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Unabomber Case and Trial

Unabomber Case and Trial

On April 13, 1996, Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski was arrested at his tiny cabin in the woods outside Lincoln, Montana. The arrest brought to a close a nearly 18-year-long manhunt for an elusive figure known as the Unabomber. By the time the manhunt ended, the FBI , the U.S. Postal Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF ), and even the U.S. Forestry Service had amassed thousands of volumes of information, including some 9,000 evidence photos, in connection with a series of explosive devices, mostly mail bombs, that killed three people and injured many others. On January 22, 1998, Kaczynski pled guilty to these crimes and began serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Thus ended the career of a troubled man who had entered Harvard at age 16, completed his master's and Ph.D. by age 25, and taught mathematics for two years at the University of California at Berkeley before dropping out to live primarily off the land, his distrust of technology festering and growing until it erupted in criminal action.

The Unabomber case began on May 25, 1978, when a Northwestern University professor became suspicious of a parcel that had been returned to him by the postal service but that he had never mailed. He called campus security, and when a campus police officer opened the package, it exploded in his hand, although he suffered only slight injuries. The university contacted the ATF, which began that day to compile what would become a lengthy forensic record of the bomber's handiwork. The bomb was the work of an amateur, made from items that could be found in a home workshop. It consisted of a 9-inch-long piece of metal pipe filled with explosive powders. The triggering device was primitive, a nail held by rubber bands that was intended to strike match heads when the box was opened. The box was made of wood, as were the plugs at the ends of the pipe.

On May 9, 1979, a Northwestern University graduate student escaped serious injury when he opened a cigar box that exploded. This bomb was more sophisticated than the first, for the bomber had replaced the nail and rubber band trigger mechanism with a battery-operated filament wire that ignited the explosives . Again, the bomb consisted of common items: tape, wires, a fishing line, a lamp cord, and wooden dowels. On November 15, 1979, a bomb triggered by an altimeter began to smolder in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight 444. The bomb did not explode because instead of explosives it contained barium nitrate, a powder often used to create green smoke in fireworks. On June 10, 1980, when the president of United Airlines opened a book he had received in the mail, he was injured when a bomb in its hollowed-out pages exploded. This bomb differed from the earlier ones because it had a "signature," the initials FC punched into the metal, which authorities would later learn stood for Freedom Club. At this point the FBI coined the term UnAbom to refer to the targets so far: Uni versities and A irlines Bom bings.

The Unabomber laid low for 16 months, until October 8, 1981, when a bomb found on the campus of the University of Utah was disarmed before it did any damage. In May 1982, a secretary at Vanderbilt University was seriously injured when she opened a package containing a bomb that the postal service was to have returned (like the first bomb) to an electrical engineering professor at Utah's Brigham Young University. Two months later, on July 2, an engineering professor at Berkeley was seriously injured after he lifted the handle on a strange piece of equipment in a faculty lounge, triggering an explosion.

Again, there was a hiatus, almost three years. Then on May 15, 1985, a Berkeley graduate student was seriously injured in a computer lab when he opened a three-ring binder that exploded. Forensics showed that the bomber had graduated to more lethal explosives, a mix of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. The bomb's shrapnel consisted of tacks, nails, and bits of lead. Stamped on the end seal of the bomb's pipe were the initials FC. Less than a month later, on June 13, a similar bomb showed up at a Boeing plant in Auburn, Washington. A mailroom clerk thought that the package looked suspicious and called the authorities, who dismantled the bomb, where again they found the FC logo. Just two days later, on June 15, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan and his assistant were injured when the latter triggered an explosion when he opened a book the professor had received in the mail. The first death occurred on December 11, 1985, when the owner of a computer store in Sacramento, California, noticed in the parking lot a block of wood with nails protruding from it. When he picked it up, it exploded with enormous force. Forensic examination showed that the bomb consisted of three 10-inch pipes filled with potassium sulfate, potassium chloride, ammonium nitrate, and aluminum powder. Again, the shrapnel consisted of sharp chunks of metal, nails, and splinters.

At this point, authorities were no closer to catching the bomber than they had been in 1978, but a significant clue emerged in February 1987, when a secretary at a Salt Lake City, Utah, computer firm spotted a stranger loitering outside. From her description, sketch artists created the now-famous sketch of a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and aviator sunglasses thought to be the Unabomber, who had placed in a block of wood in the parking lot a bomb that seriously injured the company's vice president. Forensics showed that the Unabomber was continuing to hone his skills, for this bomb contained a new, more sensitive triggering device.

The bombings then stopped for six years. They returned with new force in June 1993. On June 22, a geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco was seriously injured when he opened a wooden box inside a padded envelope he had received in the mail. A similar package mailed on the same date, June 18, arrived at the office of a Yale University computer science professor on June 23. Again, when he opened the box, roughly the size of a shoebox, it exploded with devastating force. That same day, the world received its first communication from the Unabomber in the form of a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which he took responsibility for the two most recent bombings, identified FC as the initials of Freedom Club, and promised further communications in the future.

