We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
At his small wilderness cabin near Lincoln, Montana, Theodore John Kaczynski is arrested by FBI agents and accused of being the Unabomber, the elusive terrorist blamed for 16 mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 during an 18-year period.
Kaczynski, born in Chicago in 1942, won a scholarship to study mathematics at Harvard University at age 16. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, he became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Although celebrated as a brilliant mathematician, he suffered from persistent social and emotional problems, and in 1969 abruptly ended his promising career at Berkeley. Disillusioned with the world around him, he tried to buy land in the Canadian wilderness but in 1971 settled for a 1.4-acre plot near his brother’s home in Montana.
For the next 25 years, Kaczynski lived as a hermit, occasionally working odd jobs and traveling but mostly living off his land. He developed a philosophy of radical environmentalism and militant opposition to modern technology, and tried to get academic essays on the subjects published. It was the rejection of one of his papers by two Chicago-area universities in 1978 that may have prompted him to manufacture and deliver his first mail bomb.
The package was addressed to the University of Illinois from Northwestern University, but was returned to Northwestern, where a security guard was seriously wounded while opening the suspicious package. In 1979, Kaczynski struck again at Northwestern, injuring a student at the Technological Institute. Later that year, his third bomb exploded on an American Airlines flight, causing injuries from smoke inhalation. In 1980, a bomb mailed to the home of Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, injured Wood when he tried to open it. As Kaczynski seemed to be targeting universities and airlines, federal investigators began calling their suspect the Unabomber, an acronym of sorts for university, airline, and bomber.
READ MORE: Why It Took 17 Years to Catch the Unabomber
From 1981 to 1985, there were seven more bombs, four at universities, one at a professor’s home, one at the Boeing Company in Auburn, Wash., and one at a computer store in Sacramento. Six people were injured, and in 1985 the owner of the computer store was killed—the Unabomber’s first murder. In 1987, a woman saw a man wearing aviator glasses and a hooded sweatshirt placing what turned out to be a bomb outside a computer store in Salt Lake City. The sketch of the suspect that emerged became the first representation of the Unabomber, and Kaczynski, fearing capture, halted his terrorist campaign for six years.
In June 1993, a lethal mail bomb severely injured a University of California geneticist at his home, and two days later a computer science professor at Yale was badly injured by a similar bomb. Various federal departments established the UNABOM Task Force, which launched an intensive search for a Unabomber suspect. In 1994, a mail bomb killed an advertising executive at his home in New Jersey. Kaczynski had mistakenly thought that the man worked for a firm that repaired the Exxon Company’s public relations after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. In April 1995, a bomb killed the president of a timber-industry lobbying group. It was the Unabomber’s last attack.
Soon after, Kaczynski sent a manifesto to The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying he would stop the killing if it were published. In 1995, The Washington Post published the so-called “Unabomber’s Manifesto,” a 35,000-word thesis on what Kaczynski perceived to be the problems with America’s industrial and technological society. Kaczynski’s brother, David, read the essay and recognized his brother’s ideas and language; he informed the FBI in February 1996 that he suspected that his brother was the Unabomber. On April 3, Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in Montana, and extensive evidence—including a live bomb and an original copy of the manifesto—was discovered at the site.
Indicted on more than a dozen federal charges, he appeared briefly in court in 1996 to plead not guilty to all charges. During the next year and a half, Kaczynski wrangled with his defense attorneys, who wanted to issue an insanity plea against his wishes. Kaczynski wanted to defend what he saw as legitimate political motives in carrying out the attacks, but at the start of the Unabomber trial in January 1998 the judge rejected his requests to acquire a new defense team and represent himself. On January 22, Kaczynski pleaded guilty on all counts and was spared the death penalty. He showed no remorse for his crimes and in May was sentenced to four life sentences plus 30 years.
Fitzgerald's career in law enforcement began in 1976 as a police officer in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania. In 1987, after eleven years of local police work culminating in his promotion to the rank of sergeant, he was recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Upon graduation from the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Fitzgerald was assigned to the New York Field Division's Joint Bank Robbery Task Force. In 1995, Fitzgerald was promoted to Criminal Profiler at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, which would later become the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, or BAU. Through myriad investigations of homicide, serial rape, extortion, kidnapping, and workplace violence, Fitzgerald refined his skills in forensic linguistics and threat assessment, specialties that were used in the UNABOM investigation. His work profiling the author of the Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto was integral to solving the case. 
Fitzgerald was also responsible for developing training programs and tools to improve the threat assessment capabilities of the FBI. Among these is the Communicated Threat Assessment Database (CTAD),  an exhaustively indexed repository of data consisting of every communicated threat encountered in the course of FBI investigations.
Fitzgerald has remained active in the fields of criminal profiling and forensic linguistics since retiring from the FBI in 2007, holding positions as adjunct faculty at both Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Stockton University in Pomona, New Jersey, and California University of Pennsylvania in California, Pennsylvania. He continues to work as a private consultant and technical advisor to free media productions, such as Criminal Minds and Sleepy Hollow. Fitzgerald served as a consulting producer in the Discovery Channel's 2017 miniseries Manhunt: Unabomber,  which features actor Sam Worthington as James "Fitz" Fitzgerald, described by Fitzgerald as "a composite character" of many investigators in the Unabomber case. 
