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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  June 2004

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE June 2004

Subject:

Artists Subpoenaed in USA Patriot Act Case

From:

Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 7 Jun 2004 21:25:19 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (221 lines)

Artists Subpoenaed in USA Patriot Act Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 3, 2004 12:12 AM CONTACT:
Critical Art Ensemble Newsroom: [log in to unmask]

Common Dreams Preogressive Newswire

http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/newsprint.cgi?file=/news2004/0603-13.htm

WASHINGTON - June 3 - 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

###

PRESS RELEASE
Contact: [log in to unmask]

PROTECT US--DON'T PROSECUTE US!
SECURE LIBERTY--CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE IS INNOCENT!

CALL FOR DEMONSTRATION IN SUPPORT OF CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE AND FREE SPEECH
RIGHTS

The committee to organize CAE Defense is calling for a peaceful
demonstration of support outside the Grand Jury hearings on the case of
Steve Kurtz (CAE), beginning on June 15th.

WHERE: County Court House, 138 Delaware Ave. Buffalo, NY. WHEN: 9 AM, June
15, 2004

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognized
artists who work in public, educational, academic and art contexts. Most
recently their work has been directed towards providing the general public
with awareness and understanding about biological research. The aim of
their work is not alarmist or sensational. Through participatory
performance experiences CAE provides information and knowledge. It brings
people into contact with the reality of scientific research often not
accessible to the general public. The work is always undertaken in a safe
and considered way, using materials commonly available in scientific
education and research practices.

The FBI in its efforts to protect the public is now overreaching its
mandate by using an overwhelming amount of pressure against a group of
artists making their work for the peaceful purpose of vital public
discussions. Artists like CAE stimulate public debate necessary to a
healthy democracy. Our constitution guarantees the right to freedom of
speech and our government is charged with securing that right. The job of
democracy is to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. In
the United States we are not governed by mob rule, nor should government
exploit its responsibilities to the public by persecuting innocent people.
We too, as citizens must stand up now to affirm our rights and defend our
liberty.

This is a peaceful demonstration. Please bring signs and banners. Check the
website for PDF's and examples of signs and slogans you can print out.

CIRCULATE THIS CALL AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN PLEASE BE SURE TO CHECK THE
WEBSITE FREQUENTLY FOR UPDATES ON THE DEMO.

A Word About Demonstrations.
As with all demonstrations it is advisable to bring personal identification
(driver's license, passports, student id's, proof of address, etc.) Let
someone know where you are going to be. Stick with a buddy.

BRIEF FOLLOW-UP TO INITIAL PRESS RELEASE: To date Steven Barnes and Dorian
Burr, founding members of CAE, as well as Beatriz da Costa and Paul
Vanouse, artists who have collaborated with CAE, as well as several other
people, have been served with subpoenas to appear before the federal Grand
Jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against University professor
Steve Kurtz 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 first press release on
www.caedefensefund.org). The artists involved are at a loss to explain the
increasingly bizarre case that shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act and
other post-9/11 "security" measures have made freedom of speech in this
country.

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 to prohibit 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>http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/175.html
for the 1989 law and
<http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/patriot/sec817.html>http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/patriot/sec817.html
for its USA PATRIOT
Act expansion.)

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