New York writer claims she was visited by joint terrorism task force for googling pressure cookers

Update: The Christian Science Monitor and Forbes reported deeper into this story today, after it went viral. Turns out the law enforcement visit did happen, as did Internet activity surveillance--but Catalano and/or her husband were actually being monitored by a former employer, not the government. Forbes: "The Suffolk County police department says that it questioned the family after getting a tip about suspicious computer searches on an ex-employee’s work computer."

Periodic Boing Boing contributor Michelle Catalano claims she was internet-profiled and then "visited" at home by joint terrorism task force investigators who she says found her internet browsing history suspicious, not that anyone's been looking at the internet habits of innocent Americans recently, no, that's definitely not in the zeitgeist.

Is this real? It's apparently not a hoax, though we can't yet verify that her internet search history triggered the authorities' visit. It sounds outrageous, but here's a snip from her account, which she says is absolutely no joke:

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. Most of it was innocent enough. I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now.

Read her full account: "pressure cookers, backpacks and quinoa, oh my!" [Medium]

The Guardian has an update:

Members of what she described as a "joint terrorism task force" descended on Catalano's home on Wednesday. A spokesman for the FBI told to the Guardian on Thursday that its investigators were not involved in the visit, but that "she was visited by Nassau County police department … They were working in conjunction with Suffolk County police department." The Guardian has contacted the Suffolk County and Nassau County police departments for comment.

We're reaching out to the authorities to try and verify what happened, with whom, under whose order, and why. Was a visit in fact triggered by their internet use history?

It should be noted that Joint Terrorism Task Force operations are by definition joint operations between various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, state, local, and federal--and who's tipping off whom and ordering what is not always readily apparent.

More from Michelle on Twitter: