Are You a Terrorist Threat? Josh Kinberg Didn’t Think So.

Josh Kinberg is about as harmful as too much sugar at a birthday party. Turns out his intelligence and knack for performance art qualify him a possible terrorist threat.

In the summer of 2004, Josh was a grad student at Parsons in New York. Anticipating the upcoming Republican National Convention, Josh and his group Bikes Against Bush hit the road. He wired up a bike with a laptop, cell phone, tubes and powered chalk. He then used it to spray messages emailed to the laptop from people around the country on the streets of New York.

While demonstrating his bike during a taped interview that occurred August 28th on MSNBC, Kinberg was arrested for criminal mischief. He—and more than 200 other bicyclists who didn’t have chalk-rigged bikes—spent a day in the klink. (You can watch the original report on Josh's video blog listed below.)

What Josh didn’t know until Jim Dwyer of New York Tmes told him last week, was that prior to his arrest, a newly launched intelligence division of the NYPD had been tailing Kinberg. With information taken from a secret file dated July 22, 2004, Dwyer told Kinberg that officers had tracked him, photographed him and put together four pages of “intelligence.”

Also according to the Times, protesters who had traveled from outside the state received such surveillance as well. The officers infiltrated their social groups, documented their lives, and filed similar reports.

Now you can say this was 2004, and the RNC, and all that post 911 stuff. But let’s put this into context:

No one was allowed to approach Madison Square Garden during the RNC without accreditation. A protest area—which was relatively small and entirely fenced in—was located blocks away from the venue. Regardless of what any one could say—they wouldn’t be seen, let alone, heard.

So that Josh Kinberg had the gumption to mobilize and distribute the varied opinions of Americans on the streets of New York—in water soluable chalk, mind you—further verifies how reactionary the state of law enforcement had become.

I’m struck by this because Josh is a friend. One of the most amazing young men you’ll ever know. He’s also a member of our community.

Watch his video blog to recount the entire episode.

Rocketboomfeatures Josh's own report. It goes without saying that all charges against Josh were dropped the following January.

I don’t think Josh will be the last friend to learn in the coming years that he’s been tracked. Josh certainly isn’t the first video blogger to experience this. Meet his friend, Josh Wolf.

We like to say that in this post 911 world having nothing to hide means you have nothing to worry about. But what if it happens to you? Or someone you know?

It makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

P.S. New York City often complains about the lack of federal funding it gets for anti terrorism resources. So it’s even stranger they would use these very resources to tail and record someone like Josh. I don’t want to cop bash here…but you have to appreciate the latest update from the Times:

The spraying apparatus — not the bicycle — was held for more than a year before being returned; Mr. Kinberg says the authorities have still not returned his bicycle.

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