When the Unabomber Was Arrested, One of the Longest Manhunts in FBI History Was Finally Over
The Unabomber cut a swath both deep and narrow through the country’s psyche. His attacks were frightening and unpredictable, but, in the later stages of his 17-year terror campaign, he emerged from the shadows as a vengeful philosopher bent on changing history. He was a riveting, infuriating figure. I wanted to write about him, but not from the police point of view and not speculatively, when nobody yet knew who he was. He finally came into focus, for me, at his trial. I covered it, and in the end surprised myself by thinking that he had been deprived of his day in court.
“Ever since my early teens I had dreamed of escaping from civilization,” he later told an interviewer. He built a bare-bones cabin in the woods near Lincoln, Montana, where he lived without electricity or indoor plumbing. He hunted and gardened and kept to himself, eating squirrels, rabbits, parsnips, berries. In 1978, he began sending parcel bombs to scientists, businessmen and others whose work enraged him.
Law enforcement dubbed him the “Unabomber” because his early targets were universities and airlines.
In American History
His eclectic, anti-technology beliefs were completely idiosyncratic and drew their inspiration from the conviction that a technophile elite in world society would soon control the global population and, in the process, destroy human freedom.
Second, Kaczynski’s lengthy bombing campaign sparked an intensive wave of media attention and resulted in much heated paranoid rhetoric about the identity of the mysterious figure. Because no group ever took responsibility for the bombings, the U.S. media and law-enforcement “profilers” generated numerous theories about the perpetrator’s identity.
Some of these pointed to the bomber’s alleged antisemitic beliefs, due to the Jewish names of a few targeted victims, while other theories suggested that the suspect was either an extreme right-wing populist or a mentally unbalanced thrill seeker.
Despite spending approximately $50 million in their nearly twenty-year search, authorities long remained stymied in the effort to apprehend the serial bomber whose modus operandi involved mailing concealed explosive devices to university professors with research specializations in fields including genetics, psychology, and computer science, as well as to some corporate executives.
Given the pattern of the bomb attacks, which commenced in 1978 and resulted in the deaths of three victims and the wounding of over twenty others, authorities began to call the case “Unabomb,” a reference to the university-oriented targeting preferences of the unknown assailant.
The Unabomber’s eventual arrest took place following the September 1995 publication in the New York Times and Washington Post of his rambling magnum opus, a 35,000-word manifesto entitled “Industrial Society and Its Future.”
In letters to both newspapers, the Unabomber offered to end his attacks if his lengthy, apocalyptic statement of anarchist principles was published. Although initially reluctant to submit to this blackmail, the newspapers were urged by FBI Director Louis Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno to agree to the strange proposal in the hope that readers of the manifesto might recognize its author.
Following the full-length printing of the essay, a major breakthrough was made in the case. Having discerned similarities between the writing in the Unabomber’s manifesto and the letters of an eccentric family member, David Kaczynski alerted FBI officials about the connection he perceived to his brother, Theodore Kaczynski.
The origins of the Unabomber’s route to violence were unusual. Born in 1942, Theodore Kaczynski grew up in a middle-class home in the suburbs of Chicago. He excelled at school and, at age sixteen, entered Harvard on a scholarship to study mathematics.
From 1962 to 1967, Kaczynski was enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he pursued a Ph.D. in mathematics and ultimately was awarded the annual Sumner Meyers Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in the field. In 1967, the shy and introverted Kaczynski was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley.
Within two years, however, he resigned his position and, following a brief period of travel in the American West and Canada, purchased a tiny piece of property in the mountains near the hamlet of Lincoln, Montana. At this remote site Kaczynski constructed a small cabin and spent the next twenty-five years living the life of a mountain recluse.
The Unabomber’s Conspiratorial Belief System
During his long stay in the rugged mountains of western Montana, Kaczynski shaped the highly idiosyncratic, extremist philosophy that led him to adopt a violent strategy. A lifelong lover of nature, Kaczynski harbored deep concerns about the rapid growth of a vast industrial and technological “system” which he felt was leading to great social disruption and the extinction of the natural world.
In his view, modern technology and those who advanced it threatened an older and more pristine way of life, one that involved living simply and in interdependence with nature.
He saw the early nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution, in particular, as the marking point from which human society began to degenerate on a “supertechnological” path that left people powerlessly dependent on the “progress” made by modern science.
The institutions of science and technology not only had disastrous consequences for the environment, but, according to Kaczynski, also stripped people of their individualism and autonomy as they became pawns in a modern system of global technology dominated by governments, corporations, and other large organizations.
In his manifesto, Kaczynski laid out with great precision the conspiratorial plot he saw being employed by an elite, global class of technocrats, scientists, and “leftists” bent on subjugating human society to the power of the industrial-technological system.
Believing that the growing infiltration of supertechnology into everyday existence would further erode at human independence, Kaczynski argued that the ruling “technocracy” was creating a slave race with an ever-diminishing connection to the ideal, primitivist life he advocated.
While his politics have been a matter of some debate, Kaczynski makes clear in his manifesto his hatred of “leftist collectivists,” whom he considered (along with the technological elite) to be playing an active role in the degradation of human freedom.
As he pointed out in his treatise, the political Left benefited from the technological collectivization of humankind insofar as this trend made it impossible for dissident groups and individuals to control the circumstances of their own lives. Kaczynski believed that the “collectivist philosophy” of the Left, while superficially appealing to many, actually masked a darker impulse to control human behavior.
Although he spoke for no one other than himself in his manifesto, Kaczynski attempted to convey that a small group of revolutionaries (named “FC” to suggest the existence of a multi-person “Freedom Club”) opposed the industrial system and was engaged in planning its destruction.
His idealized plan involved having this revolutionary cadre work to weaken the economic and technological foundations of modern society to such a degree that a popular revolution against it would be possible.
In addition, he maintained that a “counter-ideology” to that of modern technology had to be developed and propagated in order to replace the current system in the postapocalyptic period when “Wild Nature” again returned to guide the course of humankind.
From the tenor of the manifesto, Kaczynski clearly believed that the industrial system was already unstable and heading for collapse. However, he believed that its ultimate destruction would take much time and require the assistance of a determined minority of revolutionaries absolutely devoted to the task.
His package bombs, sent to those perceived to be associated with the scientific, organizational, and technological aspects of the system, appear to have been an effort at expediting the revolution by fomenting chaos in the time before the death of the current civilization.
In fall 1997, in Sacramento, California, Kaczynski faced trial in federal court on numerous counts of illegally manufacturing and using bombs, as well as three counts of murder. After receiving the reports of psychiatrists, Kaczynski’s lawyers devised a defense that portrayed their client as insane.
However, Kaczynski refused to cooperate with the legal strategy and, instead, pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for the prosecution’s word that the death penalty would not be sought. Kaczynski is currently incarcerated at the “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving four life terms without possibility of parole.
One thought on &ldquo How the FBI Caught the Unabomber &rdquo
This claim that the FBI profiling experts caught Ted Kozinski is laughable. It was Ted’s brother, David Kozinski, who led the FBI to finding his brother. Faced with an anguishing choice of betraying his brother or letting the murders continue, David chose to save lives – even his brother’s. He insisted that the DOJ take the death penalty off the table in return for him providing documents that led them to his brother.
The much-heralded FBI profilers have been wrong time after time, wasting time and resources chasing the wrong people while letting the actual culprits escape detection. Think Richard Jewell, the Beltway Sniper, the botched ID of Steven Hatfill in the 2001 Anthrax Case. These are just a few of he people whose lives were ruined by the use of profilers, a junk science that has never been validated in a scientific study.
April 3, 1996: Unabomber Nabbed in His Montana Hideout
To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.
To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.
1996: Ted Kaczynski is arrested by the FBI at his cabin outside Lincoln, Montana. The Unabomber's reign of terror is over.
Kaczynski turned his anti-technology, anti-industrial obsessions into the most sustained mail-bombing campaign in American history. Between 1978 and 1995, he mailed 16 bombs that killed three people and injured another 23. Although most of his intended victims were college professors and scientists, Kaczynski targeted others as well, including an advertising executive and the head of the California Forestry Association. Both were killed.
His "Unabomber Manifesto," which read like a deranged libertarian screed as much as anything else, assailed leftists and their "collectivism" even as it warned of technology's dangers. It preached an extreme form of individualism, positing an anarchic world where people would be free to "control the circumstances of their own lives." It was a rambling, occasionally incoherent diatribe.
But a verbatim publication of his 35,000-word Manifesto was a condition the Unabomber demanded for ending his bombing campaign and, upon urging from the Justice Department, both The New York Times and Washington Post complied, printing the entire document in their Sept. 19, 1995 editions.
Kaczynski had baffled investigators for years but his finally luck ran out when his younger brother, David, recognized the writing style behind the Manifesto and alerted authorities. With a suspect to work with, the FBI quickly pieced together enough evidence to make an arrest.
Kaczynski plea-bargained his way into a life-without-parole sentence at the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado, where he languishes to this day.
In final, ironic twist, a number of items seized from Kaczynski's Montana cabin during his arrest were auctioned off on the internet in 2006.
Today in Media History: Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski arrested in 1996
On April 3, 1996, the news media reported that Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski had been arrested.
The Unabomber used mail bombs during the previous 17 years to kill three people and injure 29.
In 1995 he agreed to desist from terrorist activities if the Washington Post or The New York Times published a copy of his manifesto.
On September 19th, 1995, the publishers of the Times and Post issued a joint statement explaining why they decided to publish his manuscript. Although the full document only appeared in the Post, both newspapers shared the cost.
The Unabomber trial began in November 1997. Kaczynski plead guilty in exchange for life in prison.
This story excerpt comes from the April 4, 1996 edition of the Seattle Times:
“LINCOLN, Mont. — For years, locals called him ‘the hermit.’ Yet, in an odd sort of way, the man now suspected of being the Unabomber seemed to fit in just fine with the people of Lincoln, Mont.
When Ted John Kaczynski, 53, was taken into custody yesterday for his possible connection to deadly bombings since 1978, many residents of this rural town were surprised to learn his real name.
For at least 10 years, they knew him only as ‘the hermit’ — the disheveled, silent man who lived in a one-room cabin and rode his clunker bicycle into town every few weeks.
….Bob Armstrong, a retired salesman, said ‘nobody seemed to know much about him,’ commenting only on the fact that he was always on a bicycle and ‘dressed real ragged.’ ‘I find it hard to fathom,’ he said, that Kaczynski might be a serial bomber….”
