In so many ways, this is just wrong: wife searches Google for pressure cookers, and the husband separately Googles for backpacks. Then, presto, an armed task force descends upon their home.
Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How’d the government know what they were Googling?
How indeed. As a former military guy with experience in NSA collection, I’ve generally been a little skeptical of the hysterical reactions to some of the latest disclosures about the extent of domestic surveillance. But if there is any credence to this story about innocent Google searches prompting “joint terrorism task force” scrutiny of ordinary Americans, then we’re truly living in the era of Big Brother.
It seems Orwell got it right, just off by about 30 years on his timing.
UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, the photo above was taken in the Boston area after the marathon bombing, and is not of the Catalanos. In fact, other reports suggest the six “task force” members who came to the Catalano home were in plain clothes but were armed, as they flanked the house and asked to be allowed inside.
UPDATE #2: A tip of the hat to Michele Jurgensen, who pointed out a police press release that (thankfully) set the record straight on this. As it turns out, the searches in question were conducted on the computers of a former employer, and it was the employer–not an NSA/Google dragnet–that prompted the police visit. See the whole thing here. Thanks, Michele!