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Michele Catalano: Terrorist!

August 1st, 2013 - 11:01 am

So this seems sane:

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.

Yeah, Michele Catalano. Longtime blogger (including here at PJ Media). I’ve known her virtually for almost a dozen years, when we both became “warbloggers” in the tense months after 9/11.

Here’s the story in her own words:

I was at work when it happened. My husband called me as soon as it was over, almost laughing about it but I wasn’t joining in the laughter. His call left me shaken and anxious.

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.

Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door.

A million things went through my husband’s head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands.

Read the whole thing, please.

You know, it would only have taken a single Google search of her name to know that Michele Catalano is no terrorist. She has nearly a million followers on Twitter, including me, in awe of her delightfully shameless sense of humor. Michele is one of the good guys, as any simpleton with an internet connection could have figured out in half a minute. But the people in charge of our security rarely rise to the level of simpleton.

Now let’s go back to where we started, with Philip Bump at The Atlantic:

How’d the government know what they were Googling?

Don’t be evil, Google.

On a broader note, I’d like to add that the first successful American counterattack in the Terror War was a passenger revolt led by Todd Beamer aboard United Airlines Flight 93. The Shoe Bomber was stopped by passengers, too. Meanwhile, the TSA sticks its fists up our collective rectums on a continuing basis and has yet to stop a single terrorist. And now we have some task force idiots showing up at Michele Catalano’s door because of some Google searches the Feds somehow got a hold of.

It’s undeniably clear now that the best defense against terror is an aroused and alert citizenry, and that the surest route to dumbassery is to give the Feds the power to spy on its own people.

We are supposed to be free citizens, not subjects, and it’s way past damn time we took that status back.

Related: Someone, Somewhere, Really Is Combing Through Your Google Search History

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I disagree, strongly, that "no harm was done". When armed government agents come get in your face and search your home without justification THAT is harm. It's harm to the people so violated and it's harm to our civil society.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hate to sound paranoid, but is it possible the raid wasn't prompted by "pressure cooker + backpack?"

Maybe the real equation was "pressure cooker + backpack + conservative blogger."
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment

What's missing here is clarity as to the threat.

In 2001, a bunch of Arabs took flight lessons but were completely uninterested in learning how to land. Everybody worried, but nobody did anything because we're not supposed to notice such things.

In 2013, a well-known blogger is visited by a tactical team because her IP address coincidentally searched on two of the innocuous components of a popular bomb design at the same time. Everybody knows she's not a terrorist, but the tac team went anyway because we're not supposed to notice such things.

It's just no damn good having this debate when we're not allowed to name the threat. We can cut off the broad-spectrum data flow to the government because they can't be trusted with it, but the country will just be panicked into restoring it the next time there's an attack. Which there will be, because the government can't be trusted to properly evaluate narrow-spectrum information on terrorism.

Because we're not supposed to notice such things.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (56)
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37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have never been a fan of most “Conspiracy Theories” (Pearl Harbor, JFK, 9/11) because at their core, they rely upon the same faulty logic……An un-proven belief that Government Workers possess some kind of super-sophisticated level human competence to bring them about. And, as such, I am not willing to ascribe to the Dolts that manage our Affairs of State such complements of intelligence or ability.

Most human/government events are a simple clusterf*ck of mismanagement, with the lazy and the stupid dutifully stumbling along in a vaguely general direction, milking overtime and waiting for a pension. The individual cogs have minimal shared information and, more often than not, units agencies and personnel are shocked or confused by the “reactions” of others above, below, and to the sides of them, to what should otherwise seem like “common sense”.

Unfortunately, people, dogs, houses, random pickup trucks and whole neighborhoods often get hosed down with indiscriminate and undisciplined gunfire that is a NATURAL BY PRODUCT of such organizational incompetence by our Dear Workers, all of whom steadfastly believe THEY were the only “smart one” in the group who saw this whole thing coming.

The most common reactions are “what were they thinking” and “how could they be so dumb”, universally applied TO all, BY all, in a circular firing squad of head shaking and “WTF was THAT all about” until SOMEONE…well after the fact… is tasked with connecting the dots and fudging the paperwork to create the illusion of “compliance” to protocol or common sense, purely for the sake of Saving Face.

It is THIS process that “conspiracy theorists” seize upon, erroneously believing it indicates PRIOR competence and INTENTIONAL execution, of some Great And Evil Master Plan.

When the most likely (unspoken) self-conclusion of those involved is “yup, we done f*cked that one all KINDS of up”

So, the two relevant points to this story are:
A) These people were in fact, rather lucky to immerge unscathed, because:
B) The Agents involved had a 50% chance responding to the wrong ZIP CODE.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
You need to update your article by stating that Michelle Catalano is a liar.

