Adjunct Professor, Bloomfield College
I would like to share my story and the stories of ten other artists who have been watched, interrogated, detained, or arrested due to suspicion of terrorism.
I developed the WikiLeaks Truck, the first ever fake news van for the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. I did this to bring attention to them and the plight of Bradley Manning – the source of over 250,000 cables as well as a video titled “Collateral Murder” showing Apache helicopters flying around Baghdad shooting down civilians, Reuters journalists, as well as rescue workers and children. I have had this van since March 19, 2011. I drove it around the White House and was subsequently arrested by Secret Service and interrogated for seven hours. In the fall of 2011, I brought the truck up to New York and stationed it at Zuccotti Park for the duration of Occupy Wall Street. Since then I have expanded the fleet globally to include a racecar, more vans, and an RV.
Currently I am visiting Bradley Manning’s pretrial motion hearings at Ft. Meade, Maryland, where I do courtroom sketches. The Pentagon has credentialed me. They have conducted a background check on me. I continue to release these courtroom sketches for anyone to use under Creative Commons. At the time of this presentation Bradley Manning will have been in jail for over 1000 days without trial. His actual trial is expected to begin in June of this year. Bradley is being charged with 22 counts, including Aiding the Enemy, which carries a life sentence.
In 2001, in response to the events of September 11, the United States Congress quickly drafted and passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (known as the USA PATRIOT Act). President George W. Bush signed the Act into law six weeks later. This granted government questionably unconstitutional powers including warrant-less wiretapping and GPS tracking, indefinite detention of those without documentation, and national security letters containing gag orders.  I remember this day vividly. I remember asking myself. “How does a Patriot Act?”
To answer that question the late historian Howard Zinn argued that:
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent is one of those principles. And if we’re exercising that right to dissent, it is a patriotic act. One of the great mistakes made in discussing patriotism is to think that patriotism means support for your government. And that view of patriotism ignores the founding principles of the country expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That is: the Declaration of Independence makes it clear that governments are artificial creations set up to achieve certain ends – equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – and when governments become destructive of those ends it is the right of the people in the words of the Declaration, to alter or abolish the government. In other words, obedience to government certainly is not a form of patriotism. Governments are the instruments to achieve certain ends. And if the government goes against those ends, if the government is not defending our liberties, but is diminishing our liberties, if the government is sending young people into war or making war which is unjustified, well then the government is not following the principles of caring about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When the government is taking huge sums of money from education and health and using that money for military purposes, that is a violation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. And a government like that cannot be obeyed. To obey a government like that is not being patriotic. At that point, when a government behaves like that, it is the most patriotic thing to disobey the government. 
The first artist I would like to talk about is Hasan Elahi. Born in Bangladesh and raised in New York, he is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, and director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity Honors program.  In 2002 he was suspected of hoarding explosives in a Florida storage unit. He was detained at the Detroit airport after returning from Senegal. The owners of the storage facility where he rented a locker had wrongly informed authorities on September 12, 2001 that an “Arab” man had fled the country leaving explosives behind. Six months of FBI Interrogation and nine polygraph tests later he was cleared for travel. But just to make sure he did not miss any flights, he informed the FBI whenever he flew. What started with constant phone calls and emails to notify them of his whereabouts grew into an open-ended art project publicly documenting his every move. He began posting photos from his phone of his life minute-by-minute on TrackingTransience.net – hotel rooms, train stations, airports, grocery stores, meals, beds, receipts, toilets – loading his site with tens of thousands of time stamped images. He carries a GPS device that tracks his movements on a live Google map.  Speaking about his sousveillance he claims “the best way to protect privacy is to give it away, By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life.”  He was motivated partly because he did not want to go through the same experience again, but also he has a desire to hold a mirror to the agencies that spy on us and overload them with information. 
Steve Kurtz is a professor of art at the SUNY Buffalo and a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble. In May 2004, his wife, Hope Kurtz, sadly passed away from congenital heart failure. Preparing for an exhibit at Mass MoCA about genetically modified food, they had a small biological lab with harmless specimens in their home. Buffalo police investigating her death deemed these materials suspicious and quickly notified the FBI. Kurtz was detained for the next day without charge on suspicion of bioterrorism. Federal agents in Hazmat suits raided his home, seizing books, computers, manuscripts, and art supplies.  Kurtz was not allowed to return until a week later, after the New York State Commissioner of Public Health determined that nothing posed any sort of threat to public or environmental health and that Hope had died of natural causes. Although the bioterrorism charges were dropped, Kurtz and Dr. Robert Ferrell, Professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and scientific consultant for the Critical Art Ensemble, were indicted on mail and wire fraud charges despite the lack of any evidence of fraud. This related to the way Kurtz and Ferrell allegedly ordered and mailed $256 worth of non-pathogenic bacteria. Under the Patriot Act the maximum possible sentence for these charges increased from five to twenty years. This was the first time ever that the Department of Justice intervened in the alleged breach of a Material Transfer Agreement of non-hazardous materials to redefine it as a criminal offense. 
To make light of the whole ordeal, for his 2008 “Seized” exhibit, Kurtz filled a gallery with masks, filters, hazmat suits, gloves, pizza boxes, Gatorade bottles, caution tape, investigation notes, and “to do” lists that the federal agents left behind in his house. The story of his case is depicted in the film Strange Culture by filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, which premiered at the Sundance International Film Festival in 2007. Kurtz’s indictment was later ruled insufficient on its face, meaning that even if the actions alleged in the indictment were true, they did not constitute a crime. The Department of Justice failed to appeal within thirty days from the date of the ruling resulting in a dismissal.  
Those coming to Kurtz’s defense included The Yes Men, anti-corporate pranksters Igor Vamos and Jacques Servin.  In 2002, the pair had created a parody website called DowEthics.com which was mistaken for the real Dow Chemical website by the BBC who invited them onto a segment concerning the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal India disaster – the largest chemical disaster in history killing tens of thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands requiring lifelong medical care. Jacques, better known as Andy Bichlbaum, appeared on BBC World as “Jude Finisterra,” claiming that Dow planned to liquidate Union Carbide and use the $12 billion profit to pay for medical care, site remediation, and fund product research. Dow’s share price fell 4 percent in 20 minutes, cutting $2 billion off its market value. Dow issued a press release denying the statement, but this only kept the story in the headlines. After the hoax was revealed, Bichlbaum appeared in a follow-up interview where the interviewer claimed, “there were many people in tears in Bhopal.” 
In February, 2011 WikiLeaks published millions of hacked emails from the Austin, TX based private intelligence firm Stratfor. The email leak proved that Dow Chemical Company hired them to monitor the Yes Men and closely follow activists around the 25th anniversary of the disaster.  Less than a week later six people in the US and UK were indicted for the email leak, including Chicago activist Jeremy Hammond who was entrapped by the FBI. 
Andy introduced me to filmmaker Laura Poitras. In 2006 Laura was nominated for an Academy Award for her film My Country, My Country.  Alone, she embedded herself for over 8 months with average Iraqi families during the U.S. occupation. In this film, Poitras featured a medical doctor turned Sunni political candidate.  Shortly thereafter, Poitras was assigned the most dangerous rating possible on the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorist watch list. This made flying very difficult. Since then, Laura has been harassed and detained for hours and days at over 40 border crossings. Each time she was heavily interrogated, and at times border agents seized her computers, cell phones and notes. The United States even threatened Poirtas with exile. Journalist Glenn Greenwald and a group of fellow film directors petitioned the government to apologize and correct this wrongdoing.  However, the situation worsened after Poitras premiered The Oath at the 2010 Sundance film festival. In that film, she showed the stories of a former bodyguard and a former driver for Osama bin Laden.
The filmmaker later traveled to Yemen and to Guantanamo Bay Prison to document the first of the controversial military commissions.  The harassment Laura received on her travels prompted her to shift focus to how the “War on Terror” increasingly targets Americans through surveillance, covert activities, and attacks on whistleblowers.
The Program, a short film published on August 22, 2012 by The New York Times, is a preview of the third documentary in this trilogy. She followed Bill Binney, a former mathematician for the National Security Agency, who resigned days after Bush signed the Patriot Act. He became a whistleblower and revealed that the program he had designed for foreign espionage was to be converted into a machine for spying on US citizens. He explained that a facility being built at Bluffdale, Utah is intended for domestic surveillance and the world’s largest storage of data collected from all our communications. 
In Spring of 2012, Poitras hosted a Surveillance Teach-In as part of the Whitney Biennial exhibition in New York. She invited Binney as well as anonymity expert and founder of TOR Project, Jacob Appelbaum. There Appelbaum released a list of “fusion centers” that were jointly created between 2003 and 2007 under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to promote information sharing at the federal level between agencies, defense, state and municipal governments, as well as private contractors. 
