In a conversation with The Atlantic Wire, FBI spokesperson Peter Donald
confirmed The Guardian's report that the FBI was not involved in the
visit itself. Asked if the FBI was involved in providing information
that led to the visit, Donald replied that he could not answer the
question at this point, as he didn't know
Edit: Interesting that asking for evidence warrants downvotes.
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
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.
So FBI became JTTF, which in turn became Nassau cops?
This is why we should all stop listening to the 24 hour news machine and wait a while before everything is cleared up and fully presented. This is a developing story and clinging to one or two tidbits finagled from the authorities here and there aren't going to cut it.
It makes full sense that the FBI would get a report and share with local law enforcement (members of JTTF) to follow up. I'm still very skeptical that this all originated with google searches, but the story of "JTTF agents" checks out.
So it's certainly possible that three black SUVs worth of the local sheriff's deputies, all of whom were members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, showed up to question her about her internet searching.
Or this fiction writer is not portraying an accurate version of the events.
The officers are basically deputized as JTTF members. It's a common model that's been around for a long time. For example, the US Marshalls have a fugitive task force for picking up suspects with arrest warrants and the DEA has something similar for drug raids.
Just *who* came to the residence beyond some scary
looking guys in SUVs who said they were FBI.
That comment also had the complaint about downvotes for asking for evidence before I replied.
I agree that there is no concrete evidence that the police showed up as a direct result of them searching for specific keywords. There probably never will be. But how would she prove it? Could anyone prove it in public? Would any investigation that looked into the matter ever be declassified? Could Congress hold a hearing in open session and get answers about the incident?
Unless her husband had a recording of the conversation she claims happened here:
"Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker
bomb?" My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them
if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure
cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them
admitted they did.
Or unless one of the officers involved in that conversation confirms the conversation happened as she reported, we'll never know.
It is completely reasonable to be skeptical of her interpretation of the event. But it is also reasonable to wonder about the consequences of living in a society where her interpretation is a reasonable one, even if it is unlikely. Before Snowden's leaks many people would declare her a nut for even thinking her searches could be related to the investigation. Now we have evidence that the story could happen as she presented it, even if it didn't in this case.
Local governments are governments too. Just because the Feds didn't show up doesn't mean this isn't highly problematic behavior. The fact remains that harmless private communication was used as an excuse to interfere in the lives of ordinary citizens. This is what is so problematic about it.
EDIT: After reading some more critical comments, I should state that I am ASSUMING what she said is true - that the agents actually asked her about Internet searches. I have to admit that she could just be making that part up.
The Guardian says they confirmed that there was a visit, and were told that it was a local police force.
The Atlantic's headline was updated to reflect that.
Besides, in the original article, she said the guns were holstered when they were talking to her husband and from the tone, they were cordial and shook his hand before they left. Hardly a "raid".
So I don't think it can be dismissed as a friendly encounter. I would certainly feel extremely discomforted by such a visit.
IANAL: They took a gamble by letting them in the door without a warrant. That opened themselves up to legal liability, regardless of "nothing to hide" innocence.
If they had found anything that looked suspicious, it would be a different story. They lucked out, this time.
A law school professor and a police investigator teach a class of law students why you can gain nothing by talking to the police:
I agree that we need more information before jumping to conclusions, but the additional context you're providing doesn't give me much comfort.
But local cops acting dumb is a different story entirely than LOCAL COPS WATCHING OUR GOOGLE SEARCHES.
M-66 explosives that look like firecrackers.
I don't doubt that some law enforcement officers from some agency showed up at her doorstep for some reason. And I can accept that there were - at some point - questions about bombs for some reason or another.
But I suspect that her internet searches contributed to this appearance is (at best) hysteria or (at worst) convenient mistruths.
From the article, "the Suffolk and Nassau police, which The Guardian reported were the authorities that effected the raid".
As to the downvotes: you could have pointed out the discrepancy between "Feds" and "cops" (the article's title was changed to reflect that) without turns of phrase such as "we have only her word", "hearsay", "I'm not calling her a liar".
