’s Manifesto Essay, Research Paper
“The world today seems to be going crazy”: The Unabomber’s Manifesto
It was May 25th 1978, Terry Marker was on his usual patrol on campus at
the University of Illinois. This earmark package, addressed to an engineering
professor at Rensselaer from a material science professor at Northwestern, was
found in a parking lot. What seemed like an insignificant misplaced parcel was
about to start a reign of terror and the longest manhunt in U.S. history.
Officer Marker retrieved the package and began to open it; the crude triggering
mechanism set off the device. A flash of fire and smoke spewed towards Terry’s
face as the match heads ignited and the mystery package exploded. This event
sparked the “most expensive manhunt in United States history, ultimately costing
upward to $50 million” (Douglas, 31). The reasoning behind this initial attack
(and subsequent assaults) was not known for sure until 15 years later in 1993,
when the Unabomber’s anti-technology philosophy became public.
The Unabomber’s 18 year tirade against technology killed three people
and maimed 23 others in a series of 16 attacks dating back to 1978. The
Unabomber’s targets were universities and airlines (thus the “un” and the “a” in
the FBI’s code name); proponents of technology. The Unabomber believes that the
present industrial-technological society is “narrowing the sphere of human
freedom” (Unabomber, 93).
The crudeness of the Unabomber’s inaugural mail bomb attack was not an
indication of what was to come. The Unabomber’s devices became more
sophisticated and deadly as his targets became more specific and focused. “The
pressure vessels in his bombs were the most sophisticated ever seen by federal
authorities” (Ewell, 3). His later efforts were sometimes concealed in books
and hand-carved boxes, had all hancrafted parts carved of wood and metal (he
made his own pins, screws and switches), and sometimes had altimeter and
barometric switches which would activate at precise altitudes in an airplane.
Bombs, like the one planted outside of a computer store in Sacramento, were
sometimes fitted with gravity triggers which would detonate the bomb at the
slightest touch. Later bombs contained two independent systems of batteries and
wires, a backup fail-safe mechanism, installed to ensure the bombs detonation.
The crime scene analyses suggested that each bomb “took more than a hundred
hours to construct” (Douglas, 56).
The bombs were getting deadlier as the Unabomber’s skill level evolved.
FBI agent James Fox says “This guy’s done a wonderful job in self-education
(Gleick, 26). On April 24, 1995, Gilbert Murray, president of the California
Forestry Association, died instantly when a bomb exploded in his office in
Sacramento. The force of the blast was so great that it pushed nails partly out
of the walls in other offices in the building. The force of the explosion was
so great that the pieces of Murray’s body; when retrieved, filled eleven bags.
Evidence was presented to the coroner in paint cans. Some bombs like the one
that killed Hugh Sutton, a computer store owner, was filled with pieces of nails
to maximize the devastation to the victim. He also became more devious by
targeting either the person to whom the package was sent or the person who
supposedly sent it. If the package didn’t make it to its intended victim it
would be sent back to an alternate one.
The Unabomber left very few clues at the crime scenes. He was a
meticulous criminal, “these components bear markings of having been taken apart
and put back together repeatedly” said Chris Ronay, the FBI’s top bomb expert in
the 1980’s (Anez, 2 ). All addresses were typed on an arcane typewriter to
confound handwriting analyses. He hand crafted most of the parts that made up
his bombs because of the possibility of tracing store bought parts back to a
hardware store or electronics store. He made his own chemicals out of commonly
available chemicals. He made his own switches that he could have bought at
Radio Shack. He spent hours whittling, cutting, and filing metal and wood to
remove any hints of their origin. He would repeatedly sand down all the wooden
parts to his devices to remove any possible fingerprints and make the boxes that
encased his bombs look store bought. The FBI Crime Lab originally nicknamed him
the “Junkyard Bomber” because the internal parts were constructed of leftover
materials such as furniture pieces , plumbing pipes, and sinktraps.
Across the continent, hundreds of FBI agents were pursuing the Unabomber.
They have deployed some of the worlds most powerful computers. Task Force
members crunched and recrunched scraps of data through a “massive parallel-
processing computer borrowed from the Pentagon”, sifting though school lists,
drivers license registries, lists of people who checked certain books out of
libraries in California and the Mid West (Gibbs, 31). The super-computers kept
tract of the enormous data base that the FBI had kept on possible suspects. The
computers searched criminal records and personal histories of thousands of
suspects. When the FBI got a new clue or hunch they would process it through
the computers and see what came up and who matched the latest profiles. They
have enlisted the sharpest crime-fighting minds. The Unabomb Task force was a
multiagency team comprised of the top experts from the FBI, ATF, local police
departments where the crimes took place, and from the Office of the Postal
Inspector. And they have chased down 20,000 tips, gone door to door to machine
shops and scrap yards, and interviewed thousands of suspects since the initial
bombing at the University of Illinois.
