Feds Visit Family Who Googled Backpacks & Pressure Cookers…But the NSA Isn’t Watching You

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Be careful what you Google….you never know when it might get you a visit from the  federal anti-terrorism task force, despite the government’s claims that information about average Americans is not being analyzed.

What shows up in your search history?  I just checked mine.

In the past week I  have looked up…

  • Pressure canning recipes
  • Guard llamas
  • Where to buy organic fertilizer
  • Wildfires on the West Coast
  • A new crochet stitch
  • A newly discovered antibiotic that is effective against anthrax
  • Healing time for concussions
  • The favorite color of Louie from One Direction

If you put all these things together, does it put together a picture of a terrorist, bent on destruction, or just a newbie homesteader who is also interested in current events and has a tween daughter?

Well, with the algorithms the government is using, those searches might not look so innocent.

Michelle Catalano and her husband were the targets of a visit by federal officials based on nothing more than their Google history.  While the NSA is fervently denying that they are collecting information on average citizens, an early morning knock on the door of this family’s home says otherwise.

Catalano, a writer, told the story on her blog:

Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.

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…

…What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving.

Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door….

…“Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said.

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.

They searched the backyard. They walked around the garage, as much as one could walk around a garage strewn with yardworking equipment and various junk. They went back in the house and asked more questions.

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…

…They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.

Do you wonder what would have happened to the Catalanos if they’d refused to answer questions, as is their right under the Constitution?  What if they had denied entry when the feds had asked to do a casual inspection of their home, which is also their right?  What if the husband had asked, with his morning cup of coffee in hand, “Do you have a warrant?”  I strongly suspect that if they had chosen to stand up for their rights, the intimidating visit would have gotten a whole lot worse.

When every thing you do is recorded, analyzed, and judged, you are not truly free.  No matter how independent you think you are, someone, somewhere is watching you in a manner so creepy and so intent that no fiction writer has ever captured the full extent of it in even the most gripping spy novel.

Many people are careful, not joining social networks, using proxy servers, and using search engines that are supposed to be private. But with the recent release of information from Edward Snowden, I would be willing to bet that isn’t enough to keep your internet comings and goings out from under the microscope of the NSA.  In fact, those things might make you seem even more suspicious.

These algorithms are designed to “prove” the guilt of anyone that the federal government wants to target.  Back in the 1500s, Cardinal Richelieu knew the truth of this when he said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.”

What kind of world do we live in when you are always watched?  When doing things openly makes you a suspect but the pursuit of privacy also makes you a suspect?

Well, don’t worry…they’re doing this for your own good.

Do you feel any safer now?

photo courtesy of AltMedia Daily

Follow-up:  There is more to this story.

Michelle Catalano says that her family was misled by police regarding the source of the “tip” that led to the intimidating visit.

About the author:

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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27 Comments  to  Feds Visit Family Who Googled Backpacks & Pressure Cookers…But the NSA Isn’t Watching You

  1. Jennfier says:

    Wow!!!! I just wonder how long people will let this keep happening. It’s similar to the illegal searches of people’s homes on the day of the bombing. It goes against everything the founding fathers intended. Men have died to keep this from happening (for our freedom from this kind of tyranny), yet here we are letting this happen! Unfortunately, technology lends itself to this kind of surveillance and moves so fast it’s hard for anyone to keep up, but it seems we need to stay on top of it or it will get a lot worse!!

    • Lynn Maust says:

      real good comment

    • gino schafer says:

      And the author seems to be advocating giving in and letting the thugs walk all over you! I would have said, ‘Show me your warrant. If you don’t have one, get lost.’ And that is what all freedom loving Americans should be advocating, make the authorities comply with the constitution and our basic rights. The author should be ashamed of herself for not advocating standing up for your rights.

      (since comments are moderated here, she will likely not publish this)

      • Daisy Luther says:

        (since comments are moderated here, she will likely not publish this)

        Sure “she” will. I only moderate to delete the spam. ;)

        I’m not sure how my article gave you the impression that I advocate giving in, but let me make this perfectly clear.

        I asked some pointed questions because I want people to think about what they would do in a similar situation. By thinking it through, including considering what the reactions will be to the path you choose to take, you can be better prepared if something like this happens to you. Ms. Catalano and her husband were completely taken by surprise. Such an incident had never crossed their minds, so when it happened, they were not mentally prepared for it.

        When I ask questions like this, I like to leave them unanswered – I hope that people will play the scenarios through in their minds. Then, you can resist in smart ways, not ways that will turn you into a victim of police brutality in front of your children.