Brooklyn artist Duke Riley pursues an alternative view of hidden borderlands and their inhabitants through drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, and video, structured as complex multimedia installations. He earned a B.F.A. in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design and an M.F.A. in Sculpture from the Pratt Institute. Originally a tattoo artist from Boston, Riley moved to New York City in 1996, where he began exhibiting and carrying out a series of water-based interventions.  In a 2007 piece called After the Battle of Brooklyn, Riley re-examined a failed attempt by the Continental Army to sink a British ship in the New York Harbor during the American Revolution. Riley built a replica of a small wooden Revolutionary War submarine known as the Turtle. He maneuvered his submarine past the security zone of the Queen Mary II luxury cruise ship docked in Red Hook.  Riley was spotted by the New York Police Department and was given two citations from the Coast Guard. He and two buddies were arrested and detained for questioning under suspicion of terrorism. 
New media artist Wafaa Bilal was prohibited from studying art in his homeland, Iraq. Rather he was forced to study Geology (as was singer Roy Orbison at North Texas State.)   In the early nineties Bilal refused to participate in the invasion of Kuwait and, instead, organized protests. He was arrested for art criticizing Saddam Hussein. After his release in 1991, he fled to Saudi Arabia, teaching art to children in refugee camps before immigrating to the United States to study art at the University of New Mexico and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sadly Wafaa’s brother was killed by a U.S. missile strike at a checkpoint, deepening his condemnation of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, as part of a residency at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he created an interactive video art piece titled Night of Bush Capturing: Virtual Jihadi in which he hacked the Al-Qaeda game Quest for Bush, which itself a was a “hacked” version of the popular US video game Quest for Saddam. In Wafaa’s modified version he cast himself as a suicide bomber sent on a mission to assassinate Bush. Bilal defended the piece saying, “This artwork is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians, to the travesties of the current war, and to expose racist generalizations and profiling.” 
Controversy ensued in Troy, New York and the College Republicans called the Arts department “a safe haven for terrorists” on their blog. University administrators canceled the exhibit. The show relocated off campus, but news of the videogame attracted the attention of Federal Agents, who attended the exhibition and interrogated Bilal.  After the show’s cancellation, the campus put in place increased security measures. 
The next artist is a personal friend of mine. Vladimir Teichberg is a Princeton dropout, and a former derivatives trader who became alarmed by the Patriot Act and retired early to devote time to documenting police brutality at protests. I joined Vlad at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Just before I arrived, police without reason detained him and two members of his media team, Glass Bead Collective. Police seized all of their cameras and computers without any documentation. 
Realizing that we were being watched, we made copies of all tapes we shot, sealed the originals in envelopes labeled as evidence, and set up livestream security cameras. After the convention, police arrived to illegally raid our studio but left after they realized they would be recorded tampering with evidence. Using a high luminosity projector, Vlad has also beamed video and images onto government and corporate buildings all across New York and Washington D.C. Though Vlad has been hassled by the police, our lawyer Wylie Stecklow has always been present to inform the police that there is no law against projections. 
Vlad also introduced me to WikiLeaks and was the first to ride in my truck, live-streaming my arrest by the Secret Service in front of the White House. It was then that Vlad first discussed plans for Occupy Wall Street, but in the meantime went to Madrid, Spain to document the indignados who were protesting economic conditions and holding general assemblies in Puerta del Sol Square. He returned to New York, with a new wife, and the two began organizing a live-streaming network called Global Revolution and were the first live-streamers in Zuccotti Park on September 17th. For the first few weeks Global Revolution operated from under tarps, using wireless hot spots. But as the Occupy movement spread globally, Vlad negotiated with Livestream corporation for free professional accounts for all occupations. Vlad grew tired of the rain and theft at Liberty Square, and moved the operation to studios in NoHo and Bushwick, where he could mix hundreds of channels, 24 hours a day.   When The NYPD finally discovered the whereabouts of his Brooklyn studio they bribed his landlord and a motorcycle gang to force him out of the space. When Vlad refused to leave, he and his pregnant wife were arrested. When they returned, all of their computer equipment, cameras, and servers were gone, and have yet to be found. 
Takeshi Miyakawa was born in Japan, studied architecture in Tokyo, and moved to New York in 1989 to become a model maker for architect Rafael Viñoly. Now he owns a furniture design studio business in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He models his cabinetry after Rubik’s Cubes, Fractals, and public housing complexes. His chair designs have evolved into pieces that are more functional as lighting than as a seat. Last year he began temporarily installing LED lit chairs in public space for photographs.  To publicize his work at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May of last year, Takeshi hung white glowing “I ♥ NY” plastic bags from lampposts and trees in Brooklyn. Almost immediately, the installation attracted attention, though probably not the kind the designer had hoped for.
