Art and Bioterror


Steve Kurtz, an art professor at SUNY-Buffalo--and a radical activist of sorts through his "Critical Art Ensemble" collective--is being investigated by a grand jury after his wife died of a heart attack on May 11 and police came by and were disturbed by some chemistry set apparatus around the house. That triggered a thorough FBI and Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force scouring of his house with a full hazmat team and a two-day interrogation in a hotel room they took him to after declaring his home off-limits.

The FBI took a bunch of computers and equipment which it has not yet returned. Nothing immediately hazardous was found, and Kurtz was permitted to reoccupy his home. However, some of Kurtz's friends and associates have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on June 15, so an investigation is continuing though no charges have yet been filed.

An earlier Hit and Run notice on this here. A Washington Post account here; a defense-fund plea here. From the defense fund plea:

[Kurtz] 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.