We live in a world where everyone with a keyboard and a wi-fi connection has the potential to stir up trouble. I’m speaking this time of a hugely false rumor circulating around the web about the government monitoring a family’s home internet connection and then searching their home.
I saw the “actual” story when it hit the news, but that was quickly buried under articles from both news agencies and bloggers – anything to prove the government is spying on us, huh? The original article was boring, and fairly short. The rumor mills circulating the web when I woke up today, however, were a totally different story.
Here’s the story as it has been circulated around the web. Michele Catalano’s house was searched by six agents from the JTTF after she searched for pressure cookers and her husband searched separately for backpacks. The next thing you know, black SUVs are swarming the home and agents are searching the house. Oh God, the government is harassing innocent people for internet searches!!
Here’s what ACTUALLY happened:
A computer company called the police after they reviewed the internet search history of one of their ex-employees. (No, I don’t know why he’s an ex-employee, only that he doesn’t work there anymore.) Anyway, the computer audit revealed searches for “Pressure Cooker Bombs” and “Backpacks”. Yes, the employee himself stupidly used a workplace computer to search for the same terms that have been ALL OVER the Internet these last few months, ever since the Boston bombing.
Truthfully, it was probably an employee who had a few minutes of free time, and his curiosity was roused about the topic. I’ll be honest – I did it. One of the first things I searched online , while simultaneously loading news pages, was “pressure cooker bomb” and “why does a pressure cooker make a good bomb” and similar search inquiries. Like many, I was curious what made the bad guy think of using a pressure cooker? Is there something about the pressure cooker that makes the bomb more effective? It’s a valid curiosity for anyone to have in light of recent events.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have Google searched “Pressure Cooker” and “Backpack” innocently in the last few months. No one has had their house searched.
In this instance, an overly conscientious computer company employee saw suspicious search histories in the browser records of a former employee and decided to call the cops just in case. In my opinion, he did the right thing. I mean, we DID just have a guy kill a bunch of people that way, right? It make perfect sense for a computer security search to flag those kinds of search results.
However, I can 100% guarantee you that the federal government is NOT searching homes because of people’s random search terms. If they were, I’d have been one of the first homes they searched.
Let’s take a look at my last few months of internet usage.
- I have guns, lots of them. My amazon wish lists are full of accessories and modifications for my pistols, AR-15, ammo storage containers, and other firearms related items.
- I recently got into canning – which requires a pressure cooker. That too is only my amazon public wish lists, along with canning lids, books on canning, and other accessories.
- My other wish list has tactical knives, tomahawks, backpacks, rifle slings, camping gear, flares, and the like.
- And even more recently, I uploaded YouTube videos of my family experimenting with Tannerite, the only legal explosive you can buy on the market.
- After getting to use tannerite, I went on youtube and google and performed MANY searches with keywords such as “tannerite and gasoline” and “tannnerite explosive” etc.
So let’s aggregate this into what the NSA or JTTF would want to look out for and see what happens, ok?
- I buy firearms, regularly.
- I buy lots of ammo – a fact backed up by my credit card receipts.
- I have wish-lists of items that include accessories for high-powered rifles, scopes, silencers, and other related shooting supplies.
- I don’t like our government very much right now – anyone that’s read my blog knows that. It’s no secret.
- I buy legal explosives and then show people on YouTube what they do.
- I recently purchased two pressure cookers – and a hot water bath canner, but that’s beside the point.
- My blog posts, search histories, and amazon lists contain combinations that, upon scrutiny by the federal government, would DEFINITELY raise flags if there were flags to be raised.
Believe me, if the federal government were searching out individuals for raids and home searches, I’d be one of the FIRST ones they’d call on if you based the criteria solely on internet searches.
You know what, just for giggles, I just Google searched “how to assassinate the president” (which, if you’re curious, takes you to a Wiki on President Obama)
Further, in the event that has made headlines, you’ve probably heard that the FBI searched this family’s home, or that the Joint Terrorism Task Force (a division of the FBI) performed the search. No. The officers were plainclothes officers from the county’s police detectives division – responding to a tip from a computer guy that someone that used to work for them was searching out pressure cooker bombs. Neither the FBI, nor the JTTF were involved in any way with this story.
Trust me folks, the media doesn’t always bother to get their facts straight; a fact that I know firsthand after being under their eye for almost an entire year.
Now, if you want something to REALLY stop homemade terrorists, consider a petition to take Tannerite off the shelves of sporting goods stores. I’ve been testing this stuff in the yard and on the rifle range for the last few weeks, still amazed that it’s legal to buy. Basically, it’s an exploding rifle powder that, when impacted at significant velocity, creates on helluva fireball and explosion.
After using it myself just to see what it would do, I decided two things.
1) I really like this stuff! Shooting is fun. Shooting and then watching something blow to pieces is a LOT of fun.
2) This stuff shouldn’t be legal to buy in stores.
If you’d like to see what eight ounces of Tannerite can do to a 14 inch 4×6 post made of salt treated wood, check out this video we made in the yard the other week. I was expecting a poof, maybe a bang and a poof… nope.
Why is it legal? It’s legal because it comes in a plastic jar with two powders that are stored separately. The two powders are inert by themselves. (for those that failed science class, that means they can’t go boom). However when you open the two plastic bags, pour them into the container, and mix them thoroughly, you can now make one hell of an explosion if you drop the jar hard enough.
My first thought after using this stuff was “If someone wanted to do something really bad, all they need to do is duct tape one pound of this stuff, at a cost of about $4 from your local sporting goods store, to a 1 gallon can of gasoline and you could take out everyone in an office building from 300 yards away with a 22 rifle.”
THAT is scary. I’m VERY careful with it and to be honest, I’ve pretty much quit buying it unless someone says “What’s the big deal with it?” – at which point I run down to the local store, pick some up, and we go shoot it. I admit, it’s funny to see the look on their face when something the size of an aspirin bottle can blow a hole through a steel plate.
Ok, big segue there.. sorry..
I’d like to make ONE more point for readers to keep in mind:
WHAT YOU SEARCH ONLINE AT WORK IS NOT PRIVATE!
I run an IT firm as most of you know. One of the most common things we get is calls about viruses on employee’s computers, or employees wasting time on the web when they should be working. The very first thing we do is remove the virus. The SECOND thing we do, is search that computer’s history for what the user has been viewing, what they’ve been searching, etc. Then we tell the employer or IT person how to stop it in the future.
Occasionally we get the smart user that thinks Google’s incognito feature means they’re invisible to their employer and that no one will know they’ve been on Facebook all day. People like that keep me in business. Keep this in mind – you CAN wipe your browser history, or search incognito, but it throws up obvious red flags to a guy like me that’s looking to see what you’ve been doing.
Since we cant tell what you were doing from looking at your history, we just go over to the router on your network, pull the logs from the router, and that tells us EVERYTHING you’ve done on the company computer. Nothing you do at work is private and you have no right to assume it is.
Even if it’s your computer you’re using, you still likely run through your employer’s wireless network, meaning the router is still logging your activity. And yes, absolutely, if I were to search a client’s network and come up with results that included “bomb, pressure cooker, backpack” or other obvious worrisome results, I’d be obliged to inform the employer, and they in turn would likely be obliged to inform local police – just to clear their own conscience.
So, unless your job involves you scouring the news headlines for a living, maybe you should just do that at home – where no one else is monitoring your connection.
OK…I’ve gotta get back to work. Sorry this was such a long post.