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True crime. Casually done.

The UNABOMBER: The Biggest Manhunt in FBI History (Part 1)

Written by Angus Keenan


I don’t know about you but when I think about ways in which day to day life has changed in the past 20 or so years, a few things are pretty much guaranteed to jump to mind. Computers, the internet, the climate and shipping. More specifically domestic shipping, in 2020 alone there were 131 billion packages delivered worldwide. 20 years ago, hearing that number would have been an absurd proposition, not least because I only spent about 10 seconds finding that fact and about 4 seconds more verifying it. The sheer volume of advancements that have occurred in these 22 years since the turn of the millennium are equal only to the number of innovations that occurred in the 60 years preceding it. Progress truly is increasing at an exponential rate, which for most people this is cause for celebration. There is however a sect of society who abhor these developments, people who believe that progress could only mean the death of freedom and so they remove themselves from society, return to nature and live as they see fit.

This is of course fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion and can choose to spend their life as they like. But what happens when someone feels so strongly about the dangers of the future that they decide to take matters into their own hands, what happens when they choose to exact revenge on the very system they cut ties with. Add to that a genius level intellect and you will have the protagonist of today’s episode. From a cabin measuring only 10 by 12 feet the UNABOMBER used the U.S postal service to exact an 18 year long bombing spree that claimed the lives of 3 people and cost the FBI 50 million dollars.

Universities, Airlines, Bombs (UNABOM)

On the Morning of May the 25th, 1978 amid the chorus of engines that mark the early morning rush hour, a box, wrapped in brown paper, is found in the car park of Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. The package was innocuous enough, neatly wrapped, bearing only an unknown recipient with a fake address, several stamps and the return to sender who was a materials engineering professor that worked at that very same university, one Buckley Crist. What was particularly odd about this package was that it was just a few feet away from a mailbox, the stamps were uncancelled and it was all ready to be posted except that it was just lying there.

A conscientious citizen finds the package and gives it to campus security who subsequently returns to a bemused Crist who had no recollection of ever sending such a package. Taking it to a university security guard, Crist explained that he wasn’t sure where this package had come from, but it certainly wasn’t from him. Terry Marker, the security guard, opens the package and it explodes. Well I say explode, it really just made a small bang and caught fire. Hidden within this package was a primitive explosive. It only caused only minor cuts and burns to Marker’s face and hands and thankfully everyone involved could walk away from that exchange, shaken but mostly unscathed.

The authorities interviewed Crist and searched for the person the package was addressed to but as it turned out they were entirely fictional. Which meant that the someone had made that bomb with the intention of it being returned to Crist. Incidentally Crist knew of no one who might have this kind of a grudge against him and there was no forensic information that could be gathered from the remains of the device. All the pieces were made from common household items and there were no hairs, fingerprints or revealing clues of any kind. The police would divert some resources to investigating but with little hope of finding a culprit. Which would mark the beginning of the most expensive criminal investigation in US history.

Just short of a year later; same university, same building, a package is placed on the desk of a graduate student, this one much smaller than the last but equally as effective. A small pop and then fire, similar injuries were sustained by the recipient, John Harris, but once again everyone involved could thankfully walk away from this exchange with their lives mostly unaltered. Same as last time forensic analysis was carried out, but same as last time no revealing clues could be pulled from the wreckage.

Then 6 months later on November 15th 1979, American Airlines flight 444 took off from Chicago international airport, bound for Washington D.C. Just after take-off an explosion can be heard from the cargo hold. Shortly after the air vents began blowing smoke into the plane cabin. Acting fast the pilots divert the flight to Dulles Airport, landing safely and evacuating all onboard. Authorities quickly found the source of the smoke, a crudely made bomb disguised as a package and sent via air freight to an unknown location in Washington D.C. This new bomb that was theoretically powerful enough to blow a hole in the side of the plane. However, it had only partially ignited, with most of the explosive material being burned away in the ensuing fire. Fortunately for all on board the home-made altimeter that would have triggered the bomb once the plane reached 34,000 feet malfunctioned.

Once again fatalities were narrowly avoided and all could walk away from the event scared but relieved. However, to the authorities, this attack was more evidence of an alarming pattern that was beginning to form. Explosive weapons aimed at the general public that, had they gone according to plan, would have resulted in fatalities. In other words there was a serial bomber somewhere out there.