The FBI never visited her, it was the Suffolk police.

The visit wasn't because of some unlikely coincidental web searches.

It was because her husbands former employer (they laid him off) searched for "pressure cooker bomb" on his work computer and they reported him.

Her current employer should fire her also. She made herself the story and lied to do it. That is unforgivable for a journalist, or really any honest person.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
You seem to be bending the truth yourself. Was it the "Suffolk police" or a local task force doing the work of a Federal agency? And why did his employer review his search history and then give the police the impression that he was a dangerous guy? On what basis? If his employer did in fact do this then I would like to get a piece of this guys law suit against them. But more than that I would like to know the truth of the matter if anyone knows it for real.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Turns out they weren't investigating her. They were investigating her husband, because of a report filed by his ex employer about searches they found on his work computer. I guess innocence by association doesn't fly with the feds.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
“I’ve known her virtually for almost a dozen years, when we both became “warbloggers” in the tense months after 9/11 …task force idiots showing up at Michele Catalano’s door because of some Google searches the Feds somehow got a hold of …”

Hey Steve, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back for your heroic post- 9/11 “war blogger” service. It’s great that you went all the way and didn’t stop at something inconsequential like being a counter-terrorism task force agent.

As I recall the “tense months after 9/11”, a lot of “war-bloggers” critiqued the national security bureaucracy for not “connecting the dots”. As you know, to connect dots one must have a lot of them, rule out the irrelevant and then “connect” the dangerous. I have no idea why these law enforcement officers received a lead which resulted in them conducting what sounds like merely a professional “knock and talk” interview at Cataldo’s residence to rule her out, but that’s all that happened. I can think of many scenarios beyond a few Google searches in which very thorough intel might generate a false-positive lead or which has to be ruled out.

I agree with critiques that our targeting may suffer from being too PC, but even in un-PC places such as Israel one occasionally experiences close scrutiny from a member of their security bureaucracy. That’s not a “fail”, that’s normal.

Post 9/11 one “war blogger” made a rebuttal to the usual leftist whining by comparing security types to sheep dogs, always barking at shadows or noises, but exhibiting the necessary vigilance to find the occasional wolf in the fold. Post- 9/11, most folks on the Right were distinguished by the fact that they lived in the real world and understood such things. Andy McCarthy did great work recently, worrying that this is no longer the case. I guess this is progress: goofy Dennis Kucinich supporters on the Left is now matched by a goofy Rand Paul fans on the Right, worried about FBI drones potential peering under their tinfoil caps.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
That giant woooshing sound you here is the point whizzing past your head.

Meanwhile, I congratulate you for finding a supposedly right-wing way to work in the old lefty "chickenhawk" insult.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
… and speaking of “lefty” insults, calling cops “simpletons” for asking some polite questions is the sort of behavior I’d expect from President BHO.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
They were simpletons; they jumped from search terms to intent. Why the show of force? Why not a phone call?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Why not a phone call?"

Because the more effective way to clarify intent, etc. in an investigation is via a report which begins, "Mr. Catalano was located at his residence, identified and interviewed ...".
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Polite questions? When armed men in casual clothes show up at your house, and begin to encircle it, so you cannot escape, well, THERE IS NOTHING POLITE ABOUT THAT!

Polite is when they get a little background on you, first, to see if they need to waste taxpayer dollars by sending 3 gas-guzzlers and six agents to your house. Then, if they still have a question, they can send two men, both properly attired to politely ask.

Btw, showing up like that, in number and casual clothes and armed, is a good way to get shot in some neighborhoods. The moment they start to encircle the house, some war vet is gonna get spooked, and start shooting first, and it would be entirely legal.

The walk to the house is considered semi-public domain, for approach. Going around the back is trespassing, and since it is clearly a threatening move, without identifying yourself as police, it is grounds to shoot first and ask questions later.

This was all kinds of stupid.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"some war vet is gonna get spooked, and start shooting first, and it would be entirely legal". - perhaps under Joe Biden "warning shot theory"

"THERE IS NOTHING POLITE ABOUT THAT" - The post from Catalano describes what sounds like polo shirts and 5.11s w/badges displayer, weapons holstered and permission requested to interview and enter the residence ... hardly a SWAT raid.

Actually, I would prefer they dressed in proper business attire, but it sounds like these guys were locals on a task force or ICE or ATF SAs, not FBI. Even FBI standards have fallen since 9-11. I was by an FBI FO in 2006 and they had routine casual Fridays. Also, just then other day in a major East Coast city I saw an agent walking on the street w/polo shirt, docker pants and badge and holster visible on his belt. That would have been unacceptable in the 80s and 90s.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
In PLEATED Dockers, and a big fat belly...god help us if we need him to jump a fence...or use that firearm competently without shooting up the entire neighborhood....I know the type all too well.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Except if you start shooting at police or feds they will call up an army to murder you in your own home just because they can. Then they will go to any lengths to smear your reputation and good name.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well you're the one who gave out purple prose high-fives for "warblogger" service in the "tense months after 9/11" in your post above.

