The NSA Wasn't Spying on Couple Who Searched Internet for a Backpack and Pressure Cooker, But a Former Coworker Was



Yesterday morning journalist Michele Catalano published a first-person account about having her home searched by a joint terrorism taskforce after she and her husband looked up pressure cookers and backpacks on their home computer. I posted on that story shortly after it went up. Turns out much of it was wrong. 

Yes, the Catalano's Long Island home was searched, but by the Suffolk and Nassau County Police Departments, not the Feds. Yes, the police asked Catalano's husband what he knew about making a pressure cooker bomb, not because the NSA had seen his Google history, but because his ex-employer had. 

Here's the statement from the Suffolk County PD: 

Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee. The former employee's computer searches took place on this employee's workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms "pressure cooker bombs" and "backpacks."

After interviewing the company representatives, Suffolk County Police Detectives visited the subject's home to ask about the suspicious internet searches. The incident was investigated by Suffolk County Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Detectives and was determined to be non-criminal in nature.

Any further inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Via TechCrunch

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  1. They fired him and sicked the cops on him. What douches.

  2. If you see something, say something

  3. I guess I should be looking at the search histories of my users at work. Could be good for a few laughs… AND REVENGE.

  4. I am certain that thousands of people Googled pressure cookers and backpacks in the days after the Boston bombing. So exactly why would the police send a paramilitary unit to someones house for this unless maybe they just have lots of excess funds to waste.

    1. It’s New York State. The people who work for the state government are pretty stupid, even by the low standard set by government employees for the rest of the country.

  5. so the original story is basically a lie?

  6. On a day-to-day basis, it’s the neighbor, coworker, acquaintance or even relative who’s watching and looking to turn you in for something, regardless of how innocuous that something may be. Sometimes it might be “well-meaning” but usually it’s just pure maliciousness, vengeance, etc.

    1. Government spying supplemented by snitching, just like the DDR with Obama in the role of Honecker and Holder as Mielke.

  7. I hope they lawyer up and sue the living daylights out of his former employer, anbd possibly the police departments involved.

    1. Based upon…? If it is true that this happened while using his employer’s computer equipment and network they are perfectly with in their rights to a) fire him and b)report what they found to the police. Even use of employer phones is subject to monitoring.

      1. He was also “released,” as in, he was fired. Sounds to me like they were concerned about his mental state. I probably would be too if the dude I just fired was looking up pressure cookers and backpacks

  8. Don’t use Google.

    Also, don’t use Google.

    1. Don’t do wierd stuff on a work computer.

  9. If you are going to use the internet for personal use at work you should a) browse in private mode and b) use an encrypted proxy or secure tunnel/forwarding to your own home network. This will defeat all but a keylogger. If you are concerned about that they get a clue and don’t use your employer’s computers or networks for your personal stuff.

    1. Or you could work at a job where no one gives a damn as long as you don’t have porn on the screen.

      1. Or even if you do.

  10. I don’t even read Hit y Run, much lest post here, from my work computer.

  11. It’s New York State. The people who work for the state government are pretty stupid, even by the low standard set by government employees for the rest of the country.

    Even worse, it’s Long Island.


  12. Of course, if this was an NSA operation, this is exactly the cover story they would put out there. How hard would it be for a couple of MIB types to get a couple of schlumps from a computer company to parrot this tale?

    /justifiable paranoia OFF

    1. I hate it when someone is more cynical than me.

  13. This story was fishy from the very beginning, and it’s incredibly saddening that so many reasonable people and publications jumped on this. Several of us pointed out that it smelled funny in the comment section of the original article. I believe mine was deleted.

    This is appears to be the standard for Reason Magazine, lately. Fox News would be proud of y’all.

  14. It’s like a new twist on SWATing. It’s NSAing.

    Call the terrorism hotline and say “OMG! This guy is searching for pressure cookers and backpacks!” then hang up the phone.

    1. Hang up? Really? You think that will keep them from finding you?

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