Page one news from the Salina (Kansas) Journal:
Here is the September 19, 1995 statement by the publishers of The Washington Post and New York Times:
Statement by Donald E. Graham and Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.:
“For three months The Washington Post and The New York Times have jointly faced the demand of a person known as the Unabomber that we publish a manuscript of about 35,000 words. If we failed to do so, the author of this document threatened to send a bomb to an unspecified destination ‘with intent to kill.’
From the beginning, the two newspapers have consulted closely on the issue of whether to publish under the threat of violence. We have also consulted law enforcement officials. Both the Attorney General and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have now recommended that we print this document for public safety reasons, and we have agreed to do so.
Therefore, copies of the Unabomber’s unaltered manuscript are being distributed in today’s Washington Post. The decision to print was made jointly by the two newspapers, and we will split the costs of publishing. It is being printed in The Post, which has the mechanical ability to distribute a separate section in all copies of its daily paper.”
— “Statement by Papers’ Publishers“
Washington Post’s 1995 special report about the manifesto
and the Unabomber trial
(The special report includes the manifesto.)
The following CNN video describes how the capture of the Unabomber relied on information from Theodore Kaczynski’s brother. (See Also: The network’s 1997 online special report.)
The Unabomber maintained a revealing friendship with a stranger
Ted Kaczynski lived in the woods of Montana for 25 years, honing his bomb-making skills and becoming more angry and reclusive as the years passed. His primary — and sole — form of communication with the outside world, albeit limited, was through letters and correspondence with his parents and his younger brother, David Kaczynski. And he wrote to a Mexican man he never met . perhaps the only sustained relationship the recluse maintained.
Beginning in 1988, Kaczynski corresponded with Juan Sanchez Arreola, sending the man about 50 letters, all written in formal Spanish and addressed to "my very dear and esteemed friend," according to The Baltimore Sun. David Kaczynski met and befriended Arreola, a farmhand, while living in Texas. It was he who suggested that Arreola correspond with Ted Kaczynski, who had studied Spanish.
The letters Kaczynski penned to Arreola spoke of his "reclusive life in a Montana cabin, his difficulties finding a job and hunting rabbit for food, his disappointment at not having a wife and children and his fascination with Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary," according to The New York Times. Ted Kaczynski, whom Arreola called "Teodoro," even sent gifts for his pen pal's children . a carved wooden cylinder painted with a Latin inscription "Mountain Men Are Always Free." The children used it as a pencil holder.
The correspondence from Kaczynski abruptly stopped a few months before federal authorities arrested him in April 1996 on suspicion of being the Unabomber.
The Unabomber Case
For more podcasting platforms please view our listing on transistor.fm or subscribe to episodes with email.
Steve Lewis: April 3, 1996. Two FBI agents and a U.S. Forest Service police officer knock on the door of a 10-by-12-foot cabin secluded in the Montana mountains.
They’re at the home of Theodore Kaczynski—the man who had become known to the world as the Unabomber.
That knock was nearly 20 years in the making: The investigation into Kaczynski had started back in 1978, after he’d left the first of his homemade explosive devices in a parking lot near the University of Illinois in Chicago.
To catch the brilliant recluse who had been disciplined about leaving few clues, the FBI had to rethink its investigative strategies, lean on the media in a new way, and turn to the public for help.
It’s been 25 years since the arrest of the man who mailed and placed 16 bombs—three of them deadly. To mark this anniversary, our host, Kristen Fletcher, revisited the case with the FBI leader who helped get those agents to that cabin door and the special agent who got inside the mind of a deadly terrorist.
I’m Steve Lewis, and this is Inside the FBI.
Kristen Fletcher: By 1993, some people thought the Unabomber was dead.
He had placed his last bomb in February 1987 in the parking lot of a Salt Lake City computer store.
That day, an employee watched a man leave an item near some of the parked cars. The bomber noticed the woman watching him from the window, but he calmly walked away.
Minutes later, the store owner’s son pulled into the lot and picked up the item, which looked like boards with nails protruding from the top. It exploded on contact—sending him to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
That bomb was similar to one left in the parking lot of computer store in Sacramento, California, 15 months earlier. That bomb had killed the store’s owner.
After the Salt Lake City bomb, though, six years went by—and nothing. Perhaps the Unabomber had died or simply decided to stop.
But then, on June 22, 1993, a geneticist at the University of California opened a package in his kitchen—and a bomb exploded. Two days later, a prominent computer scientist from Yale lost several fingers to another mailed bomb.
Not only was the Unabomber alive, but his campaign of violence was growing more intense.
Several months later, in the early spring of 1994, Special Agent Terry Turchie was happily sitting at a desk in the FBI’s Palo Alto office. He had a view of Stanford’s campus and a portfolio of national security investigations.
Then came an offer from FBI Headquarters that Turchie could not, in fact, refuse: Take over the UNABOM task force.
Here’s Turchie recounting that conversation:
Terry Turchie: He said, “When do you think you can be here? How quickly can you get up to San Francisco from Palo Alto?”—which was in the South Bay. So I said, “Well, Ed, I have a number of things to wrap up, of course, so how about a couple weeks?”
And he said, “How about this afternoon at about 2 or 3 o’clock?”
And that was pretty much the end of my time in Palo Alto and the beginning of my time on UNABOM. And that 45-minute drive to San Francisco that afternoon was a really long drive.