Takeshi’s installations prompted a call to the police bomb squad about a suspicious package attached to a tree. Two blocks of Bedford Ave were shut down and evacuated, and he was arrested while atop his ladder. Mr. Miyakawa was charged with reckless endangerment and placing a false bomb or hazardous substance. After spending a night in a horrid Brooklyn central booking group holding cell, his judge at arraignment ordered him to be held at Rikers Island for a month, pending a psychological evaluation. Designboom.com, a website devoted to design and architecture, posted a ‘Free Takeshi’ petition that quickly accrued thousands of signatures.  Several artists, designers and architects wrote character references that his lawyer delivered to the judge, and he was released after 5 days. 
Twenty-nine year old Essam Attia is a former geo-spatial analyst who served in Iraq and is an art school graduate from Maine. Over three days coinciding with the convening of the last UN General Assembly in September, Attia replaced more than 100 telephone booth advertisements in Manhattan with mock public service ads showing the NYPD using drones to monitor and kill citizens. He claims his military training helped him work swiftly and go unnoticed in Times Square. He also had a white van sporting a large Van Wagner decal and a yellow strobe light.  Attia wanted to create a conversation about disturbing trends in police surveillance, alluding to recent efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of unmanned aerial drones by local police departments. The NYPD used special forensics and an anti-terrorism unit to track Essam down at his apartment in December. He has been charged with grand larceny possession of stolen property and 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument. He posted bail, which was set at $10,000 bond or $2,500 cash, and still has an ongoing case in Manhattan Criminal Court.  
1. “Uniting And Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept And Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act Of 2001” on Government Printing Office official website, accessed November 15, 2012 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ56/html/PLAW-107publ56.htm
2. Sharon Basco, “Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness,” Tom Paine (blog), July 3, 2002, http://www.tompaine.com/Archive/scontent/5908.html
3. “Bio,” on Hasan Elahi’s official website, accessed November 16, 2012 http://elahi.umd.edu/
4. Clive Thompson, “The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online,” Wired Magazine, Issue 15.06, May 22, 2007 http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/15-06/ps_transparency/ (accessed November 16, 2012)
5. “Hasan Elahi: FBI, here I am!” on TED Talks website, accessed November 16, 2012, http://www.ted.com/talks/hasan_elahi.html
6. “Hasan Elahi” The Colbert Report website, accessed November 16, 2012, http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/167606/may-07-2008/hasan-elahi
7. “Art in a Time of Terror: Acclaimed Art Professor Steve Kurtz on How He Became a ‘Bioterrorism’ Suspect After His Wife Died in Her Sleep” on Democracy Now! website, accessed November 18, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2008/6/16/art_in_a_time_of_terror
8. Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund website, accessed November 18, 2012, http://www.caedefensefund.org/
9. Lynne Duke, “The FBI’s Art Attack,” Washington Post, June 2, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8278-2004Jun1.html (accessed November 18, 2012)
10. Lucy Yau, “Seized: Steve Kurtz and the Art of Dissent,“ Art Voice, Volume 7, Number 25, June 19, 2008, http://artvoice.com/issues/v7n25/seized (accessed November 18, 2012)
11. Jacques Servin (also known as Andy Bichlbaum), discussion with the author, February 2012
12. “Dow Does the Right Thing,” on The Yes Men official website, accessed November 20, 2012, http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/bbcbhopal
13. “Massive Leak Reveals Criminality, Paranoia Among Corporate Titans,” on The Yes Men official website, accessed November 20, 2012 http://theyesmen.org/stratfor
14. “WikiLeaks: ‘Private Spies’ Stratfor Helped Dow Chemical Monitor Bhopal Activists, The Yes Men,” on Democracy Now! website, accessed November 20, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/28/wikileaks_private_spies_stratfor_helped_dow
15. Janet Reitman, “The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State,” Rolling Stone, December 7, 2012, http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-rise-and-fall-of-jeremy-hammond-enemy-of-the-state-20121207 (accessed December 20, 2012)
16. “Laura Poitras,” on Laura Poitras’s official website, accessed November 20, 2012, http://www.praxisfilms.org/about/laura-poitras
17. “My Country, My Country,” Laura Poitras’s official website, accessed November 20, 2012, http://www.praxisfilms.org/films/my-country-my-country
18. “Detained in the U.S.: Filmmaker Laura Poitras Held, Questioned Some 40 Times at U.S. Airports” on Democracy Now! website, accessed November 21, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/20/detained_in_the_us_filmmaker_laura
19. “The Oath,” on Laura Poitras’s official website accessed November 20, 2012, http://www.praxisfilms.org/films/the-oath
20. Laura Poitras “The Program,” The New York Times, August 22, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/opinion/the-national-security-agencys- domestic-spying-program.html (accessed November 21, 2012)
21. Laura Poitras, in discussion with the author, April 2012
22. “Info” on Duke Riley’s official website, accessed November 25, 2012, http://www.dukeriley.info/
23. “Juxtapoz Presents Duke Riley: Video Profile,” Juxstapoz website, accessed
November 25, 2012, http://www.juxtapoz.com/current/juxtapoz-presents-duke-riley video-profile
24. Randy Kennedy, “An Artist and His Sub Surrender in Brooklyn,” The New York Times, August 4, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/04/arts/design/04voya.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1366947775-OSVazYqc0dJvA+qrgsrFOg (accessed November 25, 2012)
25. “Biography” on Wafaa Bilal’s official website, accessed November 25, 2012, http://wafaabilal.com/biography/