The Unabomber had kept investigators busy with a seemingly endless list
of obvious and subtle clues to his identity. The first written clue being a
message found from a bomb planted at Berkeley stating “Wu- It works! I told you
it would-R.V.” Wu and R.V. are most likely professors at Berkeley but “whether
these clues really mean anything, or whether they are just the bombers way of
toying with the law wont be known till he is caught” (Marx, 2). The following
are clues to the identity of the Unabomber:
Wood is the most common theme in the clues to finding the Unabomber,
from its use as a material in the bombs to its appearance in the names and
addresses of victims. Small twigs were glued to a couple of the devices found.
Some of the bombs were encased in boxes hand crafted out of hardwood. He
polished and sometimes varnished his wood pieces, but it was clear, from
amateurish joints, that he is not a trained woodworker. Bombs were fashioned
with 2 x 4’s to look like a pile of debris. A bomb was mailed to United
Airlines president Percy Wood, who lived in Lake forest. One bomb was packaged
inside the novel “Ice Brothers” by Arbor House, whose symbol is a tree leaf.
False return addresses have included such places as Ravenswood and Forest Glen
Road and from such people as Benjamin Isaac Wood.
THE 9-DIGIT CODE
To authenticate his written communication the Unabomber included a nine-
digit code (550-25-4394) on all of his letters and manuscripts. Task Force
members discovered that the number was a real Social Security number for a
small-time career criminal from Northern California but determined he had been
in jail at the time of some of the bombings. He has since violated parole and
vanished. Ironically, he had a tattoo that read “PURE WOOD”. Possibly, the
Unabomber knew him or had met him before.
The Unabomber avoids taking his packages to the post office and uses a
lot of stamps instead. He didn’t seem to lick the stamps (that would leave
saliva traces), at least in his more recent bombings, it is possible that he
licked the stamps in earlier bombings. He usually used stamps featuring the
American Flag or playwright Eugene O’Neil, author of the “The Ice Man Cometh”.
On a 1993 letter from the Unabomber, authorities found the almost
imperceivable impression of the words that may have been written on a piece of
paper written on the letter. It said “Call Nathan R Wed 7pm” and prompted a
nationwide search for Nathan R. Investigators used drivers license records and
phone listings to find more than 10,000 Nathan R’s. They interviewed them all,
but found no answers. This was more likely than not a red-herring placed by the
Unabomber to tease and confuse the Task force.
These initials have been included in some way in most of the bombs. The
initials were scratched into most of his bombs. The initials, also, were spray-
painted in the vicinity of several of the bomb sites. Authorities have
suggested that it might stand for an obscene phase directed towards computers;
like “F@%K Computers”. The Unabomber in a few of his letters to newspapers says
its stands for “Freedom Club”, the group he claims to be responsible for the
bombs. At one point, a university worker whose initials were F.C. was
scrutinized because of his open contempt for computers and technology, but he
was later cleared of suspicion (Taylor, A17).
“It was a face that taunted a nation”, a mysterious killer hidden by a
hood, disguised in dark aviator glasses (Goldston, 1). On February 20, 1987, a
woman notices a shady looking character carrying a bag of wood and left it
outside a computer store in Salt Lake City. The bag of wood turned out to be a
bomb that injured a store employee. Finally, a face of sorts is put to a name.
The eyewitness account, might have done more harm than good though. Ted
Kacyznski, the Unabomber suspect, is actually ten years older than the man
described outside of the computer store. Kacyznski was a suspect who was in the
Task Force’s database; but, he was ignored because of his age.
The letters written to several newspapers, leaders in the field of
technology, and college professors give some important clues to the Unabomber’s
identity. The Unabomber always refers to himself as “we” but FBI investigators
always believed that the bombings were a sole effort. Through them we find a
man bitter towards academia and technology, possibly an ex-employee of one of
the two fields. He makes references to certain books like The Ancient Engineers.
For years, criminologists and the FBI’s top profilers had been conjuring
up an image of the Unabomber. “As investigators and profilers, we came to know
him through his bombs and his written communications” (Douglas, 177). The
initial bombings target suggested that he grew up in Chicago, moved to Salt Lake
City, and was residing in Northern California. The bomber was comfortable
around universities, they believed, though he seemed to harbor a grudge against
them because he possibly did not graduate or excel. The bomber was thought to
be a loner, who shunned society. Possibly, suffering from a mental illness;
chronic depression, and probably was abused as a child. He was thought to work
blue collar work most likely dealing with power tools. And he was thought to be
in his late thirties early forties. Gregg McCrary a former FBI profiler says
that they tend “to be 80 percent accurate in the profiles” (Ewell, 2). That is
far from an exact science but it serves well in screening potential suspects.