Fletcher: Turchie said some good work had already been done on the case. The Bureau had formed the UNABOM task force in 1993 to bring together all of the investigating agencies—including ATF and the Postal Inspection Service—but progress had stalled. And after nearly a year of examining the bombings—some of which were 10 or 15 years prior—many of the investigators and analysts were looking to move along.
Turchie: So, the challenge was time, and the challenge was figuring out how to keep people focused on this case when their morale was kind of starting to drop pretty considerably.
Fletcher: Turchie knew he was going to need a new approach.
But let’s start with what they did know in 1994.
First, the Unabomber was called the Unabomber because universities—that’s the U-N—and airlines—the A—were the early targets of his bombs.
Turchie recounts what he saw in the investigation, so far spanning 16 years and 14 bombs.
He begins with the first known UNABOM device.
Turchie: The May 1978 bomb was interesting because it was found at the University of Chicago Circle Campus and it had $10 in uncanceled stamps, but it was not mailed. It was just left by a car. That kind of stood out.
The third bomb was interesting because it had been placed on an airplane. Most people don’t realize that almost immediately in the Unabomber’s career, he could have brought down an airplane and killed many people. But that third bomb, which was on that plane in 1979 flying from Chicago to Washington, D.C., simply malfunctioned and didn’t work right. So that became important to us as well.
The fourth bombing was also in the Chicago area. It was mailed to the president of United Airlines at the time, Percy Wood. It was mailed to his house, and it was preceded by a letter.
By 1985, there were four bombs, and they included a mail bomb from Salt Lake to a professor James McConnell at the University of Michigan. He was a psychologist.
And like the Percy Wood bomb, this bomb was built into a hollowed-out three-ring notebook. And there was a letter, though, with the bomb—this time with the package—and it was a request of Professor McConnell to review a student’s so-called master’s thesis in a topic called the history of science.
This would become so important to us that—I didn't know it, of course, then, but as I was reading all this—that a few months later, it would become one of the discoveries that would start us off on a number of investigative projects that had to do with writing.
The fourth and final bomb, of course, in 1985, was the bomb that killed Hugh Scrutton, the owner of Rentech Computer Store in Sacramento, in December of 1985.
By 1987, he shows up again at another kind of strip mall computer store called CAAMS, only this time it’s in Salt Lake City. And once again, kind of a major UNABOM event.
The subject is seen by a witness inside the CAAMS store. And this is where the artist rendition comes from—the composite drawing showing the man in the gray hooded sweatshirt and the aviator sunglasses.
After being seen and leaving that bomb also next to a wheel of a car, the bomber dropped out of sight for six years and just kind of disappeared.
We heard nothing from him until 1993.
Fletcher: That’s when the case came alive again, with those two mailed bombs.
Turchie made some changes to the task force in consultation with the head of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. They were going to engage in a deep reinvestigation of each bombing—a process he knew would be long and would feel fruitless and frustrating at times.
So he asked everyone to choose another member of the task force to partner with. His thinking was that they could bounce ideas off each other and keep one another’s spirits up.
They hired an outside computer consultant to clean up and compile all the data they had into a single database. That would allow them to better review suspects referred through the tip line.
They created a document called UNABOM Known Facts, Fiction, and Theory. And during a regular cycle of meetings, they assessed and reassessed this document—adding and deleting from it as theories were developed, dismissed, and re-evaluated.
And they grew the team, often relying on new agents and other personnel who they trained on their own. Each member was included in every detail of the investigation—regardless of their role.
Turchie: Every FBI employee—not just FBI agents—every FBI employee working on this case needs to be at these meetings, and everybody’s opinion counts.
So, in other words, we were asking everyone to be highly involved in every aspect of this investigation as far as being in a position to render an opinion or give their ideas and thoughts.
Fletcher: Central to the re-investigation in Turchie’s mind was to take a fresh look at the bomber himself.
Turchie wanted an updated profile, and he felt Special Agent Kathleen Puckett—who’d been on his counterintelligence squad and was now working toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology—was the person to do it.
Here's Kathleen Puckett on the difficulty of creating an extensive portrait of the suspect she described as the most careful serial bomber anyone had ever seen.
Kathleen Puckett: This guy left practically no way to trace back any evidence that was left at the scene—parts of the bombs, components, anything else. He was a real cipher.
The profiling unit usually has a lot of evidence at a scene to review to come up with a profile of an unknown offender. In this case, they had no latent fingerprints, no hair and fibers that led anywhere, not even—even, in some of these devices along the way, the batteries were even stripped. You couldn’t even trace the batteries back to where they were purchased or acquired. And a lot of the wood and different things looked just like junk that was picked up by the side of the road.
Fletcher: With the reinvestigation of each crime, however, the task force began to piece together more of the bomber’s background. The first device tied to the Unabomer, which had been found in that parking lot in 1978, had clearly been meant for the mail. It was addressed and stamped, and there was a mailbox not far away.
So why was it left on the ground?
It was during one of those task force meetings that Turchie threw out the idea that maybe the bomb just wouldn’t fit in the mailbox.
To test the theory, they recreated the dimensions of the device and consulted postal records on the size of the mailbox that was at the site in 1978.
Sure enough, it would not have fit.
Puckett and Turchie said that small detail—and a closer look at the other early bombings—helped the task force determine that the bomber knew the Chicago area well. They figured he may have lived there and used it as his base early in his bombing campaign.
The team also reexamined the few cover letters that had preceded or been attached to some of the bombing devices. Given the Unabomber’s caution about leaving physical evidence, those letters were a rare source of needed clues.
One mentioned a book called Ice Brothers that the team went back and read—trying to suss out what messages may have been in the text of the book. He also mentioned a somewhat obscure field of study, called the history of science, in the letter attached to another bomb. It turned out only a few universities offered the history of science as a course of study Harvard and Princeton were among the few.
Puckett said they got another rare glimpse into the mind of the bomber when he started communicating more directly—in 1993, he sent a letter to The New York Times.
Puckett: The letter said, essentially: We are an anarchist group we are the anarchist group FC. And, you know, by the time you receive this, something significant will have occurred.
And then what fascinated me was the statement, “If nothing goes wrong.” And I thought, “Okay, this is the caution. This is the very careful preparation. He’s older. He’s more speculative. He’s more, he's less—he's more controlled than we initially might have thought he was.”
Fletcher: Despite what he’d written, they knew the bomber was not part of a group. No group could stay that tight, that undetectable, for so many years.
As 1994 drew to a close, Turchie said the task force was making progress and was feeling more positive as the pieces came together. But then the investigation hit its low point.
In December 1994, a powerful bomb killed an advertising executive in his New Jersey home. His wife and toddler had just left the house when the bomb detonated. In April 1995, another strong device killed the president of the California Forestry Association.
Kathleen Puckett said so much of the focus of the past investigative work had been on trying to find clues by looking at the victims. Were they linked to the bomber? Were they linked to each other?
Puckett saw something else.
Puckett: None of the victims knew each other. None of them had anything in common. None of them had been to school together or had a fraternity membership or, you know, worked in business or anything like that. Very, very disparate. And we thought, you know, he’s picking these people up out things he’s reading. He's not—he doesn’t know any of these people.
Fletcher: His focus, she believed, was on the deadliness of his bombs—they had grown more sophisticated and dangerous over time.
And on his secrecy. After he was seen in 1987, he disappeared for a number of years and never placed another bomb. The rest were all sent in the mail.
He would do anything to avoid being caught.
In the summer of 1995, the Unabomber reached out to the media again, this time with an offer: Publish his writings, and he won’t bomb again.
He sent several publications a dense, long essay called Industrial Society and Its Future. His manifesto.
The question now in front of the UNABOM Task Force: Do we publish this?
The first conclusion was no—we don’t give in to terrorists. There would be no exchange of publication for a thin hope that the violence would stop.
But eventually, the UNABOM Task Force changed its mind. After consulting with FBI leadership and the attorney general’s office, they decided to ask the newspapers to publish it.
The reasons were twofold. First, Kathleen Puckett was all but certain that the promise to stop bombing was hollow. She did not believe the Unabomber would stop—or could.
Second, the manifesto, with its unique ideas and very particular phrasing, spelling, and word choices, was going to look familiar to someone. And the writing would help flesh out the other things the task force had learned and begun to push out to the public through media announcements.
Here’s Turchie again on how they focused the public’s attention after a long string of bombings.
Turchie: By now we're telling people it’s not, like, as random as it looks. The Unabomber had familiarity and a nexus. Chicago, '78 to '80. Salt Lake City, '81 to '82, maybe as late as '85. San Francisco Bay area, from '85 on. Cory Hall, UC Berkley. That’s a big factor in this. Think of all that, and now look at this composite. Look at this man in 1987 with the gray hooded sweatshirt and the aviator sunglasses.
By the time the manifesto came, the public was actually focused and compartmentalized on this message. So we had now a huge piece to add to this.
Somebody would recognize this. Because, first of all, the writings were very passionate, and it was obvious—and Kathy made a big appeal on this in one of our meetings—that there’s no question this man really believes in what he’s writing here. So, he probably held these beliefs his entire life. And so that became the basis to now put that into the mix.
Fletcher: The team hoped it was enough. That someone would put it all together.
Terry Turchie laughs as he recounts a briefing on the case he did for Attorney General Janet Reno.
She asked him, “How will you know the Unabomber when you see him from the thousands of other people you get calls on?”
To which Turchie somewhat sheepishly responded, “I think we’ll know it when we see it.”
And then he held his breath until the attorney general looked back at him and said, “I believe that, too.”
The manifesto was published as a special section within the September 19, 1995, edition of The Washington Post. Between publication date and February 1996, well over 50,000 people called the UNABOM tip line.
Only one call ended up being significant.
A lawyer representing the family of David Kaczynski called the FBI’s Washington Field Office to say his client recognized some of the writing in the manifesto. He sent an essay his client’s brother, Ted, had written. There were enough similarities in the writing to get the immediate attention of agents.
Ted Kaczynski was UNABOM suspect number 2,416.
Born in Chicago, he was a brilliant mathematician who started at Harvard at 16. He went onto get his Ph.D. and taught briefly at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1971, he bought a small piece of land in Lincoln, Montana, where he moved and began living largely off the land.
As the UNABOM task force members learned more about Kaczynski—from his family and from reviewing more of his papers and files and records—they became more and more certain they had the right guy.
But on April 3, 1996, they knocked on the door of his Montana cabin with only a search warrant. They would need more evidence to arrest him.
And there was a real fear that he was so careful, so smart, so determined to cover his tracks, that they would find no physical evidence to tie him to the crimes.
But Turchie said a quick glance into the cabin that day made it clear that the tiny space was a literal bomb-making factory.
Turchie: What was really interesting is on the shelf across the back of the cabin—and this is what struck us when we looked in there—there were these containers, and they were labeled. And one was labeled with the chemical compound for potassium chlorate. And there was sodium chloride—that had its chemical compound labeled number.
There was sugar and zinc and aluminum and lead and silver oxide—all these compounds had shown up in various UNABOM devices. All of them, according to Pat and Don, our explosives guys, could be used to make explosive mixtures.
And that wasn’t all. There were other items on the shelves that were literally bomb components. And they were in, like, Quaker oatmeal cans and things like that. But they consisted of things like pieces of metal and plastic pipe and C-cell batteries and electrical wire.
Fletcher: They arrested Kaczynski for possessing explosive materials and continued the search over the next several days.
Turchie: By the time we were finished the first 24 hours, we had to stop the search because there was a live bomb under his bed, wrapped and essentially ready to mail, except it did not have any address or indicator of where the victim might be or who the victim could be.
Fletcher: Kathleen Puckett had been right—the Unabomber did not plan to stop.
The cabin also held extensive writings that included diary entries on all of his crimes.
Turchie: There was a small manila envelope. And in that envelope there were admissions and confessions to all 16 UNABOM crimes in detail.
In some selected notes, he said: I finally was ready to begin my bombing campaign in May of 1978. I had everything ready. I did a great job. I get on the bus. I go to Illinois. I cover myself. Nobody knows I’m there. I get out there and my bomb doesn’t fit in the mailbox.
Fletcher: Theodore Kaczynski eventually agreed to plead guilty to all charges. As of this recording, he is 78 years old, serving life in prison with no possibility of parole.
It was a long road, but the work Turchie and his task force did paid off—and with the help of an aware and informed public, they stopped a killer.
Turchie: And that is the lesson, really, that came out of UNABOM. The way that we organized, and the fact that we never gave up.
Fletcher: To learn more about the case, visit fbi.gov/unabomber. We have a video of a reconstruction of the Unabomber’s cabin and more details on the case.
Also, be sure to listen to part two of this series as we dig into how the UNABOM case has affected the FBI’s counterterrorism work, what the terrorism threat looks like today, and how the FBI is working to prevent future attacks.
Special thanks to Terry Turchie—the former deputy assistant director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division—and Kathleen Puckett, who was a founding member of the FBI National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program. Both are now retired from the FBI.
This has been a production of Inside the FBI. I’m Kristen Fletcher with the Office of Public Affairs. Thanks for listening.
How the FBI nabbed the Unabomber — 25 years ago
He was arguably the most elusive suspect in the history of American criminal justice who tested the stamina of the FBI in one of the longest and expensive manhunts ever known.
The prolific assailant known as the Unabomber outwitted authorities for nearly two decades before his arrest.
Between 1978 and 1995, the meticulous serial bomber sent dozens of untraceable packages through the U.S. mail that ultimately left three people dead and 28 injured.
The perpetrator stayed out of sight until 1987, when a witness in Salt Lake City saw a suspicious man planting one of the crude homemade devices in the parking lot of a computer store. The bomb exploded after the person picked it up, causing severe shrapnel wounds.
The victim survived, and for the first time gave the FBI a clue that had remained a mystery for the first nine years of the investigation — a description of the shadowy suspect, which led to a composite sketch that has since become the most indelible relic to emerge out of the case.
The spookish drawing by renowned forensic artist Jeanne Boylan showed a mustachioed man with curly hair, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and aviator sunglasses. It was the only tangible lead authorities ever had since the first bomb was planted at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1978. In that incident, the Unabomber had targeted an engineering professor who found the package suspicious because the box was marked with his return address but he knew that he never sent it.
Nine years later, the sighting of the bombing suspect in Utah seemed to be a crucial turning point in the investigation as the sketch was distributed across the country and emblazoned on the cover of magazines. But it would take federal authorities eight more years to learn the Unabomber’s true identity.
Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a Harvard-educated mathematician, was tracked down to a remote cabin in the woods of Lincoln, Montana, where he was finally taken into custody on April 3, 1996 — 25 years ago.
By the time of his arrest, the once clean-cut assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, had grown into an eccentric 54-year-old hermit — alone, aloof, paranoid and disheveled.
His 17-year reign of terror was finally over.
Kaczynski killed and maimed professors, scientists and business leaders whom he felt were directly responsible for the decline of modern society through their promotion of technology and industrial development.
After a promising start as one of the youngest mathematics professors in 1967, Kaczynski became uneasy with his academic career and resigned from Berkeley without explanation after only two years on the staff, according to reports.
In 1969, Kaczynski moved in with his parents for a short time and by 1971 had moved into the obscure Montana cabin where he would ultimately be caught. He purposely constructed the shanty with no electricity or indoor plumbing — human advances that he had come to detest.
Reports said he rode a bicycle, worked odd jobs around town and volunteered at a local library, where he read voraciously to occupy his time. He ate by hunting small game and picking berries from the wilderness around his isolated dwelling.
Around 1975, Kaczynski — now in his 30s — began carrying out acts of sabotage including arson and booby trapping against developments near his cabin, The New York Times reported.
