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Bioterrorism Charges Brought Against Professor 611

Posted by michael
from the world-gone-mad dept.
gnetwerker writes "Wired and others are reporting about artist Steve Kurtz, professor at Univesity of Buffalo (NY), and member of the Critical Art Ensemble will face a Grand Jury in two weeks on bioterrorism charges over artwork that used samples of harmless bacteria to make a statement about genetic engineering and food safety. He is charged with BioTerrorism under Section 817 of the PATRIOT Act. Apparently John Ashcroft can't tell a weapons lab from an art installation. There is more info and a Defense Fund on the CAE Defense Fund Site."
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Bioterrorism Charges Brought Against Professor

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  • by Wavicle (181176) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:47PM (#9341981)
    The guy is being charged because his otherwise healthy wife in her 40s, mysteriously died.

    He is not being held on the patriot act, but a much older late 80's U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

    Good god. I'm not fond of Ashcroft or the PATRIOT Act, but not everything is a conspiracy, you know.
    • by Azghoul (25786) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:52PM (#9341998) Homepage
      Nice try, but the freaking out will continue unabated. :)

      And it's a grand jury, not like he's been formally indicted with anything yet.

      The level of conclusion-jumping around here is staggering. I agree with your last sentence wholeheartedly.

    • by mcknation (217793) <nocarrier@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:59PM (#9342034) Homepage

      RTFA...Again

      from the usa today sorce:

      "Kurtz's 45-year-old wife, Hope, died of apparent heart failure and her death is not believed related to the suspect materials, authorities said."

      • by LostCluster (625375) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:21PM (#9342173)
        But that still leaves an unexplained death. When a married person dies, the spouse is an automatic suspect worthy of at least some investigation since they have the most to possibly gain by the death.

        The fact that he's being questioned by a grand jury is not alarming... if he's charged then we're all going to deserve to see more proof as to why, but so far I see nothing wrong with trying to find out if there's a link to the suspect materials that we just haven't discovered yet.
        • The fact that he's being questioned by a grand jury is not alarming... if he's charged then we're all going to deserve to see more proof as to why, but so far I see nothing wrong with trying to find out if there's a link to the suspect materials that we just haven't discovered yet.

          The police generally don't host a grand jury unless they have a reasonable expectation that they'll be able to charge the suspect with a crime. If you're brought before a grand jury, then you should be concerned because that m

          • The police generally don't host a grand jury unless they have a reasonable expectation that they'll be able to charge the suspect with a crime. If you're brought before a grand jury, then you should be concerned because that means there's a very good chance that you will be indicted (and hence go to trial) on something.

            There's an oft-quoted saying in legal circles, 'a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich if he chooses.'

          • The police generally don't host a grand jury unless they have a reasonable expectation that they'll be able to charge the suspect with a crime.

            Drawing on my many years watching The Rockford Files, I have to question this. I thought that attorneys general and their ilk convened grand juries. The police have nothing to do with it at all. Neh?

            And as we see in this episode [tvtome.com], grand juries are subject to abuse by prosecuters. I can't believe there wasn't a link to this in the original article....

        • Grand Juries (Score:3, Informative)

          by darkmeridian (119044)
          The fact that he's being questioned by a grand jury is not alarming... if he's charged then we're all going to deserve to see more proof as to why, but so far I see nothing wrong with trying to find out if there's a link to the suspect materials that we just haven't discovered yet.

          Getting questioned by a grand jury is pretty alarming because it means someone is seeking an indictment against you for a crime. Prosecutors get indictments at a high rate because the defendant does not have a chance to present e
        • But that still leaves an unexplained death. When a married person dies, the spouse is an automatic suspect worthy of at least some investigation since they have the most to possibly gain by the death.

          Umm, no. An "apparent heart attack" is an explanation.

          FYI: Just because someone dies doesn't mean there's a suspect. In fact, a vast majority of the time that is what happens. No suspect. It's pretty sad that I had to point this out.

