9.7 Speech Rights in Post 9/11 US, Steven Kutz

First of all , this is a crazy story. Can we all agree? I can’t believe that his wife died of a heart attack on the same day that he was busted by the FEDS. Is that bad luck or what! Also there just seem to be a lot of holes in the story. What ever happened to those samples of the bubonic plague that were taken from the lab? Also I didn’t catch this- is Kutz’s work still in custody by the FBI?

To summarize:

Kutz  is an artist who works at the University of Buffalo in NYC who developed the critical art ensemble for activists. His artwork is essentially civil disobedience to social and political realities. He is interested in democratic sciences and in social networks. In the project that lead to his arrest, I think  he was trying to make a statement again biotechnology being misused by corporations by using bacteria form the lab to strengthen an art project.

When Kutz was arrested, the FBI took his passport, books, computer, and put him up in a hotel for 22 hours. Kutz was charged with 69 criminal courts, tax evasion, and bio terrorism. He was also charged with mail fraud and wire fraud.

(This is a little side note: but I feel like governments always pull the tax evasion card when anyone’s in trouble and they can’t think of how to tell the public. I mean when the government says that a citizen is being marshaled for tax evasion, you know it means something screwy. )

The other side of the story involves the scientists who were helping Kutz with the project. I’m very pro-scientist mainly because my mom is a scientist who runs at lab at a major university. Basically, when I hear any story about the government taking away a scientist’s rights, it is terrifying. Also, (just a little more background on my opinions), when the US government attacks scientific research, for instance,  when the bush administration put a stop on stem cell research, I get livid.

Anyway, as a product of an amazing scientist, I know that scientists will get crucified if anything goes wrong. It is true: scientists have to be really careful because they are completely beholden to their institutions for funding. I feel really felt bad for the scientist Dr. Thomas Butler, who reported that samples of the bubonic plague missing. For doing the right thing, he faced several years in prison ! Bob Ferrel, his colleague, didn’t even volunteer to testify for his friend because it could have jeopardized his career. I’ve heard so many stories like this from my parents that I can’t say I’m surprised.

(Sidenote 2: In the interview, Kutz mentioned, “ the National Lawyer’s Guild, Primers on what to do on what if you’re arrested”. Now that I think about it, that would have been an excellent manual to make for the final. )

To conclude, it was so great that Steven came to speak to our class. I think that what happened to him was a real tragedy. It was so nice to see that he was going on a boat trip with his new wife. etc : ) A huge message I got from reading Kutzs interview with Melanie was this — when the government gets involved, they will “F” you over, so try not to piss off the government (sorry if that was crude). Also never sign away your rights to a legal defense. The scary thing is that this man practically lost all of his rights as a human being when the government got involved.  I can see this event affecting him in two ways: either he could just tone done his influence as an activist or either carry on more carefully. Obviously, he’s a badass, and doing the latter, carrying on with more knowledge from his experience

Kutz’s story reminds me of this movie called “ Fair Game”, it definitely something worth putting on your netflix queue.


In fair game is based on the tell all memories of ex CIA operative Valerie Plame (played by Namoi Watts) who was publicly exposed by the US government after her husband (Sean Penn) ruffled feathers in Washington by accusing the Bush administration of bending the truth in regards to weapons  of mass destruction in Iraq. She didn’t undergo what Kutz did  but the government really messed with her. True story too!

Is our government like China or something, because they act like it sometimes…?



2 thoughts on “9.7 Speech Rights in Post 9/11 US, Steven Kutz”

  1. This post was confusing for a few reasons, so I wanted to clarify for posterity:
    1. Steve Kurtz does not work with bubonic plague, that was Dr. Thomas Butler, from a completely different incident. Kurtz only works with non-pathogenic bacteria, and did not have any harmful pathogens in his house.
    2. Steve Kurtz did not come to our class. His lawyer, Paul Cambria came, and spoke about his case.
    3. All of Steve’s work was eventually returned when the case was dismissed.

    1. Sorry about that about confusing Paul with Steve. My fault.
      Yeah, I realize that Steve didn’t work with the bubonic plague and that Dr. Thomas Butler did. But, what actually happened to the samples that went missing from the lab?

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