Which gave all the local authorities enough cause to make this a matter of Federal law, which requires federal investigators. So if you will pardon the cliché, they decided to call in the big guns, otherwise known as the FBI. Which I am sure makes Simon a very happy fact boi indeed. And, to quote how Simon so eloquently put it, ‘Yeah, the FBI, the CIA– They’re the ones, who– you know—They’re the best.’ So in 1979 an FBI-led task force was assembled including people from the ATF and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

It is worth mentioning that the moniker UNABOM was not yet coined, that would come later. As far as I can tell the most common name for him at this time was the scrapyard bomber, owing to his bombs being made from primarily scrap yard parts. Although for ease I am just gonna refer to him as the UNABOMBER from here on out. As for the task force itself, they were a small collection of investigators and forensic analysts, most of which were dealing with other cases on top of this one. The few that were solely focused on this case could pull next to nothing from the parts left behind. They were inexpert, improvised explosives, created from scrap that could be found anywhere. There were no fingerprints or defining features outside of little bits of wood and bark that were found in the Airline bomb. All the intended victims had no discernible connections to one another and none of them could think of a person that would have any reason to want them dead.

With very little to go on the task force probably felt as though they were fumbling in the dark, which they essentially were. So far, the individual had given them no clues, no motive and no pattern that could show them where he may strike next. What was becoming clear however, was that whoever was carrying out these attacks was becoming more competent at their craft and more ambitious in their methods.

Then, 7 months after the airline bombing the UNABOMBER struck again. On June 10th 1980 the President of United airlines, Percy Wood received a package containing a copy of the book “Ice Brothers” by Sloan Wilson, with a note attached encouraging him to read it. Fortunately, the concealed pipe bomb within did not kill him. However, unlike the previous attacks the UNABOMBER had finally managed to severely maim someone. Causing severe burns and lacerations all over his body, Percy Wood, would be scarred for life by the incident.

This time there was little doubt that this was the work of the UNABOMBER, among the wreckage was a metal blasting cap with the letters F.C inscribed upon it. This would become the UNABOMBERS modus operandi. It would appear in near enough every bomb that would be sent. Many investigators were convinced that finding out what these letters stood for would be the clue that solved the case and in a way they were right however, that revelation was a long way off.

The next attack came on October the 8th of the following year at the university of Utah, placed by The UNABOMBER himself; it was simply a brown paper bag wrapped with string. This time he had used a new design that involved an incendiary component, with the obvious intention of setting the building on fire. The package had no address and was left, like the one in the car park, unattended. A maintenance worker spotted the package lying on the floor and decided to investigate. After seeing that there was no address, and no doubt aware of the recent attacks on universities he became suspicious and called the police, who called the bomb squad, who inturn verified that it was indeed a bomb, removing it from the site and detonating it safely, injuring nobody. Though the bomb squad observed as much as they could of this package (from a distance) there was near to no hard evidence remaining after the blast, save for a detonating switch, some pieces of wood and a few metal fragments, one of which had the letters F.C engraved on its surface.

As for reasonable suspects, the police were stumped, by this point the investigation had been ramped up in its size, adding psychological analysts to their team. The psychological profiles that they produced were about as varied as you can get, ranging from an upset scientist to an illiterate with erectile dysfunction and several stops in-between. If you’re curious about that last one, it was because he seemed to be obsessed with wood, wooden construction of bombs, fragments of bark in the casings and several of his victims had names somewhat related to wood. And so, the FBI pulled from that, that he couldn’t get… wood. As for the bit about him being illiterate, I guess they just didn’t like him. While wood was minutely related to the ideology of the UNABOMBER it is pretty clear to see that the investigators truly were lost. As far as they were concerned this bomber was a phantom, a ghost that had the ability to materialise just long enough to post a letter before vanishing once again without a trace.

This ghost struck again on May the 5th, at another university, a package addressed to Professor Patrick C. Fischer was delivered to Pennsylvania State university. However, Professor Fischer hadn’t worked there for some 2 years, so the package was forwarded, by a secretary, to his current place of work at Vanderbilt University. At that time Fischer was on holiday in Puerto Rico and his secretary, Janet Smith, was the one to open the package. By this point the Unabomber had refined his design enough to consistently cause serious injury to the recipient. This time though the Unabomber had gone a step further, small metal fragments and nails lined the inside of the bomb casing, to be sent flying, when it exploded, like pellets from a shotgun, imbedding themselves in the first solid thing they met, this being Janet Smiths, hands, face, and abdomen. She too would survive the encounter though she would be severely scarred.

