Known Associates

In the last few days, I’ve sure seen a lot of misspellings of Michele Catalano. Michele was my editor at the awesome (and sadly, now-defunct) Faster Than The World, and my freelance writing friend since then.  She writes here about the visit her household got from special anti-terrorism task force.

It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. 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.

Michelle describes all the possible risk factors that brought the terrorism police to the door. Was it shopping for a backpack? Google searches involving pressure cookers? I’m amazed that anyone who heard about the Boston bombing, and owns a slow cooker/ rice cooker/ pressure cooker didn’t immediately Google how it could explode. I’m not sure if it’s morbid curiosity, or worries about accidentally destroying the building while making dinner. (Quick note to any anti-terrorism task force investigating the known associates of Michele: It has more to do with that time I set the kettle on fire while making tea.)

I met Michele in 2007, and almost every year, she posts her Independence Day snark warning that careless fireworks accidents today mean less masturbating tomorrow. A fireworks photo was referenced as a possible terror alert (in this article, “Was Michele Catalano hunted by the NSA or was she actually building a bomb?”) (Which is superlative clickbaiting, and I’d love to point it out to my community of writer friends, but, you know, I think Michele might have already seen it), the implication being that a concerned or frightened citizen called in a terror alert. So maybe it really was a confluence of magnificent proportions.

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”.

Michele’s husband Todd just changed jobs, so I wonder if this is a result of a former coworker calling in a tip, either in anger, or as a poorly judged prank, or legitimately believing that Todd and Michelle REALLY were up to nefarious criminal activity.  Her account describes a halfhearted search of the house, so presumably the investigators also realized pretty quickly that this had to be a mistake.

The oddest part of this very bizarre story is someone legitimately believing my friend and her husband were a threat worth investigating.  After a bit of time, I’m sure that will become the funniest part of the story.

I hope Michele and Todd get to that part soon.

Original post here: pressure cookers, backpacks and quinoa, oh my!

This entry was posted in Chapel Hill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Known Associates

  1. Nadine says:

    That’s a crazy story. By this logic, most creative writers should have their houses searched:

  2. bridget says:

    Didn’t realise that you knew Ms. Catalano. A lot of my friends linked to her article.

    “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.

    Wrong answer. Demand that they produce a search warrant, and if they don’t have one, say that you’re willing to wait while they go to a judge. Police officers are allowed to search your home without probable cause if they ask permission, but if you ask for a warrant, they either have to cough one up, or prove that there are exigent circumstances that justify the warrantless search (e.g. you’re about to flush the drugs down the toilet, or the violent felon just fled into your open front window).

    You don’t need to be nasty or strident about it; you can say, very calmly, “I would prefer that before you search my home, you obtain a search warrant from a judge to justify it.” That these people are wrong at least 99% of the time indicates that they don’t have probable cause; while PC isn’t tied to a specific probability expressed in percentage terms, it’s well above “less than 1%”. Heavens, at that rate, they may as well randomly guess.

    /lawyer rant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *