Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I will say up front that I have only been on the receiving end of law enforcement. But I do watch those "dead people and how they got that way" shows on cable so I kind of know a little about how a search should be conducted. In short, not like this.

Professor Steven Kurtz of the University of Buffalo had a truly crappy week in May 2004. His wife died in her sleep of congenital heart failure. Somehow during the 911 response to this event emergency personnel became aware of a home laboratory and the biological equipment therein. Mr. Kurtz is an artist with an interest in science. It was decided to charge Mr. Kurtz with mail and wire fraud for illegally obtaining two bacteria cultures and transferring them to a colleague. The FBI became involved, detained Mr. Kurtz for 22 hours, searched his house for three days, trashing the joint in the process, took some of his stuff -- which he is only now just getting back-- and removed his late wife from the funeral home for 'analysis.' Forgive me for thinking they dissected the late Mrs. Kurtz. A judge dismissed the indictment and the Justice Department will not appeal or seek new charges. So they expend all the time and expense chasing this poor guy and they can't even prove their case.

Maybe this is why: Mr. Kurtz documented the devastation left behind by law enforcement and intends to put his pictures on public display. Even on "Murder, She Wrote" the pretend cops make a big show out of not disturbing the crime scene. Here in real life, when the alleged crime scene involved potential biohazards, Mr. Kurtz' house was left adrift in pizza boxes and Gatorade bottles. Yep. They felt strongly enough to bodysnatch the Mrs. so they could have a peek at her innards, and then these goofs ate and drank in the possible hazmat site. Not only was no effort made to preserve the integrity of the scene, but the G-men left behind lists of the things they were looking for and maps of Mr. Kurtz' home along with the garbage, so if he was up to something nefarious he'd know where not to hide the stuff on their list. Was it 'Take the kids to work day' that week or something? Did somebody lose a bet?

There is a very good reason most people have a low opinion of the FBI. They may have some very sharp people working for them, but the folks they put out front are a flat embarrassment. It is in the nature of intelligence (pardon me) that the successes are never spoken about, but must the failures be so spectacularly oafish?