"The Suffolk County Police Department released a statement this evening that answers the great mystery of the day.
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."
Considering the hostile skepticism on the thread about the article Ms Catalano posted, I would not be surprised if other people (especially those without professional writing credentials and a million-strong twitter audience) had decided not to come forward with their stories in the past.
There is nothing wrong with skepticism, and I would dispute that it was "hostile". We can't just go around accepting every story we read because it is a story we want it to be real.
Why is it that a private citizen is automatically doubted when they make a claim that is easily verifiable but when the government makes a claim that has been repeatedly contradicted by multiple people over the span of years, including at least two sitting US Senators, the government's claims are taken at face value?
Shouldn't her story get a minimum benefit of doubt until some independent reporting can be done on the claims? Especially when everything she claims is plausible given what is known about the government's capabilities.
Uh, didn't really give me a chance to answer there, did you?
I would say that the vast majority of people were skeptical of government claims that Snowden was lying. So the rest of your post is describing a situation that I did not witness.
I don't think hyperbole is necessary. In this case the facts are scary enough (i.e. most people don't consider the police an armed gang).
Who wants the government to have virtually omniscient awareness of their activities?
Actually a significant portion of the population DO consider the police an armed gang, and have done so for quite some time. For starters, poor people in urban areas. The difference is that now wealthier people are starting to be treated the same way poor people have been treated all along.
Growing up I was far more scared of the police than anyone else in what was not a very nice area.
This wasn't cultural conditioning either.
It was the experience of being routinely stopped, questioned, accused, intimidated and occasionally humiliated by being made to partially disrobe. It makes for a terrible feeling of powerlessness when someone else can do whatever they want to you at any time and any effort to avoid much less rebuke the situation will only make it worse.
At least one friend of mine from that time is now a police officer. His experience has only confirmed the prevalence of this ugly "at war" mentality in in law enforcement.
The police are the very definition of an armed gang. Just a legally sanctioned one.
They have a monopoly on violence - what else would you call it?
Unfortunately, after the drug war stuff started ratcheting up + 911, the proper balance has shifted.
With a knee on your back, your face pressed against the ground, barely able to breath and watching your wife going through the same thing. You then might re-evaluate the hyperbole, but you most likely won't because of the feral panic state you would be in.
Because the militarization of police, and the increasing use of SWAT, are trends that argue against this.
What if next time instead of sending regular officers they send in SWAT?
Give it another few years of militarizing the police force. Government-funded vigilantes with an uniform and a pack of laws to protect them from the consequences of their own abuse is a recipe for succes, tried and tested from China to South America.
and report back if you get a visit from a squadron of men dressed in green wearing helmets and holding guns. If any reporters clicked on the https link, it's PRISM because the leak is from inside Google, otherwise it's XKeyscore. If we get results from both we are really fucked.
Or were you too scared to search? I know I was...
That was authored by the AQ Chef, the late Anwar al-Awlaki, who was pressure-cooked by a Hellfire missile in 2011. His article supposedly guided the efforts of the Boston Marathon bombers.
On the enterprising side of things I guess you could sell a product with that name on Amazon and get a lot of traffic?
Now might be the time for Coleman to make a portable pressure cooker that you can take hiking with you. A "Wilderness Meal Device", if you will.
Get involved in politics.
It's tempting to believe you can enact change from your desk chair, writing smart code and angry tweets to outwit the spies and inform the people. Well, we're not there just yet.
The people making the decisions that lead to these events - the most powerful people in the world - grew up in an age where, to produce change, you would get out into the streets and stir things up. Step out of your comfort zone, address the public and bring them to your side. Many people don't see the harm in a surveillance state. To prevent one, you must show the public why it is a bad thing and how they can speak out.
Democracy only works when your views are heard by those with the power to bring change. Not the background rumble of a subjugated people, but the articulate demands of an informed electorate with high-profile spokespeople and popular support.
