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!