      • "Kurtz's 45-year-old wife, Hope, died of apparent heart failure and her death is not believed related to the suspect materials, authorities said."
        Then why mention it at all? More poor journalism from USA Today.
      • Which brings us to the obligatory... "Missuz Kurtz... she dead...."

        (Here's hoping somebody gets the reference....)

    • by khallow (566160) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:09PM (#9342096)
      Good god. I'm not fond of Ashcroft or the PATRIOT Act, but not everything is a conspiracy, you know.

      I don't know what's been passed around here, but shouldn't they get some evidence of a crime first before they assemble a grand jury? As I understand it, they tested the lab equipment and didn't discover any bacteria or chemicals that warranted a quarantine of the residence, Mr. Kurst, or of the equipment (though obviously the equipment hasn't been returned). Mysterious deaths are suspicious, but one doesn't automatically start up a grand jury because of it.

      Besides why is the FBI involved? Suppose instead, that Kurst had rat poison all over the kitchen and his wife died from ingesting rat poison accidentally (eg, it got mixed in with her food by accident). Kurst would be legally responsible for the death of his wife (I gather it would be some sort of manslaughter offense), but it wouldn't be a federal crime.

      • by Kohath (38547) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:49PM (#9342328)
        They investigate. They indict or not after their investigation.

        This is a perfect case for a grand jury. There was a lot of stuff going on. Some of it seems criminal at first, but may not be.

        The grand jury is there to decide what to do.

        How should they decide whether to indict? Coin flip? Slashdot poll?

        Also: The FBI is involved because there's an investigation to determine whether a Federal law has been broken. I is for Investigation. F is for Federal.
    • by Granos (746051) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:15PM (#9342135)

      Actually, the wired article got it wrong, it WAS in fact the patriot act. In a subpoena, the government cites sections of the US Code, not the act that modified the US code. In this case, the 1989 act modified section 175, and the PATRIOT act later modified that same section. The 1989 act says "Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon" is commiting a crime. In this act, "`for use as a weapon' does not include the development, production, transfer, acquisition, retention, or possession of any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes." This does not say that any other use IS "use as a weapon".

      However, the PATRIOT act DOES make it bioterrorism to develop biological agents for any other reason than "reasonably justified by a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose," even if it is NOT use as a weapon. From the wired article:

      The subpoenas cited Section 175 of the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which prohibits the use of certain biological materials for anything other than a "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose."

      Since "bona fide research" is not present in the 1989 act, but is present in the PATRIOT act, and the fact that the PATRIOT act overwrote what was passed in the 1989 act, it is clear that the subpoena did in fact site the PATRIOT act.
      • Not only is art a "peaceful purpose" but if his bacteria is not harmful then isn't he also protected under free speech rights? I'm not American but this doesn't seem to fall under that 'yelling fire in a crowded theatre' example.

        Is the government allowed to confiscate tools used to create and distribute messages? Especially in a case like this where the communication is clearly both physically safe (I assume) and political.
        • Everyone is missing the point entirely, the case is not a terrorism case, this is merely the federally apointed prosecutor charging him to the full extent of the law. That's why when you see a murder trial there's 10 charges the least of which is a misdemeanor.

          The big Pizza here is the fact that he violated a law by using live bacteria in a place where it was strictly against building code and health law. The Patriot ACT is designed to prevent a sleeper implimenting a similar "art project" and summarily i
    • by _iris (92554) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:15PM (#9342138) Homepage
      The Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 was amended by the PATRIOT Act. Prior to these amendments, he would have been well within his rights.

      The article doesn't say what the man is charged with. The subpoenas cite violating the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. Nothing in that act prohibits murder. Therefore, he is not being charged with murder.

      Whomever rated the above comment 5:Interesting should be banned.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @01:40AM (#9342783)
        Should whomever rated your commend 5:Informative be banned as well? You seem misinformed on legal matters. He hasn't been charged with ANYTHING at this point. That's what a grand jury does. For "capital, or otherwise infamous crime(s)" a grand jury indictment is required prior to charges. What that means varies state to state but murder ALWAYS counts. So for something like shoplifting, the prosecution just charges you with it by themselves. However stuff likemurder they have to present a case to the grandy jury, who has to return an indictment for murder. If they don't you don't get charged.

        It's a pre trial thing to keep people from being brought up on big charges with no evidence. The standard isn't very high, all the grand jury must find is legally sufficient evidence and reasonable cause to believe and they can return an indictment.

        So a murder charge may well be pending. Depends on what the grand jury finds. They may find there is no evidence of anything, and refuse to indicte him at all. They may indicite him on murder, and other charges.
    • Good god. I'm not fond of Ashcroft or the PATRIOT Act, but not everything is a conspiracy, you know.

      And tell me, what part of the articles that were linked had ANYTHING to do with the Patriot act? This will get modded as flamebait, but seriously, allowing articles with falsified summaries to make it to the front page is not good AT ALL. It's not good for the slashdot admins because it makes them look careless and it's not good for us readers because we are being subject false information unless we read

  • by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific@y a h oo.com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:50PM (#9341993) Homepage Journal
    The FBI announced today that TCBY (The Country's Best Yogurt) has been shut down until further notice under section 817 of the PATRIOT Act.

  • ...it's probably an illegal biotech lab by their definitions too. I really need to throw out that months-old foil-wrapped leftover something-or-other in there.
  • by demaria (122790) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:58PM (#9342026) Homepage
    I read both linked articles. I've searched them for patriot as well as 817. No hits. It sounds like this guy is being charged with a law signed 15 years ago, brought to attention by a mysterious death of his wife. From the Wired writeup, I'd say he's done activities which would make me slightly suspicious. Enough to warrant an investigation at least.

    So where's the PATRIOT act charges come from? Because Slashdot isn't showing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:58PM (#9342028)
    With any luck they'll never see the vegetable bin in my refrigerator..
  • by beeplet (735701) <beeplet@gmail.com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:58PM (#9342032) Journal
    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.


    If that's true (and the quote does come from the CAE defense fund page - obviously a biased source), it doesn't seem to me like anyone could have much of a case against him.

    I think this is just a symptom of a more general problem - most people don't understand the biology of transgenic food, and ignorance breeds fear and suspicion. There's also the conflation of ideas between transgenic plants and bioterror organisms. Yes, some of the same lab techniques of gene manipulation might be used in both, but "transgenic" seems to get confused with "harmful".

    I would be awfully surprised if this guy was growing something in his home that caused the death of his wife. And if he did, chances are it came in on whatever material he was studying - in which case that's who should be investigated.

    On the one hand, I think Mr. Kurtz probably should have set up a lab in his university rather than doing it in his home. But to lose your wife (most likely to some freak of chance - an undetected heart problem, or whatever) and your livelihood as well, is a steep price to pay.
    • On the one hand, I think Mr. Kurtz probably should have set up a lab in his university rather than doing it in his home.

      The Kurtz's were on a budget. Also, a biology professor has a reasonable expectation of getting a lab in his university, but an art professor does not.

    • by dekeji (784080) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:33AM (#9342527)
      I think this is just a symptom of a more general problem - most people don't understand the biology of transgenic food, and ignorance breeds fear and suspicion. There's also the conflation of ideas between transgenic plants and bioterror organisms.

      The "conflation" is justified: transgenic methods are one of the primary means of constructing bioterror organisms. Furthermore, even transgenic organisms harmless to human beings, have a significant potential for causing environmental harm (e.g., by creating herbicide-resistant weeds).

      That is one of the reasons why any kind of experimentation with transgenic organisms is regulated. In particular, it is necessary to regulate tightly what gets released into the environment. Reputable labs working on improved food crops have to comply with those regulations, and so does everybody else.

      it doesn't seem to me like anyone could have much of a case against him.

