Terrorism Task Force Agents Show Up At Journalist's Home Over Google Searches About 'Pressure Cookers' And 'Backpacks'

Apartment of Alina Tsarnaeva, sister of the Boston Marathon bombing suspectsAn FBI agent goes into the apartment of Alina Tsarnaeva, sister of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, in West New York, New Jersey April 19, 2013.

Freelance journalist Michele Catalano, a former music contributor at Forbes and freelancer, received a friendly visit at her Long Island home from six agents from a joint terrorism task force on Wednesday morning.

In March Google reported that the FBI monitors the Web for potential terrorist activity. It appears this situation is a case of that task force in action.

Catalano said she had researched pressure cookers and her husband was looking for a backpack, a combination of terms that raises flags in the wake of bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260.

In a post describing the incident, Catalano writes

Mostly I felt a great sense of anxiety. This is where we are at. Where you have no expectation of privacy. Where trying to learn how to cook some lentils could possibly land you on a watch list. Where you have to watch every little thing you do because someone else is watching every little thing you do.

Catalano says that the agents told her husband that “they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.”

Adrien Chen of Gawker contacted the FBI and was told that the “FBI had no part in this law enforcement action.”

Here are the tweets: 

After the initial scare, Catalano made light of the situation.

Nevertheless, judging by the last two lines of her blog post, the circumstantial gravitas has stayed with her:

All I know is if I’m going to buy a pressure cooker in the near future, I’m not doing it online.

I’m scared. And not of the right things.

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