Backpacks And Pressure Cookers: Google Search Gets Family In TroubleBy: Amanda Crum - August 1, 2013
When two members of the same family needed information on two seemingly harmless, unrelated things–backpacks and pressure cookers–they both turned to Google, just like the majority of us do (unless you live in Pawnee and still use AltaVista). Long Islanders Michele Catalano and her husband had done just that when men claiming to be members of a joint terrorism task force raided her home, asking questions about their Google searches and about what they knew regarding how to make bombs. Michele, who is a writer, detailed the experience in a blog post.
“Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now. And in these times, when things like the Boston bombing happen, you spend a lot of time on the internet reading about it and, if you are my exceedingly curious news junkie of a twenty-ear-old son, you click a lot of links when you read the myriad of stories. You might just read a CNN piece about how bomb making instructions are readily available on the internet and you will in all probability, if you are that kid, click the link provided.
They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son’s bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be. Meanwhile, they were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked.”
Catalano says that the search appeared to be cursory and that some rooms were left untouched.
“They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to,” she wrote.
Catalano says that now, she’s scared of what consequences potentially harmless searches online might bring to her family. A Nassau County Police representative, meanwhile, has said that they have no knowledge of the visit.
“We contacted all our commands within the Nassau County Police Department. We did not visit this woman, and we do not know what police agency did visit her.”