Everyone knows by this point that you have to be careful what you say on social media sites like Facebook. One bad joke taken out of context could land you in jail on “terrorism” charges. So, everyone should know by now that we live in a “see something, say something” society, and if you say something questionable in an online, public forum, you’re at risk of the authorities paying you a visit “just to ask you a few questions.”
Well, now it’s not just the public domain that you need to worry about. Watch what you type in the Google search query box, or else you too might get a visit from the police asking if you’re a terrorist.
This is what happened to the Catalanos when a series of random Google searches they did raised red flags and created a potential terrorist profile for the authorities. Just a year ago, this would have meant nothing. But since we live in a “post-Boston bombing” world, you can’t search for “pressure cooker” and “backpack” at the same time without potentially being harassed by law enforcement. Apparently, Mr. Catalano did a search for “backpacks,” and his wife had searched on a separate occasion for “pressure cookers.”
Here was part of Mrs. Catalano’s account of what happened:
“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… [T]hey 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… ‘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.”
The men identified themselves as part of a joint terrorism task force. The FBI was aware of the situation and said that local law enforcement had handled it. So, it must have been a local “joint terrorism task force.”
This, of course, raises all sorts of questions, not least of which is how in the world did these law enforcement officers know what the Catalanos were searching for on Google? I thought the NSA said they weren’t collecting data on Americans.
Under the PRISM program, exposed by the now-Russian resident Edward Snowden, the NSA won’t gather data on you, unless you’re connected to a terror suspect by no more than two people. So, if you know a guy who knows another guy who knows someone else who might have been a little too critical of the federal government (domestic terror suspect), you’re electronic life is at risk of being monitored, and you might have to open your house up for inspection by a surprise police visit.
You see where this is headed? They say the rule is that no one’s internet activity is being monitored, unless you fall in such-and-such a category. But the exceptions keep getting more and more numerous. If the next terrorist attack involves some guy who happened to have a copy of Creature from Jekyll Island in his library and knives in his kitchen, the authorities can decide those are now red flags if people do Google searches for them. Soon, if you don’t use Google at all, that will be considered “suspicious.” “Hmm… Why isn’t he using Google? He must be hiding something.”