Saturday, August 3, 2013


Pressure cooker Internet search:What really happened

Writer Michele Catalano says her husband was questioned after searching online about pressure cookers.

But cops say they were tipped off by a former employer.

Pressure cooker police visit home: Pressure cooker on stove
A woman says a federal task force searched her home after the family did Web searches for backpacks, pressure cookers and the Boston bombings.
It was a bombshell of a story: A Long Island, N.Y., writer said Thursday her family received a rude awakening from police this week because of seemingly innocuous searches they'd done on the Internet. But police now say there's more to the story than first reported.

Journalist Michele Catalano wrote on Medium Thursday that officers working as part of a federal joint terrorism task force came to her home and searched it because the family's computers had logged searches about backpacks, pressure cookers and the Boston Marathon bombings.

Catalano said it was the "perfect storm of terrorism profiling."

But the police department in Suffolk County, N.Y., issued a statement later Thursday saying that the incident unfolded after detectives "received a tip from a Bay Shore computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee" on the employee's workplace computer. The employee, Catalano's husband, had searched the terms "pressure cooker bombs" and "backpacks," the statement said.

It said the incident was deemed "non-criminal in nature" after detectives interviewed company officials and visited the former employee's home.

Catalano, in her account, said police questioned her husband, who was home alone at the time, about his "family's origins, his recent travels, his wife's whereabouts and pressure cookers. Did his wife own one?" He said no, but the family did own a rice cooker. "Can you make a bomb with that?" Catalano said the police asked her husband.

The officers' curiosity seemed to be satisfied when Catalano's husband said she used the rice cooker to make quinoa, Catalano wrote.

According to Catalano, her husband was looking for a new backpack and her son, a news junkie, was fascinated by the Boston bombings.

After searching a few rooms, the police reportedly shook Catalano's husband's hand and left. They assured him that they "do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing," wrote Catalano, who said she was shaken by the experience.

The Associated Press reports that Catalano took to the Internet on Thursday night, writing in a new blog post that she wrote her original piece without knowing police had been tipped off about her husband's search history at his former job.

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