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New York woman Googles ‘pressure cookers,’ gets raided by police

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2013

A woman in New York says six police banged on her door and demanded information about her personal life — including specifics about her husband's job — shortly after she Google-searched for the phrase "pressure cookers."

Michele Catalano, a Long Island resident, said she was visited by what she called members of a "joint terrorism task force" on Wednesday, Raw Story reported.

The visit coincided with her husband's Internet search for backpacks, her search for pressure cookers, and her "news junkie" son's search for the latest information related to the Boston Marathon bombings. The Internet searches created a "perfect storm of terrorism profiling," she said, Raw Story reported.

A pressure cooker filled with shrapnel had been used in one of the bombs at the Boston Marathon attack a few months ago.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations denied on Thursday that its agents had participated in the home visit, The U.K. Guardian reported. But a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that "she was visited by Nassau County police department" officers who "were working in conjunction with [the] Suffolk County police department."

Ms. Catalano was at work during the visit. But her husband was in the living room — and she later blogged about the experience for the political online magazine Death and Taxes.

"What happened was this," she wrote, relaying how her husband was in the living room and heard a couple of cars pull up about 9 a.m. He then looked out the window and saw three black SUVs, blocking the driveway. Six casually dressed men approached the house — "two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door," she wrote.

She continued: "He walked outside, and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands." He then allowed them into the house, and agreed to let them search around the house, though "it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf ... looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son's bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be."

Then police started "peppering my husband with questions," she wrote.

Examples of the 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." They also asked, Ms. Catalano wrote: "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."

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the FBI did point fingers at the Nassau County and Suffolk County police — but officials with those departments refused to confirm their roles. The Post reported that a public information officer with Suffolk County would only say that she would comment after she received more details about the incident.

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