:
       If you are a lawyer, offers of pro bono support or offers to
write
       amicus briefs would be very helpful.

       BACKGROUND

       Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife,
Hope,
       dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived
and,
       after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was
using
       in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

       Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned
off
       the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's
       computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's
body for
       further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the
house as
       a health risk.

       Only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State
had
       tested samples from the home and announced there was no public
safety
       threat was Kurtz able to return home and recover his wife's body.
Yet
       the FBI would not release the impounded materials, which included

       artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of

       Contemporary Art.

       While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that
its
       initial investigation of Steve Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the
       subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press
their
       "case" against Kurtz and possibly others.

       To donate to the CAE Defense Fund, and for up-to-date information
on
       the case, please visit http://www.caedefensefund.org/

       For more information on the Critical Art Ensemble, please visit
       http://www.critical-art.net/

       To join a list about the case, please visit
       http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CAE_Defense

       Articles and television stories about the case:
       http://www.appliedautonomy.com/cae/
       http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8278-2004Jun1.html


http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/ny-bc-ny--materialsremoved0601jun01,0,3539235.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire

       http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20040602/1048042.asp

       On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions
       regarding his case. Please direct questions or comments to
       mailto:media@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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