You're right that getting things started is non-trivial, but as other commenters have pointed out there are a fair number of organizations already driving for change who would appreciate "a few minutes or hours every once in a while". Here are a few:
Please add more if you know any!
That's exactly the type of thing I meant when I said "Sure, you can send a letter or call an elected official". On a smaller scale, you can also vote; worth mentioning because a shockingly high number of people don't. However, all of those actions only add momentum to efforts started by others.
- Grassroots community organization (outreach via political, workers' and church groups)
- Fundraising and lobbying (PG, would you donate to an anti-surveillance group?)
- High profile/celebrity spokespeople
- Smart media coverage
- Content production (documentary films, etc)
- Dealmaking amongst political organizations
- All the other tools in a politician's playbook
Heck, I just found this: http://www.policeelections.com/
This is the prime moment. Society is currently used to privacy and it's just been revealed that the government has been invading it at an unprecedented level. And nothing happened. Imagine what it will be like when the news dies out and this becomes the norm.
The government rarely if ever releases powers once it gets them. Even if it did, all it takes is one minor crisis to bring it all back in the name of fighting the enemy.
A Long Island woman named Michele Catalano posts photos of M-66 explosives (that look to me like extra-large firecrackers) publicly on Facebook. A few weeks later the local cops show up and ask her husband if they have any bomb-making equipment. Instead of drawing the most likely conclusion, she instead blames this on local Long Island cops MONITORING HER GOOGLE SEARCHES:
You of all people know what a powerful adversary apathy is.
If lies were used to scare people into supporting these programs, they can be used to scare people into abolishing them.
I'm curious, what darkness do you see in ordinary citizens lying, or drawing unfounded connections between events, to try to shift the political system and social consciousness toward more freedom? Are you one of those people who views telling the absolute truth as a categorical imperative? How much of the anti-British rhetoric of pre-revolution United States (colonies) do you view as lies? A lot of political activity, advertising, and news involves lies of some type (omission, accidental lies, misleading statements... not just answering "yes" when you know the true answer is "no").
The quote is from Göring at Nuremberg, but it holds true regardless.
Furthermore, the media concocts completely fabricated narrative hung upon zero to minimal facts all the time, to devastating effect. I refer you to the whole Snowden's girlfriend thing, or the Martin/Zimmerman thing, or the recent "google something and feds arrive" thing.
It's all made-up bullshit that people buy into en masse. It causes them to become so passionate about their adopted stance, even contrary factual data later will be ignored.
Public opinion _will_ be managed, and policy _will_ be changed as a result. This is the playing field we stand upon today, like it or not. (Personally, I hate it - but I do not deny the state of affairs.)
The enemy has demonstrated a willingness to lie endlessly to obtain and sustain illegal power over us.
The path is clear. I vastly prefer to be effective than unimpeachable.
How to resist warrentless searches (roadside checkpoints): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4Ku17CqdZg
What I've often wondered is if we could just troll them somehow. Something to the effect of, if at every traffic stop everyone said, "I'm not sure, but I think it's possible there's a kilo of heroin in my trunk."
Obviously more thought is necessary for the idea, and you'd need a big campaign, but for non-terrorism related issues (nth disclaimer, my view differs from much of HN on that subject) it's time for the government to stop searching citizens on a regular basis.
I literally can't believe we have roadside checkpoints, which we all know aren't simply for DUIs, and "stop-and-frisk" as fully condoned policy in American cities.
I don't judge anyone who because of fear, history, immigration status, responsibilities, etc doesn't want to go toe to toe with a cop, but it's simply not true that the cops will usually just arrest you. Usually they back down, and occasionally escalate the situation.
I would not joke about having a kilo of heroin in your trunk as that gives probable cause for the search.
I'm certainly not suggesting that people don't avail themselves of their legal rights, quite the opposite. I'm just pointing out that there can be potential consequences for which one should be prepared.
But I can tell you a significant amount of police officers will become very aggressive, and I've been threatened with arrest on numerous occasions.