The next attack occurred just 2 months later on July 2nd, 1982. In UC-Berkeley, California, a professor of engineering, one Diogenes J. Angelakos, comes across what he described as ‘a piece of engineering equipment’ on the floor of the faculty lounge with a gallon of fuel sitting next to it. Both the ‘piece of engineering equipment’ and the gallon container of fuel contained a pipe bomb. This one wasn’t disguised as a package, it wasn’t addressed, it was just lying there. Bending down to pick it up, the professor places his hand on the device, lifts it just a few inches, hears a click, a seconds pause and then the explosion. Thankfully the gasoline did not ignite and similar to the last two bombs, sever injuries were inflicted with no deaths and no discernible identifiers, not even the FC stamped metal. However, the means of delivery was different, the UNABOMBER had been there, in that room, in the university, perhaps an hour or less ago. Despite this there were no witnesses, nobody saw anyone acting suspiciously, and yet he was able to enter the university, into the faculty lounge, long enough to place and arm a bomb, then leave the area, all without raising any suspicion or even being seen.

Imagine you were the investigator in this scenario, what kind of information could you pull from these attacks? No fingerprints, no witnesses, no forensics other than burned up bomb parts and shrapnel. No connection between the intended victims other than the fact that they work in science related fields and still no motive, no pattern and worst of all no mistakes, at least no mistakes that revealed the culprits identity directly.

What is there to know that someone could use in a profile other than, he can’t get it up. Clearly out of the box thinking was required and from this attack, the best that they could pull was that the bomber must have had some kind of affiliation with U-C Berkley to be comfortable enough to move around the campus and place himself within a room restricted to university staff only. There was also a mistake that the bomber had made, though it was miniscule. He had sent a bomb to the wrong place to start with. Unaware Fischer had changed his university 2 years prior, he sent a bomb to Pennsylvania state. This told investigators one of two things, one, the culprit had known Fischer prior to his moving and had not been made aware, or 2, wherever he was getting his addresses, was at least 2 years out of date. Not much to go on but better than nothing.

Which was all that they had for the time being. Their near non-existent evidence room on the UNABOMBER remained as it was for nearly 3 more years. And then, seemingly out of the Blue the bombs began to fall again and this time it was at an alarming frequency. Beginning again on the 15th of May, 1985 when John Hauser, an Air force Captain and graduate student working at Berkley discovers a 3 ring binder on his desk with a note, requesting him to review a student’s masters thesis on ‘the history of science’. Upon opening, the binder explodes, shattering several bones including his skull, partially blinding him in his left eye, causing severe trauma to the right hand, severing nerves, and losing four fingers. In a tragic turn of events, Diogenes Agelakos the victim of the July 1982 bombing, was just across the hall at the time of the explosion. And was temporarily deafened by this explosion, despite this he was the first to attend to Hauser, who was still, thankfully, alive, using his tie as a tourniquet. And, impaled in the now blacked wall behind where Hauser had been standing just moments before was a small metal pin with the letters F.C engraved on the side.

Only a month later, a bomb was discovered in a Boeing manufacturing plant in Washington, however this was defused with no casualties. Then 4 months later in November, a package was delivered to James McConnell, a psychology professor at Michigan University. Attached to the package was a note prompting him to open it, in the room with him was Nick Sunino, McConnell’s assistant. The bomb inside peppered McConnell with shrapnel and caused severe burns. Sunino was deafened in one ear and partially deafened in the other. However, once again both survived.

This new wave of attacks from the UNABOMBER had unleashed a hitherto unseen ferocity. After 3 years of dormancy the authorities were once again left without a clue, they had literally no means of predicting where or when he would strike next and only one thing was for sure, he was dead set on getting a kill, one way or another. And, with a trend of increasingly powerful and sophisticated bombs there was little doubt that sooner or later, he would achieve this goal.

Finally on December 11th, 1985, after 7 years and 10 bombs, he managed to achieve his goal. The day prior the UNABOMBER caught a bus that carried him to Sacramento, California. He had paid cash for a room in a motel, he finalized his plans and took some time to scout out his location at Century Plaza. The following morning on the 11th, after completing his preparations, he set out for his chosen spot. A computer Rental business called RenTech. Upon his arrival, he walked around to the back of the business where there was an alley connecting the street with a car park. He stops, looks around making sure that no one is looking before crouching down and placing a brown paper bag on the ground. Contained within in the bag was of course a small pipe bomb with shrappnel glued to the exterior. He then places 2 lead weights in the bag, on either side of the bomb, before loading the mechanism and arming the device. He then stands up and calmly walks away.