26. Ellis Amburn, Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story, (Carol Publishing Group, 1990), 29-30.
27. “Virtual Jihadi” on Wafaa Bilal’s official website, accessed November 25, 2012, http://wafaabilal.com/virtual-jihadi/
28. “New York Town Shuts Down Exhibit of Iraqi Artist,” on Democracy Now! website, accessed November 25, 2012 http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/12/headlines#31214
29. “Wafaa Bilal’s ‘Virtual Jihadi’,” on Media Sanctuary website, accessed November 25, 2012, http://www.mediasanctuary.org/node/120
30. “Glass Bead Collective Press Conference after being robbed by Minneapolis Police Department,” Glass Bead Collective’s official Blip TV website, accessed November 26, 2012, http://blip.tv/glass-bead-collective/glass-bead-collective-press-conference-after-being-robbed-by-minn-pd-1214076
31. Vlad Teichberg, in discussion with the author, September 2008 32. “The Revolution Will Be Live-Streamed: Global Revolution TV, the Occupy Movement’s Video Hub,” on Democracy Now! Website http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/18/the_revolution_will_be_live_streamed (accessed November 26, 2012)
33. Andrew Marantz, “Mission Control,” The New Yorker, October 31, 2011, http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2011/10/31/111031ta_talk_marantz (accessed November 26, 2012)
34. Vlad Teichberg, in discussion with the author, March 2011 – March 2013
35. “News,” Takeshi Miyakawa’s official website, accessed November 26, 2012, http://tmiyakawadesign.com/
36. “Brooklyn Artist Takeshi Miyakawa Arrested For ‘Planting False Bombs’,” on Designboom website, accessed November 26, 2012, http://www.designboom.com/design/brooklyn-artist-takeshi-miyakawa-arrested-for-planting-false-bombs/
37. Penelope Green, “A Would-Be Christo’s Hard Lesson,” The New York Times, June6, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/garden/designer-takeshi-miyakawa-returns-from-rikers-island.html?pagewanted=all (accessed November 26, 2012)
38. Matt Harvey and Aymann Ismail, “Wanted “Drone” Poster Artist Discusses How He Punked the NYPD,” Animal New York (blog), September 24, 2012, http://www.animalnewyork.com/2012/wanted-drone-poster-artist-discusses-how-he-punked-the-nypd/ (accessed November 26, 2012)
39. Joshua Kopstein, “Street artist behind satirical NYPD ‘Drone’ posters arrested,” The Verge (blog), December 2, 2012, http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/2/3718094/street-artist-nypd-drone-posters-arrested-surveillance (accessed November 26, 2012)
40. Shayna Jacobs, “Street artist whose mock public service ads around city claimed NYPD used spy drones to monitor citizens busted after outing himself in website interview,” New York Daily News, November 30, 2012, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/street-artist-mock-ads-claimed-nypd-spy-drones-busted-article-1.1210708
Clark Stoeckley is an artist and activist working in a broad range of media under numerous monikers. He received his BFA in Alternative Media from Webster University and an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Art from Brooklyn College. His work has been shown at the Contemporary Museum St. Louis, Pratt Manhattan Gallery, Emily Harvey Gallery, and Plato’s Cave and featured in ARTnews, The Nation, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications and websites. He teaches Experiments in Digital and Analog Media, Painting, and Drawing at Bloomfield College in New Jersey. He is currently illustrating a graphic novel based on the military court martial of WikiLeaks source, Pfc. Bradley Manning. His work can be seen at www.cstoeckley.com.