We’ve arrived at a time in history where the title question actually has repute.

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.


You may be asking, “If there was no safety threat found why not return everything?” Unless you’ve lived under a rock since 9/11 you probably already know the answer, The Patriot Act. The act severely modified the 1989 US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act. With my limited understanding of Legal Code I can only hypothesize the changes give greater jurisdiction to that great Department of Homeland Security to seize any assets it desires. The most interesting part of this story is CAE’s (Critical Art Ensemble) research of other post 9/11 and historical cases of state repression of cultural workers, activists and other civilians. They actually drew up a PDF document accessible from their website. As frightening as it is at least there’s motivation to create sites like CAE’s to call support and provide information about these abuses.