Inside the store, the owner, Hugh Scrutton, was just getting ready to go for his lunch. He left someone to run the front desk before exiting the back door. Spotting a paper bag on the ground, he walked over and bent down to pick it up, perhaps thinking it was someone’s rubbish. At roughly 12:04pm the explosive went off. Triggered when Scrutton picked it up. His chest took the brunt of the blast, throwing his body 10 feet backwards and collapsing on the tarmac. The explosion had wrent the skin from his chest, burned the muscles and organs underneath and broke most of his ribs. Moments after the explosion a person within earshot came running. Seeing this person approaching Hugh Scrutton apparently cried out ‘Oh my god! Help me!’. The scene that greeted the would-be savior was one of utter destruction. A smoking crater several inches deep and a man, lying on the floor, flesh blackened and blood pouring from the spot where his chest should have been. An ambulance was called, but very little could be done. Hugh Scrutton was pronounced dead at Sacramento University Medical Center at 12:34pm, 30 minutes after the explosion.


The UNABOMBER had finally done it, he had hit back at the system that he so despised. At first it was hard to connect this bombing with him however, the discovery of a metal plug with the letters F.C stamped across it gave the investigators all they needed to know. This would have infuriated the investigators to no end, for a moment the UNABOMBER had materialised, long enough to enter an area, plant a bomb and leave, all without a single witness. And, for another 14 months he would remain immaterial.  After his surge of bombings, he clearly felt he needed a rest and perhaps, he even took a moment to consider the reality of taking a man’s life, or perhaps he was savouring it.

For those next 14 months the investigators had nothing more to go on, repeatedly going over the evidence, the clues and pulling no more concrete information from it than the day it had entered the evidence locker. And still was the enigma of FC, those two letters would dog investigators for nearly the entire investigation. They had no clues for what it may stand for, all they could do was guess. And guess they did; from the names of prominent figures like Fidel Castro, to simple slogans, such as the impolite request for the procreation of cops. If they could find it they could then cut out the vast majority of the population and focus upon only those types of people that would attach themselves to those two letters. Whatever it stood for they would have to wait for the UNABOMBER to step into the open once again.

Whatever he was doing in that time, it took him 14 months before resurfacing again and in that time he had built a new bomb. Seemingly feeling confident with the success of his last attack, the next was also one that he placed himself, at a strip mall in Salt Lake City, Utah. This bumb, disguised as a piece of construction debris, a few planks of wood, nailed together with several nails sticking out. On the morning of the 11th of February 1987 a man walks into the parking lot outside of CAAMS inc. a computer hardware store. He bends down, places a bomb on the floor, arms the mechanism and then looks at the store fronts around him. His eyes finally settle on the glass front of CAAMS hardware store, he straightens up, still staring at the storefront. A woman, in the store, is staring straight back at him. For a split-second, he holds her gaze before sprinting away.

Meanwhile in the store the woman summons her co-workers and says that she is concerned a person is trying to leave some kind of trap to blow out people’s car tires though they are distracted by customers and they forget about it. After a couple of minutes, a car pulls up to the parking lot. It is the vice-president of CAAMS, Gary Wright. He gets out, looking at the plank of wood with nails sticking out. He walks over and gives it a probing kick; the device immediately explodes. More than 200 pieces of debris cover his body, the nails are launched into his left arm, severing his nerves. Gary Wright would survive to become another one of the UNABOMBER’s victims.

An ambulance and the police are called. The same as every other time the construction of the bomb leaves no clues save for a piece of metal with FC stamped upon it. The attack is connected to the UNABOMBER and true to type forensics can pull nothing from the device. However, this attack is different from every other, that is, when the Police begin interviewing  all those who had been in the area. A secretary, who works at CAMMS comes forward and claims to have seen the person setting the bomb, she gives a description to a sketch artist, who comes up with one of the most famous police sketches in history. The image of a man with aviators, a gray hoodie and a mustache. This image would eventually become known as the UNABOM sketch. For the first time to date the public and investigators at the task force had an image, proof that the UNABOMBER was indeed a real person.