Having the luxury of knowing several great attorneys personally and professionally is all that kept me from spending a night in a jail cell once when I refused a street search of my person.
Those YouTube videos exist because they show extraordinary events, not common ones. Ask anyone in Northeast DC how it went last time they tried to assert their rights.
>It is possible to get (and fight) and charge like Obstruction of Legal Process
I can also say that once charged, it's a lengthy, difficult, and expensive process to prove your innocence, even when it's blatantly obvious. The prosecutor wants a win on his record for his statistics, and will hold charges over your head or threaten to add additional charges to attempt to force a plea bargain. I've seen it happen all the time.
>I would not joke about having a kilo of heroin in your trunk as that gives probable cause for the search.
That would be the point. If enough law-abiding citizens force the police to conduct pointless searches, we could tie up resources. It's not a fully formed suggestion, just a blue-sky brainstorming idea of sit-in type legal activities to protest unreasonable search and seizure.
Do you do this when re-entering the US from abroad?
I do this every time (assert my right to remain silent when questioned) and it usually results in my arrest, thorough search, and detainment for between 1 and 12 hours.
One time they sent the bus without me and then kicked me out of the border point with no phone or transportation in northern Vermont in a snowstorm in February.
Being a US citizen, they have to let me in, but they sure don't like doing it, so they go to every effort to threaten, intimidate me, and ruin my day (despite my maintaining a 100% professional and polite attitude throughout).
> Those YouTube videos exist because they show extraordinary events, not common ones.
Over 90% of the time I assert my right to remain silent at the US border, I get arrested and threatened and harassed for >3 hours.
I do commend you for doing that though. It takes true courage and conviction. You're doing a national service. Sincerely, thank you.
I suppose it's the same reason a lot of people vote: I see it as my civic duty as a US citizen.
If only criminals use the 5th, then using the 5th becomes reasonable suspicion. That sucks. All US citizens have an individual responsibility to prevent that.
The following link is not mine.
For the record, I'm one of those annoying activists and in many (hundreds?) of police encounters I have never been arrested while filming and arrested twice while asserting my rights to not be detained for no reason.
I think it's almost a moral duty, if you're someone who doesn't get targeted by the police anyway, and have little to lose (except comfort) from a night or two in jail, that you take a hardline stand against police overreach, but I would never begrudge anyone who doesn't chose to do so for whatever reason: personal comfort level, kids at home, immigration status, prior record, etc.
I wish someone sold a discrete, always-on dashcam and personal cam that uploaded to a remote server, with an encryption setup so that only the user could unlock it. It would be useful for personal protection, both from criminals and the police. Little brother may be the best way to fight back against Big Brother.
They are trained to make you give up your rights voluntarily, not to abuse them and possibly have a lawsuit etc on their heads.
(Note: this may not apply if you are not white)
As a non-US citizen, if I come to the US on holiday, what rights do I have, if any?
[edited to add]
Answering my own question, this PDF from the ACLU seems to have some answers:
"Non-citizens who are in the United States—no matter what their immigration status—generally have the same constitutional rights as citizens when law enforcement officers stop, question, arrest, or search them or their homes. "
"Non-citizens at the border who are trying to enter the U.S. do not have all the same rights. "
Note: at the border none if this applies. It is pretty much a "rights free zone"
In the interests of accurate reporting, perhaps the HN headline should be corrected as well?
Of course, the bigger story is that Googling anything shouldn't lead to a visit from domestic law enforcement, because access to search records of American citizens should be protected by the Fourth Amendment.
What rights FISA, Patriot Act and the other laws regarding surveillance from US agencies give to non-Americans?
I don't want to carp at Americans, I'm just genuinely curious of what exactly generates the distinction between Americans and non-Americans.
So from a legal standpoint, there isn't anything in the Constitution that prohibits gathering the communications of those in other nations, and it's actually specifically statutorily authorized.
