Todd Pinnell received an unexpected visit from law enforcement officials Wednesday morning to investigate what the Suffolk County Police Department has labeled “suspicious computer searches.”
According to a TechCrunch post, Michele Catalano, Pinnell’s wife, said that the visit from six men she identified as members of the “joint terrorism task force” probably resulted from her husband conducting a Google search for “backpacks” in close conjunction with her online search for “pressure cookers,” while her “news junkie of a twenty-year-old son” was reading the news online.
In a statement, Catalano said, “This was weeks ago. I don’t know what took them so long to get here. Maybe they were waiting for some other devious Google search to show up but “what the hell do I do with quinoa” and “Is A-Rod suspended yet” didn’t fit into the equation so they just moved in based on those older searches.”
Pinnell was sitting in his living room with the family dogs while Catalano, a freelance writer and former music contributor at Forbes, was at work when he saw six men emerge from three black SUVs in front of his house.
While conducting a cursory search of the house, Catalano said, “…they 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...”
After forty-five minutes, the law enforcement officials shook Pinnell’s hand and left.
In an e-mail statement, the SCPD released the following information related to the case:
Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee. The former employee’s computer searches took place on this employee’s workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks.”
After interviewing the company representatives, Suffolk County Police Detectives visited the subject’s home to ask about the suspicious internet searches. The incident was investigated by Suffolk County Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Detectives and was determined to be non-criminal in nature.
Any further inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Catalano reported that at the time her husband was questioned, they were led to believe that the investigation was based solely from searches conducted from within their house. They were not aware that the searches involved things her husband had looked up at his old job.
In response to the incident, Catalano said, “…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.”
“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,” she added.
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