      A lot of work in molecular biology is regulated, so even if he did not intend to create a dangerous organism, he may still have run afoul of health and safety regulations.
      • by tgibbs (83782) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @01:29AM (#9342756)
        That is one of the reasons why any kind of experimentation with transgenic organisms is regulated. In particular, it is necessary to regulate tightly what gets released into the environment. Reputable labs working on improved food crops have to comply with those regulations, and so does everybody else.

        Most regulations only apply to recipients of federal funds or to the food safety. While a few localities may have specific regulations, I am not aware of any general regulation of private genetic experimentation. Saying "transgenic organisms are one of the primary means of constructing bioterror organisms" is a bit like saying "chemistry is one of the primary means of creating explosives," or "machining is one of the primary means of creating automatic weapons." Most uses of these technologies are entirely benign.

        Moreover, it seems rather doubtful that transgenic technology is all that important for creation of bioweapons, anyway. Why go to the trouble of trying to create a novel pathogen when there are so many natural ones to work with? The most likely method of creating a bioterror weapon would be to grow a conventional pathogen such as anthrax in the presence of antibiotics to select resistant strains.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:01PM (#9342044)
    FYI, the Patriot Act passed the Senate by something like 99-1 - John Kerry voted for it

    So Kerry's actually more at fault for the Patriot act than Ashcroft or even GWB himself (on the theory that a 99-1 or so would override any attempt at a veto, not that W would have even thought of doing that...). Ashcroft's charged with enforcing the laws, not making them.

  • by tbase (666607) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:04PM (#9342062)
    The CAE presents its performance arts pieces as satire. But the group's electronic books, with introductions featuring quotes from the likes of Malcolm X ("By any means necessary," is one of the quotes), may have the federal government suspecting that artists connected to the ensemble harbor sinister motives.

    One of the ensemble's e-books advocates releasing mutant organisms into the environment to disrupt the work of biotech firms. Another proposes secretly releasing mutated flies into restaurants.

    The CAE says this tactic, which it calls "fuzzy biological sabotage," would encourage "those who never would join a movement (to) become unknowing cohorts or willing allies" in the struggle against the biotech industry.


    Let's not mention that his "healthy" wife was found dead in their home among all the bio-lab equipment. Just another example of the Man keeping an artist down! He's an artist and an activist - so they shouldn't even investigate the bio-lab in his house, or his views on releasing mutant organisms in the wild! It's his constitutional right!

    The slant on this posting is reprehensible. If you want to stand up for this guy, I suggest you take a trip to his house, go inside and take a deep breath.
    • I don't claim to know anything about biology - at least, nothing more than I learned in an AP class some three years ago.

      And nobody on Slashdot knows from these brief summaries the full story behind the case. For instance, when the police say they think bacteria have nothing to do with the death, are they only saying that because they're legally compelled not to accuse someone? Or do they really think that bioterror is an essentially implausible option and this fellow is just an activist a little too extre

    • He's an artist and an activist - so they shouldn't even investigate the bio-lab in his house, or his views on releasing mutant organisms in the wild!

      Nice straw man, tbase. I've yet to see anyone but you say such a thing.

      How about remembering that the good professor is innocent until proven guilty? I'd like to see real planning and materials pinned to the artist himself. What's being presented is petri dishes full of mold and literature, perhaps fantasy, from an organization the professor is a member

  • by C-Diddy (755183) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:09PM (#9342094)
    Anyone reading the links in the story would quickly determine two key facts:

    (1) You would discover, in both the Wired and USA Today pieces, that Mr. Kurtz is *not* being charged under the Patriot Act. If he is charged with anything, it will be an older act related to bioterrism. He is not being charged under the Patriot Act. He is NOT being charged under the Patriot Act (did it get through?)

    (2) Mr. Kurtz hasn't been formally charged with anything. He is currently the subject of a investigation brought about by the death of his wife. This investigation may or may not result in an indictment. Take this fact into consideration before forking over $$ to this "defense fund" (for which there is a VERY convienient link).

    From the Wired story: "The subpoenas cited Section 175 of the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which prohibits the use of certain biological materials for anything other than a "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose."

    Section 817 of the PATRIOT Act is not mentioned in either linked story.