Authorities were scrambling to solve the case, and the UNABOM task force, made up of the FBI, the ATF, and the U.S. Postal Service, was born. The task force, though, could not prevent two further lethal bombs. On December 10, 1994, an advertising executive thought mistakenly to have had a hand in trying to refurbish the image of Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster was killed when he opened a package at his home. Again, the FC logo was found in the rubble, along with the remains of a wooden box. Then on April 24, 1995, the president of the California Forestry Association was killed when he opened a package addressed to his predecessor.

In time, the identity of the Unabomber would be discovered less through clues found at the crime scenes than through clues contained in his own writing. In 1995, he sent rambling and insulting letters to various scientists. In them he warned the recipients to abandon their research, making clear his opposition to modern science and technology. The most important of these letters was the one he wrote to the New York Times, threatening further violence and claiming that both the bomb-making expertise and membership of the Freedom Club were growing. He also attempted to strike a startling deal: He would stop his activities if the Times or some other well-known newspaper published his 35,000-word "Manifesto."

The Times and the Washington Post consulted with the FBI before deciding to publish the manifesto, a lengthy rant against progress, the Industrial Revolution, and modern technology. The authorities hoped that if the manifesto was published, someone would recognize the ideas or the writing style and come forward with information about the author's identity. They were correct, for David Kaczynski read the Manifesto and concluded that its likely author was his older brother Ted. David asked a private investigator to compare samples of Ted's writing with the manifesto. The investigator in turn took the samples to linguistic specialists, who agreed that the same person wrote the manifesto and the writing samples.

Six weeks later, Ted Kaczynski was arrested. His Montana cabin was a treasure trove of evidence, containing over 700 items that amounted to a small bomb factory and thousands of pages of his journal. During nearly two years of legal maneuvering, his attorneys hoped to enter an insanity plea, but Kaczynski refused to be examined by psychologists. He relented only after he petitioned the court to represent himself and the court ruled that it would agree only if he was found psychologically fit to do so. Facing unassailable forensic evidence and a possible death penalty, Kaczynski pled guilty to the charges.

see also ATF (United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms); Bomb (explosion) investigations; Handwriting analysis.

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Unabomber

UNABOMBER

UNABOMBER. From 1978 until April 1996, Theodore John Kaczynski, the Unabomber, conducted a campaign of letter-bomb terror against people symbolizing technology. Kaczynski, a Harvard-trained mathematician, left academia for the seclusion of a shack near Helena, Montana. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski's bombs killed three and wounded twenty-three. In 1995 he threatened a reign of terror if his 35,000-word manifesto against science and technology was not published in the national media. The New York Times and Washington Post complied to save lives. David Kaczynski, his brother, recognized similarities between the language of the manifesto and his brother's letters. His tip led to an arrest and a search of his brother's cabin. The search yielded substantial evidence, and in April 1996 Kaczynski was indicted on ten counts of illegal transportation, mailing, and use of bombs, as well as murder. Because of conflicts between Kaczynski and his lawyers, the trial in Sacramento, California, which began in November 1997, was a confused proceeding. Ultimately Kaczynski entered a plea of guilty to thirteen federal charges in exchange for the government dropping its demand for the death penalty. In February and August


2001 Kaczynski lost federal appeals for a new trial, and as of 2002 he remains incarcerated.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gelernter, David Hillel. Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. New York: Free Press, 1997.

Mello, Michael. The United States of American versus Theodore John Kaczynski: Ethics, Power and the Invention of the Unabomber. New York: Context Books, 1999.

Gordon MorrisBakken

See alsoTerrorism .

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Unabomber

Unabomber or Unabomer (both: yōō´nəbŏm´ər), name given by the FBI to the elusive perpetrator of a series of bombings (1975–95) in the United States that killed 3 and wounded 23. The targets were mainly academics in technological disciplines, airline executives, and executives in businesses thought to affect the environment. Fifteen bombs—most mailed, some hand-placed—exploded, and one was defused. In 1995 the Washington Post and New York Times published the Unabomber's long, rambling manifesto after he pledged in return to end the bombings. A year later the FBI, acting on information from his brother David, arrested Theodore J. Kaczynski (1942–), a reclusive former mathematics professor, at his isolated cabin in Montana. In Jan., 1998, Kaczynski pled guilty to federal charges related to the bombings; later that year he received four life sentences plus 30 years in prison.

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Unabomber

Unabomber the media nickname for a terrorist who carried out a series of bomb attacks in the US between 1978 and 1995 as part of an anarchist, anti-technology personal crusade; because the attacks were made on academic institutions (and particularly scientists), the name Unabomber, a blend of university and bomber, was coined. Theodore Kaczynski was finally tried and convicted in 1998.

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ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Unabomber." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Unabomber." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (September 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-Unabomber.html

ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Unabomber." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-Unabomber.html

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