As I recall, the distinguishing feature of "war-bloggers" in those days was their realism about steps necessary to secure the country, at home and abroad.

If you want to obsess about a couple of well dressed officers in SUVs asking a few questions to your friend, be my guest. But it is the sort of lack of balance and disconnect from the real world that your colleagues, and you too , Steve, did good service critiquing in the "tense months after 9/11".
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's your regular pseudonym, "new MarcH"?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It used to be just, "MarcH". I had to convert during the great PJM shift.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
The point -- that giant whooooshing sound you so willfully ignore -- is HOW did those agents end up on Michele's lawn? Dumbassery, pure and simple, plus the kind of federal data-mining, enabled by a tech giant, which the American people should not have to endure.

And do please keep reading too much into the phrase "tense months." It's not a pat on the back; it's an honest and simple description of the time. Nobody, warbloggers or otherwise, deserves any special praise for having, -- what? -- noticed that the months were tense?

Run along now. There are some of us who were taking civil liberties seriously even in those "tense months," and continue to do so today.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Civil liberties”? Whose civil liberties were violated? I missed the part where a warrantless search or illegal custodial interrogation occurred.

The bottom line is police officers were politely, routinely and lawfully covering a typical terrorism lead in order to clarify an ambiguous situation. I’m sure the Catalanos are entirely unconnected to any crime from terrorism to jaywalking, but it is possible that the task force agents had additional information which they’ve not yet gotten around to releasing to Vodka Pundit and which precipitated their investigation. A voluntary interview and walk-through is a simple and quick way to resolve a lot of questions.

The American people have a choice. The legal threshold to permit non-intrusive investigative techniques to clarify ambiguous situations can be raised as high as you please, even to a requirement of “probable cause”. That will certainly decrease the sort of police activity to which you object. On the other hand, the police will be a lot less effective.

I seem to remember from the “tense months” after 9-11 (if I may use the phrase) that war bloggers helped made the case that pre 9-11 counter-terrorism efforts had been crippled by Clinton era restrictions such as the “Chinese Wall” between intelligence collection and criminal investigations and the hoops FBI (unsuccessfully) attempted to jump through to get a FISA warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer.

You may feel a lot more uncomfortable with these techniques now than ten years ago, but the terrorism threat will persist for the remainder of our lifetime.




37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The bottom line is police officers were politely, routinely and lawfully covering a typical terrorism lead in order to clarify an ambiguous situation. "

Speak for yourself dude. I would be highly upset by such an episode. This is a free country and we have rights to be left alone especially on our own property unless there is an obvious threat to others or cause to believe that a crime is/was being committed. None of this even remotely passes that test. And i'll bet the dog - if he had one - would have been shot when it objected in dog fashion to such "polite, routine and lawful" trespass.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Damn Straight...from an "anonymous tip"?
And "married to conservative blogger" had NOTHING to do with it, huh?
When they get REAL tips, from REAL intelligence agencies, about REAL suspicious Muslims, visiting REAL jihadi sites, and travelling to REAL terrorist havens, and do nothing.
Sure.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well at least this wasn't handled by a swat team shooting the dogs. Other than that the totally surveilled state is now officially here.

Oh, and car aplomb!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please note: On September 2 (after the symbolic date in Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged), there will be a online mass pro.testing. People has to google the wrong things... ALL the wrong things, and this needs to be massive. Talk, tell your friends, preach on.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm sure that Andy McCarthy will be along shortly to tell us that this is actually a good thing.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
If some scum bag informant claimed this guy had a tiny pot plant, all of his animals, including himself would be dead. I don't condone this event at all. However, this is how you conduct an interview, instead of a RAID! The guy calmly allowed access to his person, answered Q's and that was that. No laser scopes, machine guns, and the absence of tactical gear. I would not have allowed them into my home, but wearing clean suits and asking questions worked. Versus screaming curses, heavy artillery and dog shooting.If some scum bag informant claimed this guy had a tiny pot plant, all of his animals, including himself would be dead. I don't condone this event at all. However, this is how you conduct an interview, instead of a RAID! The guy calmly allowed access to his person, answered Q's and that was that. No laser scopes, machine guns, and the absence of tactical gear. I would not have allowed them into my home, but wearing clean suits and asking questions worked. Versus screaming curses, heavy artillery and dog shooting.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guys with tiny pot plants growing at home typically worry about scum bag informants … it can disrupt the school yard pot biz
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry for double post. Can ya tell it's my 1st post?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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