    Wow. Some people have been subpoenaed to get facts about this case. What an unheard of trampling of rights.

    Someone needs to do some fact checking before posting.

    • by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:24PM (#9342199)
      "You would discover, in both the Wired and USA Today pieces, that Mr. Kurtz is *not* being charged under the Patriot Act. If he is charged with anything, it will be an older act related to bioterrism. He is not being charged under the Patriot Act. He is NOT being charged under the Patriot Act (did it get through?)"

      Read posts further up the page; while he IS being charged under the 1989 Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, the specific sections of said act in question were amended by the Patriot Act. Previously, it was required that the bio agent be used as a weapon; now it is not so.
  • Get used to it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by psykocrime (61037) <(ku.oc.rekcahppc) (ta) (emircdnim)> on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:11PM (#9342110) Homepage Journal
    Shit like this is only going to continue to happen more and more often...

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again(I wasn't first to say this, mind you)...

    if you want an unlimited source of free energy, just attach a turbine to George Orwell's body

    Orwell's vision is coming true, little by little by little... and if the American people don't stand up and do something about it, pretty soon it will be too late (if it's not already).

    There's an election coming up folks... think long and hard about whether the people you're voting for are FOR or AGAINST this kind of shit. My suspicion is that any major party candidate is FOR this shit, personally.
  • How so??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by DrugCheese (266151) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:19PM (#9342160)
    Our justice department, using its overwhelming powers granted in the aptly named PATRIOT ACT, cannot make mistakes!! If the government says this man is a terrorist, then he is!

    Question them, you're on the list next...

    Love thy country, fear they government.

  • by dekeji (784080) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:23PM (#9342190)
    A corpse in the kitchen with an unknown cause of death and a stack of bacterial cultures ought to be cause for concern for the police and ought to prompt a police investigation. Furthermore, determining whether some genetically engineered bacteria are dangerous or not is far from trivial, so it's not like one can just look at the situation and determine that it is harmless. So, no, I don't think police overreacted in this case. Take away the corpse, and maybe one could say that they overreacted. Even then, dangerous and harmless kinds of experiments are difficult to tell apart, and the question of why this work isn't happening in a lab, with proper documentation and notification, is still valid.
  • More crazies. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitaltraveller (167469) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:24PM (#9342196) Homepage
    Steven Kurtz sounds like a bit of a nutjob to me. Unless his 'proposal for the release of mutant flies in restaurants' is Johnathan Swift style satire.

    Most biotech scientists would support labelling of GM foods. Only the Monsato's of the world oppose this. It's a reasonable, conservative viewpoint. When that doesn't occur, the crazies come out and want to release mutant flies, or do other insane things.

    People with these type of radical viewpoints will continue to grow in the U.S., as the government becomes more disconnected from the people.

    (eg. Because of congressional gerrymandering something like 80% of U.S. house representatives are in safe districts, and have almost no risk of party loss in an election.)

    The consequence of this is that these politicians have less incentive to worry about the concerns of their electorate. Enter the lobbyists to fill this time on their hands.
    • Re:More crazies. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beeplet (735701) <beeplet@gmail.com> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:16AM (#9342450) Journal
      Steven Kurtz sounds like a bit of a nutjob to me. Unless his 'proposal for the release of mutant flies in restaurants' is Johnathan Swift style satire.

      Most biotech scientists would support labelling of GM foods. Only the Monsato's of the world oppose this. It's a reasonable, conservative viewpoint.


      Ironically it's because of fanatics like Kurtz that the GM companies oppose labelling. People who are set on convincing the world that all GM food is harmful force the companies into the position of feeling they have something to hide.

      It's too bad that the people holding the "reasonable, conservative viewpoint" don't usually feel motivated to do crazy things to get that message heard. We need education - not performance art with mutant flies...
  • Hypocrisy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PatHMV (701344) <post@patrickmartin.com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:25PM (#9342201) Homepage
    Why is it that genetic manipulation to make more and better food is bad, but genetic manipulation (with intentional release into the wild) to protest something is good? Why is it that when Monsanto says they've tested the GM crops to be safe, they are disbelieved on general principles, but when some art professors say THEIR GM bacteria are safe, they must know absolutely what they are talking about?
  • by nberardi (199555) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:43PM (#9342296) Homepage
    People know very little about the patriot act, it is actually hard to use it, because you have to convince a federal judge to grant a warrent under the act. It doesn't give the government a be-all end all right of invastion of priviouy, it just consolidates many of the common requests for wire-tapping and other things, that would require seperate warrents. So in essesnse it speeds up a process doesn't change it or grant any more rights or take away any more. This is probably one of the biggest mist conseptions that has been spread by the anti-patriot act people, and most of those people just use it to bash the president, they aren't really concerned with the rights of the people, just more of gaining power back.

    Also in the wired article it states: "But Kurtz's work and his beliefs are more radical than those of many of his peers. He has written proposals for releasing mutant flies into restaurants, and demonstrated methods for destroying genetically modified crops. And it is Kurtz's views, his supporters say, that have Kurtz on the wrong side of a federal investigation sparked by the death of his wife, Hope Kurtz."

    This professor has talked about in papers of releasing genetically engineered flies into resurants, and destroying crops that have been genetically modified. These might be on the lower end of the terrorism totem-pole, but it is still a terroist act. And all of this was sparked by a pecular death of his wife, normally deaths are handled by local cops, unless something really weird is going on that requires the FBI.

    So this is IMHO a perfectly good use of the Patriot act. Just remember, that a judge has to agree to sign the warrent inorder for the patriot act to be used. And many of the Federal judges in the past couple of months have rejected the use of the patriot act for stuff they didn't deam in the realm of what is required to warrent one. In addition Ashcroft has been rejected many times by Federal judges including a couple big ones in Chicago about doctors records. So the author of this /. news post is totally off base and probably has a bias against Aschroft (i.e. Bush).

    Take my comments at what you will, but if you want the real truth go read the patriot act on the U.S. Congress web site.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:26AM (#9342498)
      I have personally been approached by the feds demanding all records we have on certain students at the university I work for. In the past the standard response was to reply with "sure thing, as soon as we see a warrant for that data". Under the Patriot Act (and don't kid yourself into thinking parts of it are not classified) if I tried that now I personally would be charged with obstruction of justice. I am literally not allowed to request a warrant if the Patriot Act is brought up. Nor am I allowed to tell anyone that the request happened. This is real "secret police" kinda stuff people.

      Anonymous Coward (accept no substitutes)
      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @06:09AM (#9343317)
        > Under the Patriot Act (and don't kid yourself into thinking parts of it
        > are not classified) if I tried that now I personally would be charged
        > with obstruction of justice.

        I call bullshit. There are no 'secret' sections of the PATRIOT act. We can;t be expected to obey laws we can't possibly know anything about. I work in a public library and went through all this tinfoil hat stuff already when all the Nadorites went into a frenzy. (Think I'm being extreme? Well I was AT the Texas Library Assoc Convention a few months ago and watched Mr. Nader get more standing ovations than Kerry will likely get at the Democratic Convention next month.)

        > I am literally not allowed to request a warrant if the Patriot Act is
        > brought up.

        Wrong. Our orders are that if a Fed asks for ANYTHING we respond that we aren't authorized to do ANYTHING and to pick up the phone for our boss. She will get in touch with the city attorney (our legal representation of record) and they will handle it from there. But while that happens we should begin collecting the information, but stall on any turnover until we hear from her.

        And yes they do nead a warrant to actually take anything, but it is generally considered that a Fed on site will have little problem with that detail and to assume they either already have one or soon will so go ahead and start collecting the requested info. No sense being a total asshole about it.

        > Nor am I allowed to tell anyone that the request happened.