Also, to note quickly, this is the norm rather than the exception in Western and Western-style constitutions. The American Constitution comes up in this context more often simply because of our outsize presence on the world stage.
It is generally assumed, that a country's law applies to two groups of people: those in its territory, and citizens of the country. The Constitution is American law, therefore it applies to two groups of people: those in the U.S., and citizens of the U.S. abroad.
Here's where I'm getting confused: if the laws of a country do not apply to someone who is not a citizen of that country, why do the laws of the United States let the US spy on non-Americans? (Or any other country, for that matter)
Of course, this is the traditional Westphalian model that is beginning to cede to voluntary associations of sovereign states that solve their disputes in freely associated bodies, e.g the WTO, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court.
These bodies really ultimately have no binding authority except that granted to them by the states of which they are composed, but reciprocity and social norms are starting to give us a ladder out of pure anarchy. That's really been the project of international relations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
>The Guardian confirmed with the FBI that the agency was aware of the visit, but that it was conducted by local police on Long Island.
1. There's no confirmation that Google searches led to the visit, yet the article reports it as fact (headline).
2. Most if not all Google searches are encrypted over HTTPS nowadays.
3. It's local law enforcement, and while NSA info may be shared, it's unlikely that an illegal top secret NSA program targeting citizens would be shared in this manner, 100 times a week.
4. As user declan noted, the more likely cause is other information PUBLICLY SHARED ON FACEBOOK, such as this image one of them posted of high-powered fireworks: https://plus.google.com/112961607570158342254/posts/FWAVRVaN...
Real soon, I hope!
Their culinary ignorance is nearly as upsetting as their disregard for citizens privacy.
Of course, the FBI/Police/JTTF/KGB don't have that excuse.
It's not exactly cheeseburgers.
You can see it published in April by the Las Vegas Review Journal (click their right arrow on the slideshow a few times):
Use of the extremely misleading photo makes me question the integrity of the rest of the article.
I don't even like what I just said, but it's an idea.
The conditions for this kind of help from the tech world, would be
1. They access bits of information without receiving a full copy from the origination source.
2. They allow congress to pass privacy laws that make sense for the country.
3. They must provide an API to your own data... after all, they do use your personal email address as the search key......
Or, they need to shut down.
I know it's not on topic, but with everything coming to light, it would not surprise me. Was it ever discovered how News Corp got the private voicemails for their stories?
The idea that switching one black box for another black box will save you from this is absurd.
Granted, you still have to take DuckDuckGo's word for it, but I wouldn't call that "absurd".
See the recently leaked slides on X-Keyscore.
Is there anything EXCEPT terrorism we'd want to have cracked down on that closely??
http://www.dbms2.com/2013/07/29/what-our-legislators-should-... spells out some consequences of this reasoning.
Presumably there are few people comfortable with the government having such fine grained detail on your activities.
What's that? The infrastructure is indistinguishable? Pshaw.
Note, I'm not questioning whether these men were members of such a task force. I'm questioning whether they're capable of asking non-stupid questions.
Mount your ipad on your wall and start calling it a telescreen.
Why are we allowed to search for underwear without federal scrutiny, and why are we still allowed to wear underwear on planes?
Is there a line somewhere?
The picture has NOTHING to do with the story.
The story boils down to: "a lady claims to get a visit from the feds after googling some stuff".
She herself says that:
They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to. https://medium.com/something-like-falling/2e7d13e54724
This is lazy and exploitive reporting by all parties.
- She was visited by government authorities.
- Those government authorities were federal agents.
- She was visited because of what she searched.
Of those three parts, the first was the only one confirmed (the second, I believe, was proved false.)
>Correction: After confirmation from the FBI that its agents weren't involved in the visit, the headline of this piece was changed to "Visit From the Cops" instead of "the Feds.
 yes, DoE has SWAT teams: http://reason.com/blog/2011/06/08/dept-of-education-swat-tea...
Maybe the "Public and Media Affairs" department is the most appropriate for some honest self-snitching: firstname.lastname@example.org