By 1978, he upped the stakes and began mailing and hand-delivering bombs to random victims.
The Unabomber’s first device blew up at the Chicago university in 1978, which injured a campus police officer, according to the FBI. A second bomb, concealed inside a cigar box, was sent nearly one year later to Northwestern University but caused only minor injuries to a graduate student.
Also in 1979, another bomb was discovered in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., which failed to explode but released smoke that prompted an emergency landing.
The FBI connected all three bombing incidents and gave the suspect the moniker “Unabomber” because two universities and an airline had been targeted.
And the attacks continued. Kaczynski was smart and patient, spreading out the time between bombings over months and sometimes years to throw off investigators. He also would use red herrings, such as scribbling irrelevant letters and initials on bomb parts.
His bombs grew more sophisticated through the years and impressed authorities.
The materials Kaczynski used left no paper trail as he purchased nothing and made everything from hand with ordinary materials.
His bombs were “intricate, tripwire-type” devices built out of wood instead of metal pipes. It was also later discovered that Kaczynski wore gloves and even vacuumed the compartments of the bombs, which allowed for no traces of DNA, hairs or fibers.
The bombs never exploded while being delivered through the mail but would detonate only as the package was opened.
Through the years, 16 bombs exploded, one after another, frustrating federal authorities who remained clueless to the man’s identity and whereabouts.
His early targets included Buckley Crist, a professor of materials engineering at Northwestern University, who was uninjured.
Also Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, who was wounded but survived one of the bombings in 1980.
Two years later, Janet Smith, a secretary at Vanderbilt University, sustained shrapnel wounds and burns to her face, but she survived.
The next victim was an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who suffered burns and wounds.
Three years later, in May 1985, a University of California, Berkeley graduate student lost four fingers.
Six months after that, a bomb injured a psychology professor and research assistant at the University of Michigan.
Then in December 1985, Hugh Scrutton, a computer store owner in Sacramento, California, became the first victim who was killed.
Two years later came the bombing in Utah where the Unabomber was first sighted and the composite sketch made.
More than six years would pass before the bomber struck again.
In 1993, Kaczynski mailed a bomb to the home of Charles Epstein, who lost several fingers when he opened the package. Later the same year, David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale, lost the use of his right hand, and suffered severe burns and shrapnel wounds but survived.
Thomas Mosser, an advertising executive, was killed in an explosion at his home in North Caldwell, New Jersey in 1994. Kaczynski later told investigators that he wanted to kill Mosser due to his work to repair the public image of Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
The final bombing came in April 1995, when Gilbert Brent Murray, a timber industry lobbyist, was killed by a mail bomb addressed to previous president William Dennison, who had retired.
Throughout the 1990s, Merrick Garland, the current U.S. attorney general under President Joe Biden, oversaw the investigation as the principal associate deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. At the time, his role in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice coincided with other high-profile cases including the Oklahoma City bombing and the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
The iconic sketch of the Unabomber ultimately proved inconsequential in his capture, and in 1995 Kaczynski made a critical mistake.
After years of reclusive silence, he began mailing his political writings to newspapers, including a 35,000-word manifesto called “Industrial Society and Its Future,” which was published in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Kaczynski’s estranged brother, David, saw the essay in the newspaper and immediately recognized the extreme viewpoints, which reminded him of letters Ted had written years earlier. Eventually, David Kaczynski took these personal letters to authorities, and linguistic experts made a positive match.
On April 3, 1996, dozens of FBI agents descended on Ted Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin, where they found a live bomb and a “wealth of bomb components” as well as the original manifesto manuscript, plus “40,000 handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of Unabomber crimes.”
The manifesto “was his undoing,” said former FBI agent and ABC News contributor Steve Gomez.
The trial judge refused several attempts by the former professor to fire his legal team and represent himself, and Kaczynski pleaded guilty in January 1998. He was sentenced to four life sentences at the “Supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colorado, where he remains.
In 2011, the FBI launched a probe into whether Kaczynski had been responsible for lacing several bottles of Tylenol with cyanide in 1982, another shocking whodunit from the same time period of his bombing spree. Kaczynski revealed the investigation in a court filing, saying the FBI “wanted a sample of my DNA to compare with some partial DNA profiles connected with a 1982 event in which someone put potassium cyanide in Tylenol,” Kaczynski wrote. “The officers said the FBI was prepared to get a court order to compel me to provide the DNA sample but wanted to know whether I would provide the sample voluntarily.”
Kaczynski’s DNA, however, did not match and the killings of seven people who swallowed the poisoned medicine in the Chicago area remains unsolved.
Kaczynski will turn 79 years old on May 22. He remains a prolific writer of essays and books, and regularly corresponds with hundreds of people who equate his ideas to historic philosophers including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Karl Marx, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
In May 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service opened an online auction for several of the items seized in the Unabomber case. In all, collectors paid more than $200,000 for 58 items seized during the raid of Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin in 1996, with all proceeds going to victims and their families.
The items included a typewriter a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses that resemble those the Unabomber wore in a well-known police sketch Kaczynski’s academic transcripts and diplomas from Harvard and the University of Michigan photographs tools that he used to make bombs several quivers of arrows handwritten codes books watches and more than 20,000 pages of writings, including early handwritten and typewritten versions of his manifesto.