We find the suspect Ted Kaczynski remarkably similar, except that he is
ten years older than originally thought, did not work with power tools (due to
the fact that there was no plumbing let alone electricity in his shack), was
raised by a loving and supportive family, and he not only excelled in college
academically; he went or get his doctorate and taught mathematics at Berkeley.
Other than the virtual bomb laboratory found in Kaczynski’s shack, bottles of
anti-depressant medication were supposedly found. But other than that Kaczynski
fits the profile of a loner, an underachiever and extremely intelligent
perfectly. Dr. Michael Rustigan, a criminologist at San Francisco State
University calls the Unabomber “the most intellectual serial killer that this
nation has ever known” (Kendall, 6).
The Unabomber’s 18 year loathing of technology and industrial society
had an enormous affect on many lives in the United States. The Unabomber
created chaos with airlines, postal service, campus security, and put fear into
the hearts of proponents of technology. During 1995, security was doubled at
all major airports, because of the Unabomber’s threat to blow up an airliner
flying of Los Angeles International Airport. Passengers were required to show
photo identification that matched their tickets, if not their baggage was
manually searched. Priority mail using stamps instead of postage meters, and
priority parcels dropped into mail boxes instead of handed over the counter,
have been separated from other items out of concern for safety. Suspect items
are flown in all-cargo airplanes rather than the commercial airliners that carry
most mail. “And even though a suspect has been arrested in the string of
Unabomber attacks, no changes are planned in the handling of parcels” (Schmid,
1). Campus security was stepped up. Many universities like Stanford, bought
its own X-ray machine and sent its police force for schooling in the Army bomb-
detection center. At Berkeley, professors were told not to leave bags of refuse
laying around, because it could provide cover for an explosive device (Gomes, 1).
Computer and technology businesses in Silicon Valley tried to keep the names of
its employees out of newspapers/press reports and tried to maintain the
confidentiality of workers’ addresses.
The almost two decade search for the Unabomber yielded very little clues.
The US government posted a $1 million reward for leads that resulted in the
apprehension of the Unabomber and maintained a task force hot line (1-800-701-
BOMB). More than 20,000 were phoned in but the Unabomb task force was still
left very little evidence.
In June of 1995, the Unabomber’s manifesto entitled “Industrial Society
and its Future” was received by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The
letter, that accompanied the 35,000 word document, demanded that national
newspapers publish his diatribe against technology. He threatened to send
another bomb “with intent to kill” if his document was not published in its
entirety. (New York Times Letter, April 24, 1995). The Unabomber pledged to end
his campaign of terrorism once his thoughts were published. FBI officials, who
urged the newspapers to publish the manifesto, hoped that someone reading it
would recognize the author through his words. The FBI spent much of the next
year publicizing the Unabomber’s writings (USA Today 11/13/96, 6). They hand
delivered hundreds of copies of his writings to university professor and leaders
in the field of technology in the hope that someone would recognize his work.
The FBI also used the Internet to aid in their efforts to capture the
Unabomber. The FBI’s Unabomber web page included links to the manifesto,
warnings of what to look for in suspicious packages, and an email address
(firstname.lastname@example.org) to contact with information. The following is taken from a
letter by Dr. William L. Tafoya, of the Unabomb Task Force, explaining the
appeal to the Internet community:
The purpose for submitting the information on the Internet is two-fold.
First, the Internet is another medium that enables us to reach as wide
an audience as possible; to “spread the word”. Second, Internet users
are precisely the type of individuals that to date have been recipients
of explosive devices attributed to Unabomb; scholars and researchers.
The FBI plan was to make the Unabomber’s writings accessible in the
hopes that some professor, some family member, someone who knew the killer would
hear the “echoes of a friend or student or relative” (Gibbs, 16). The FBI may
have been right. Kaczynski’s brother, David, recognized the similarity between
his brother’s writings and the Unabomber’s anti-technology tract published in
the Washington Post. In his anti-technology manifesto, the Unabomber dismisses
the Internet as a futile way to communicate. But, it was on the Internet that
David Kaczynski read selections of the manifesto that convinced him that his
brother might be the Unabomber (Kovaleski, A03).
With the tip from David, all of the pieces seemed to fall into place.