        Yes, this part IS true. Not sure how I personally come down on this one, but it does make a certain sense. But the more I ponder it the potential for misuse is just fscking huge so I guess I'd prefer to see that section of PATRIOT sunset.
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday June 04, 2004 @11:44PM (#9342302) Homepage Journal
    Terrorism charges were brought against all professors that used surprise exams against students.
  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:15AM (#9342448) Homepage Journal
    Apparently John Ashcroft can't tell a weapons lab from an art installation.

    Of course he can tell the difference --

    * An artist is a dangerous subversive, who must be arrested to stop the spread of ideas.

    * A bio-weapons specialist is a valuable national resource, who must be recruited to work for Homeland Security.

    -kgj
  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:40AM (#9342551) Homepage Journal
    This is up there with FBI's alert about people with maps and or almanacs [cnn.com].
    And the FBIs' investigation of a book that contained 100yr old smallpox scabs [washingtonpost.com] and launched an investigation as to whether or not it was bioterrorism.

    The fact is a woman died and the fact is the womans death was ruled "due to natural causes". So pardon me, but I do not see how a jury grand or not could be a better judge than a doctor trained to perform an autopsy and atoxicilogy lab. Perhaps if they ordered a few additional autopsies and toxicology tests... but a grand jury should not be concerned with a procedure so mundane as to have already been done by the police department.

    That and the additional fact that no cultures have been found at said lab that pose any threat.

    Overall, this does not add up.
    It seems once again those who have brains and initiative should bee feared. Why doesn't Ashcroft just come out and say it? "All people with higher education than a highschool degree are a potential threat and should be watched closely".

    Next thing you know the DoJ will be demanding the banning of home chemistry sets currently available at Toys 'R' Us and Walmart due to a "A very present and significant threat by educated youngsters against the free people of the world."

  • Insanity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ikekrull (59661) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:48AM (#9342579) Homepage

    I mean really, people have been working microbes and selectively breeding organisms for thousands of years.

    Modern industrial processes and practices have essentially supressed the knowledge in the general population of how our foodstuffs, beverages, drugs and other products are produced, and attempt to disguise as completely as possible the materials, and biological processes that are used in their production.

    As a result, when sucking back a 6-pack of beer we don't think about the bacteria and biological reactions necessary to make it.

    We don't think, when eating cheese, that maybe we're exposing ourselves to potentially fatal biological agents.

    When you light up a cigarette, you don't really think about the centuries of genetic engineering that has resulted in the smooth taste of your laramie.

    Bacteria is bad because some bacteria will kill us? Is this really the US government's message?

    That learning for yourself and practicing the same techniques that are some of the foundations of modern civilisation is somehow wrong?

    If its not in a can or a plastic package with pretty branding, it can't be right?

    If its not part of a commercial process, it should be banned?

    This is a massive over-reaction by the government - A corporation doing exactly the same thing is not in breach of the law.

    When Jesus Christ turned water into wine, was he a frickin bio-terrorist?

  • Rule of the law... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maljin Jolt (746064) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:32AM (#9342916) Journal
    Bacteria are not a threat to politicians. A Kurtz's radicalism is.

    What makes referenced Patriot Act section extremely practical for political reuse is simple fact, that any chemical or biological substance could be considered as toxic, either in certain condition or in certain quantity.

    Expired yoghurt? Molded bread? Can of meat forgotten on sunlight? Either of that is highly biologically dangerous material...
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:49AM (#9342950) Journal
    Am I a bioterrorist? I will have collected a dangerous biological material, harvested it in my body, and exposed the public to the substance knowing its potential to cause harm.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rayvd (155635) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @03:17AM (#9343021) Homepage Journal
    If you combine the death of his wife, the goals (satirical or not) of the organization this guy is a part of, and the fact that he does all this stuff from a lab in a residential area, it seems pretty clear to me that at least *investigating* would be an extremely appropriate thing to do. It appears that's what happened and the fact that they are leveling charges makes me think something was discovered.

    Throwing up a lot of quotes of disbelief by various people associated with the projects does little to discount that the whole situation surrounding this guy is more than a bit strange.

    This is far from an invasion of personal rights as some of you knee-jerk types would like to paint it...

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