Another Wild Story About Government Spying Circulates the Internet, Only to Be Debunked Later

My Friday column:

As news of Edward Snowden’s one year asylum in Russia and his subsequent departure from his stay at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow (a story for another day) broke across the internet, yet another wild claim about government surveillance circumnavigated the globe.

I’m not talking about The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald’s latest article, which I preemptively covered earlier in the week. Specifically, this was a story posted on Medium.com by a BoingBoing writer and former Forbes contributor, Michele Catalano, and it generated another tsunami of outrage porn for the anti-NSA Team Greenwald crowd.

But it turned out to be a great big nothing.

Catalano wrote that she had innocuously searched Google for pressure cookers (coincidentally the Tsarnaev Brothers’ weapon of choice), while her husband has searched for backpacks (also, coincidentally, the Tsarnaev Brothers’ luggage of choice), and her son had been reading news articles about bombings.

What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. Catalano reported that while she was at work on Wednesday, a fleet of ominous black SUVs appeared in front of her house while her husband was at home. [READ MORE]

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  • Mike Huben

    Of course this begs the question of why a former employer was examining those browsings and spotting keyword associations like that. Do our private employers have nothing better to do with their time?

    This also begs the question of why the detectives did not properly identify themselves (or the question of why Catalano’s husband didn’t demand identification or a warrent.)

    If the NSA or some other spying government agency wanted to indirectly trigger a local investigation, they would only have to tip off the employer (anonymously) that some employee had been searching about pressure cookers. I’m not fond of such conspiracy theories, but it seems just as likely as random searching by employers.

    • nathkatun7

      Sorry, your misuse of the expression”begs the question” undercuts your efforts to sound so intelligent.