Aug 4, 2013

American family raided after searching pressure cooker

American family raided after searching pressure cooker
American family raided after searching pressure cooker. A journalist living in Long Island was greatly mistaken when she published a blog post claiming that Google searches for ‘pressure cooker bombs’ and ’backpack’ had led police to her doorstep.

As it turns out, the police tip-off came from the former employers of Michele Catalano’s husband Todd Pinnell.

Suffolk County police explained Friday that ‘detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore-based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee.’

Pinnell, who worked as a product manager at New York-based Speco Technologies, apparently had been searching for the terms ‘pressure cooker bombs’ and ‘backpacks’ on his work computer when his former employers began to fear that they may have a terrorist in their midst.

That recent revelation followed a major uproar among Internet users on Thursday after Catalano, a former contributor to Forbes, published her piece, which prompted many to quickly blame the NSA.

Catalano published her account of what happened on the site Medium on Thursday, saying six plain-clothes cops showed up at her home, and proceeded to interview her husband about pressure cookers and search her house.

She said she believes her 'news junkie' son reading articles on the Boston Bombings, coupled with her hunt for a pressure cooker and her husband's online shopping for a backpack created the 'perfect storm of terrorism profiling.'

The FBI, Nassau County and Suffolk County Police Departments maintained that they had no invo9levement in the call.

Though Catalano wasn't at home at the time, her husband Pinell was when three black SUVs drove up to their house and the cops exited and started to approach their property, flashing badges with handguns in their holsters.

Pinell went outside to meet the men and complied with their request to look around the house and backyard.

They walked around the living room, looked at books and pictures, and petted their dogs.

When they asked to go into the son's room, her husband said he was sleeping and they left him alone.

They also interviewed him, asking about where he was from, where his wife was, and if they had any bombs. They also asked about whether they owned a pressure cooker.

Her husband said no, but that they had a rice cooker.

'Can you make a bomb with that?' they asked.

He told them his wife used it to make quinoa.

'What the hell is quinoa?' they asked.

Catalano said that 'by this point they realized they were not dealing with terrorists and the men wrapped their search up.

Pinell called her immediately after, laughing about the incident, but Catalano didn't see the humor.

She said she felt a 'great sense of anxiety' when she realized that 'this is where we are at.'

'Where you have no expectation of privacy. Where trying to learn how to cook some lentils could possibly land you on a terrorism watch list,' she wrote.

The FBI confirmed the visit to The Guardian, but said their officers weren't involved.

A spokesman said it was Nassau County Police officers working in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department.

But a Nassau County police spokesman told MailOnline they weren't involved.

'We did not, did not, go out to this woman's home,' police spokesman James Imperiale said. 'What agency went I couldn't tell you. I don't know.'

A Suffolk County Police spokesman referred media back to the FBI.

If the search were truly carried out due to suspicious Google searches, it would have required a warrant.

In a company report on transparency, Google detailed how they deal with law enforcement officials looking for evidence online.

'The government needs legal process—such as a subpoena, court order or search warrant—to force Google to disclose user information. Exceptions can be made in certain emergency cases, though even then the government can’t force Google to disclose.'

Which has led some to question the validity of Ms Catalano's story.

Today, she took to Twitter, writing that she wasn't giving interviews to the media.

'I'll say it once: I didn't make it up,' she wrote. 'Thanks to those defending my integrity.'

On Friday, Catalano sang a different tune.

Her story update on Medium read:

'We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. 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.

'I did not lie or make it up. I wrote the piece with the information that was given. What was withheld from us obviously could not be a part of a story I wrote based on what happened yesterday.

'The piece I wrote was the story as we knew it with the information we were told. None of it was fabricated. If you know me, you know I would never do that.

'If it was misleading, just know that my intention was the truth. And that was what I knew as the truth until about ten minutes ago. That there were other circumstances involved was something we all were unaware of.'