Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


William Fisher: Your Tax Dollars At Work

Your Tax Dollars At Work


By William Fisher

It's truly comforting to know that, even in the grip of post-9/11 paranoia, the G-men of the FBI are still using their resources efficiently. If you have any doubts, just ask Steve Kurtz. He is living proof that your tax dollars are hard at work.

A year ago this month, Steve's wife, Hope, died of a heart attack in Buffalo, New York. Steve called 911. Police and emergency medical services responded.

What the police saw when they got to the Kurtz home, aside from Mrs. Kurtz's body and a distraught husband, were vials, bacterial cultures, and an assortment of laboratory equipment, including a mobile DNA extracting machine used for testing food products for genetic contamination.

Kurtz, an art professor at the University of Buffalo, explained to the police that these were some of the materials for an art exhibit he and his wife had been preparing on genetic modification. The Kurtzes were founders of an avant garde group called "The Critical Art Ensemble", a collective of "tactical media" protest and performance artists.

Kurtz told the cops his art has focused on the problems of the emergence of biotechnology, such as genetically modified food. He and the art ensemble have published several books including "Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media" and "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas."

The police didn't buy his story. They called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Before long, a team arrived from Quantico, Virginia, in full HAZMAT gear, and began searching and testing. Erie County health officials declared the Kurtz home a potential health risk and sealed it for two days while a state lab examined the bacterial cultures found inside. They confiscated Mrs. Kurtz's body, and Steve's computer, notebooks, art supplies and cat. They cordoned off the street, quarantined the Kurtz home, and took Steve to a hotel, where the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned him for two days.

Meanwhile, the special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office gave interviews to the press.

Officials declined to disclose what was examined and what was found. But the New York State Commissioner of Public Health tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat. The FBI's own field and lab tests showed that the materials in Steve's house were not used for any illegal purpose. They concluded that the materials could not possibly be used for the manufacture of a 'bio-weapon' or any other weapon.

Steve was released and allowed to go home.

But your tax-dollars-at-work didn't stop there. Federal authorities obviously thought there must be something illegal in the Kurtz home, because prosecutors subsequently convened a grand jury, with Kurtz as its target. But instead of charging him with bioterrorism, he was indicted for mail and wire fraud, charges normally used against those defrauding others of money or property, as in telemarketing schemes.

Also indicted was Robert Ferrell, head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, who helped Kurtz obtain the $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of his art projects.

Now, the FBI is once again seeking charges under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, as expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act - charges which a previous grand jury appeared to reject last summer when they handed down indictments for mail and wire fraud. There has been no decision from the grand jury as yet.

Kurtz's lawyer has moved to have all charges dismissed, and no trial date has yet been set.

But, while Kurtz and Ferrell await trial - and try to raise money for their legal defense fund -- FBI agents have been using your tax dollars to talk with everyone ever connected with Kurtz -- museum curators in Massachusetts and the state of Washington, colleagues in New York and California, current students at Buffalo - maybe even the cat.

The Justice Department will not comment on the case. Supporters say the government is trying "to make their own initial overreaction to the confused call for help from the first responders seem anything but foolish overkill."

Now, I've never seen any of the Kurtz art. I might hate it. But it's a stretch to think I would end up being poisoned by it. Feel better now?

*************

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BILL FISHER (http://billfisher.blogspot.com/)


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news