        Thank you for reading and thank you for your contribution – it gave me an opportunity to clarify my point.

        Best wishes ~

        Daisy

    • Ian MacLeod says:

      Stay on top of it HOW? Maybe if you got a few hundred thousand citizens together to SUE the NSA for unconstitutional behavior, THAT might do something useful. At least people would notice when they accidentally labeled all the leaders terrorists and shot all of you in a Jose Guerna-type (oopsie!) “botched” raid against people not even remotely breaking the law. Short of that (and not that it would change anything), there’s the old toe-to-toe knockdown drag-out fight – and as I mentioned earlier it’s just a good way to get killed or incarcerated forever for being an annoyance to “the government”.

      As far as I’ve been able to tell there are only two types working for the NSA: the power hungry ex-cops and CIA who just LOVE to kick ass, and guilt or innocence matters not at all, and the ones who, God help them AND us, actually believe that ordinary people who look up ANYTHING even POSSIBLY threatening DESERVE to shot or imprisoned. Those last are utterly paranoid and they seem to believe what the “experts” (clueless geeks who say patriots are likely terrorists and non-patriots are also likely terrorists… no doubt so are Boy Scout leaders who teach kids how use a rifle, how to survive in the wilderness, etc.

      The “government” Intel agencies, police agencies, military and others seem to have found every paranoid nutjob, every greedly lying power abusing thief and sadist and more, and they’ve handed them POWER. They don’t even see themselves (most of them, I think) as Nazis, America style, but that’s what too many of them are, and it’s going to get worse. Personally I’d rather take the chance that once or twice a decade someone WOULD actually try to bomb another building (WITHOUT the help of the FBI) or snipe at pedestrians from a building top, rather than put up with a government that thinks it has to check everyone’s friggin’ UNDERWEAR smuggled in Arabian sandfleas or something. I want MY America back!

      Ian

  2. Kulafarmer says:

    Im screwed, i was looking at American pressure canners, have Eberlestock packs in my favorites and am a reloader! I also get sales stuff from Midway USA for reloading stuff and Mcfeeleys that regularly have nails and screws in themThat and Im a farmer so am sure i have purchased questionable fertilizer and deisel fuel and drums, and on and on!
    What ever happened to the country we were born to, the one where we had faith in God, said the pledge of allegience, and knew that we were free and that our freedom and rights were guaranteed by the constitution and that the government were the good guys?
    Guess were not in Kansas anymore Toto!

  3. Fredrick March says:

    We need everyone that reads this to go and google pressure cookers and backpacks. Fk the traitors in the FBI, CIA and our government in general.

  4. Kimo says:

    Fact…..if they would have refused etry, they would break thedoor down

    • Lynn Maust says:

      oh lovely day….do they sleep well at night, or look themselves in the mirror without shame? I highly doubt it…..and hope at least one of them reads this and has a change of heart….and gets another job, even collecting garbage would do.

  5. IndividualAudienceMember says:

    Kimo wrote, “Fact…..if they would have refused etry, they would break thedoor down”

    That reminds me of a line from a DieHard film, “We’re gonna need more F.B.I. guys.”

    I guess it just depends on whose door they break down?

    Anyway, if you continue the thinking of this thread it leads to this:

    Am I going to be disappeared… ?

    http://ericpetersautos.com/2013/07/31/am-i-going-to-be-disappeared/

    … And from there?

  6. mehereandnow says:

    Are we talking about the same apparatus that my mild mannered devout 82 year old mother in law uses to cook lentils and garbanzo beans in? Would this be sufficient to get her on a watch list? One thing though I don’t think she uses it for quinoa. Actually I don’t think she knows what quinoa is either! Anyway, it appears that ignorance of quinoa would not be enough to avoid the attentions and a possible visit from the erudite assiduous agencies charged with protecting our liberties … well no matter I am sure some suspicion could be raised from these connections.. connections… how blind could I have been. I never even suspected my mother armed with her kitchen implement and dried legumes could be the horrendous ‘lentil lady’ terrorizing our town with her exploding recipes. How awful!!

  7. IndividualAudienceMember says:

    mehereandnow,interesting comment, yours.

    Just after the Boston thing I stopped at a Salvation Army and found a great deal on an All-American.

    At the time, I didn’t know the All-American was anything more than a tool of food-incredible creations, I think the staff did though.
    As I paid for it they asked me all kinds of questions, like, what was I using it for (I wasn’t, my better half wanted it to make bacon jam) Then again after they told me, “did I know how lucky I was to find this deal”, they asked what I was going to use it for.
    I think they asked four times.
    Even a lady shopping came up and started asking me.

    I felt special, and thought I was just relating to my fellow city dwellers, then walked away feeling good.

    … Now, I’m not so sure, and I wonder.

    Life is like that in a police state, isn’t it?

  8. Greer says:

    I received a visit from CPS when someone in my church daycare reported child abuse due to a birthmark and a few bug bites. Maybe someone that hates either her mom or me. 2 hour interview. Search every room. Looked into the fridge. Took my two year old to another room to privately interview her. Had me take her clothing off so they could make a visual inspection and demanded that I take her to a doctor for a full medical assessment exam. The case has closed but a threat of more court action, investigation, and parental rights taken away if I move on having the records removed. They advised seeking legal advice from a attorney.

    It might have been the loss of my daughter if I had told them to go get a warrant and then major legal fees to win her return. All because of a false report.

    Just another example of excessive gov’t and state over reaching powers.

  9. JdL says:

    Daisy: I strongly suspect that if they had chosen to stand up for their rights, the intimidating visit would have gotten a whole lot worse.

    Kimo: Fact…..if they would have refused etry, they would break the door down

    Greer: It might have been the loss of my daughter if I had told them to go get a warrant and then major legal fees to win her return

    This is the language of defeat. Please don’t succumb to it, people! Stand up for your rights. I certainly intend to, when/if criminal government thugs show up at MY door. They can have my dead body, but not my obedience.

  10. Duane says:

    This stuff will keep happening until we stand up for our rights. All of the bad stuff that was posted that MIGHT happen if entry was refused is low probability. If it did happen it would probably make the news and end up as bad press for the feds.

    “Evil prospers when good men do nothing”

  11. Denise Clark says:

    Where is the Dissent? Jefferson Airplane sang a song called “Revolution” @ Woodstock. Perhaps I’ll google that along with “The Anarchist Cookbook” on Amazon and “How to make a Potato Launcher” on You Tube… Then I will leave my House with a note on the door…Gone Fishing! Dipsh*ts are made of propaganda. Look up Craft,Intl if you want to see the backpacks used in Boston. Messed up martial law practice. None of us are as uninformed as these Government snoops think. They are supposed to be public servants not roving idiots. Why are there still crack dealers and meth factories? Anyone who has lived in a facist or communist country who is here now is probably going Hmmmm haven’t I seen this somewhere before? Russia, China, Cuba etc…We need to Resist this intrusion on our privacy- everytime to the best of our ability and training. Learn how to Disobey!

  12. Lisa wilson says:

    Why would you say sure they can look around? Do Americans not know the Constitution & the amendments? If it were me, they would have been told they couldn’t come in without a warrant. This has happened to me by CPS when we were home educating.They were told that they could not come in without a warrant. They asked if I was getting an attitude & I told them that the attitude was my constitutional rights. This was right after 9/11.Do not ever leave your child with a social worker or other authority without you there. Do you know how many people who do that get charged with something or there child is put in foster care not to be seen for over 2 years if then? Most children are removed from the home , not for abuse, but whatever the worker deems neglect. It could be you have been sick & havent cleaned the house that week.They are lucky that false charges were not filed for something.I told them to either come back with a warrant and they asked me the phone to have CPS call me.She called the next week and everything was cleared up. A teenage mother of 2 wanted to be intimate with our friend living with us & he wouldnt have anything to do with her, so she called them & said I was making our son sleep in the van. She knew I took the guy to work at like 5 AM & had to take our son with me, as couldnt leave him at apartment alone.He would take his pillow & blanket with him to sleep while I delivered our friend to work. She said after the 3 or 4 th call she doesnt even come out. People at the complex called all the time if had any differences with you.

  13. Pepito says:

    Next time they should ask for a warrant, and should also videotape in case the feds get testy in response to asserting their constitutional rights!

  14. Judy says:

    Another option – vote with your feet. There are plenty of other free, first world/ developed countries out there to migrate to, just as our forefathers did. Lower cost of living, less crime, more tax dollars going to social benefits rather than guns and bullets, and a better environment to raise children. God and family first. Call me what you will, but you can’t call me stupid..

  15. Grampa says:

    Well I think we must give them something to keep their shallow little minds busy.
    We need a couple million googed this phrase a couple times a day. Overload the system. I am sure additional words would require real people attention. Enough hits would clog the system and would cause the supervisors a few headaches.
    Grampa

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