'Backpacks,' 'Pressure Cookers' Google Searches Lead to Feds Visit

Friday, 02 Aug 2013 09:37 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A New York family claims a federal terrorism task force visited them this week because their past Google searches included queries on "backpacks" and "pressure cookers."

Michele Catalano, a writer living in Long Island, N.Y., was shocked when her husband called her at work Wednesday to say that six armed agents just showed up at their house and asked to search it. Catalano, who often cooks at home, said she had probably researched pressure cookers (along with a million other things, like "Is A-Rod suspended yet?") and her husband had been online looking at backpacks a few weeks prior.

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Catalano detailed the feds' visit in a blog post on Medium.

"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.

"Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb? My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them admitted they did."

Suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly used two pressure cooker bombs concealed in backpacks to kill three people and injure more than 260 at the Boston Marathon in April.

The Suffolk County Police Department claims the search was ordered after they received a tip from a Long Island-based computer company saying that a recently terminated employee's computer contained suspicious inquiries, according to The Associated Press. That employee was reportedly Catalano's husband.

"We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job," Catalano wrote in another blog post Thursday. "We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house."

The police and terrorism task force determined there was no criminality but the fact that someone's Google history could warrant a visit from the feds is either alarming or comforting, depending on how one looks at it.

"This is where we are at," Catalano wrote, "where trying to learn how to cook some lentils could possibly land you on a watch list."

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Related stories:

Pressure Cooker Bombs Used by al-Qaida For Years

Saudi Man Arrested in Detroit After Bringing Pressure Cooker on Flight

Tennessee Senator Says Pressure Cooker Joke Brings Out Hypocrisy (Video)


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