Hiatus and Return

After 7 years, 12 bombs and 1 fatality. The UNABOMBER had finally slipped up. No doubt bolstered by the “success” of his previous attack he felt that he could pull off another just like it. He got confident and made a mistake. He had been seen and he would not be identified again for more than a decade. Unlike many of the serial killers that we cover here, this one did not need the recognition and attention that came from his attacks. We know this because he would happily put an identifying trademark upon his bombs, he wanted his work to be recognised but never his name, never his face. Perhaps he knew what he was doing was wrong, perhaps unlike almost all other serial killers he wanted to be known for his achievements without the burden of being known.

Whatever his reasons he would not allow another mistake. For the nearly 5 and a half years he would not make another move, seeming to fall off the face of the Earth, no communication, no bombings, nothing. The investigation team began to dwindle, investigators got reassigned, interest from the public began to disappear. Officials thought, or rather hoped, that getting spotted had scared him off for good. The risk of getting caught had become too great and he would desist for good this time. Leads dried up and evidence became little more than a place for dust to gather.

Then, one day, as with that first bomb, the silence was broken. Like most mornings June the 22nd 1993, began with the mail getting delivered. At Charles Epstein’s house his daughter finishes her breakfast, before going out to get it from the mailbox. There are a couple of letters and a padded envelope containing a package. As she heads back inside, she sees that it is addressed to her father, so she leaves it on the kitchen counter and heads upstairs. Later that day Charles Epstein, a geneticist, returns home and finds the package on his counter. He slips it open and puts one hand into the envelope, removing the wooden box. A spring loaded wooden catch, passes the lip of the envelope, flips and the package explodes. Epstein would survive but by now the UNABOMBER was well past his initial primitive bombs, if you were unlucky enough to be the recipient of one, there would be a very real possibility of death and serious harm was a guarantee. Charles Epstein lost 4 fingers, suffered severe abdominal trauma, facial burns, lacerations and a broken arm.

The following day another package is delivered to Dr David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University. The design was nearly identical to the one sent to Epstein. The explosion blew off several of his fingers, deafened him in one ear and blinded him in one eye. As odd as it sounds, nobody seemed to notice the explosion, nobody ran to his aid. Whatever the reason for that was, Gelernter had no other option but to make his own way to find help, dragging his body down 5 flights of stairs to the university hospital where he received medical attention.

It was also on the same day that the UNABOMBER did something he had never done before, he sent a letter that didn’t explode. To an assistant managing editor at the New York Times newspaper. In the letter he connects the bombings of the last two days and specifies a 9 digit number, for which he can authenticate any future communications with the authorities and newspapers. For those of you who are interested this number is 553-15-4394. He then signs off the letter FC.

After years of silence the UNABOMBER began his reign of terror again, in two days he raised the collective tension of the entire nation. The FBI, who had been easing off their investigation, ramped it up to previously unseen levels, making it the largest ongoing investigation in the country. And it is here that we start to hear the first mentions of the word UNABOM and a central office is established in San Francisco.

With the massive boost in funds that came from this new wave of attacks, also came a swath of new investigators and a new head of the investigation, Terry Turchie, a veteran of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Another new addition to the team was a psychological profiler: Special Agent Kathleen Puckett, a doctoral student working towards a Ph.D in clinical psychology.

A new look was required at the evidence and the investigation needed a new profile of the person they were now calling the UNABOMBER. Kathleen Puckett was the one to do it. She herself describes him as the most careful serial bomber anyone had ever seen. The intention of bringing Puckett on board was to create an in-depth psychological profile, an avenue that hadn’t yet been considered. While they had created a character profile, Pucketts job was to try to understand precisely who he was, why he was doing what he was doing and from this they could try to find other information about him. At the time this was almost never an avenue that investigations went down, it was unproven and thought to be unreliable, appearing more like guess work than any kind of real investigation.

However, a closer look at the evidence was already giving new information. The first bomb, way back in 1978, began showing new clues. While at first investigators thought the package was simply left in the parking lot to gather attention, the fact that it was only feet away from a mailbox led the investigators to believe that he had intended on sending it. A reconstruction of the package showed that it was left there because it wouldn’t have fitted in the postal slot. So, the bomber simply dropped it there and left. Though this seems like a useless detail the investigation was able to use this, and some other information gathered from the early bombings to surmise that the bomber was familiar with the Chicago area, meaning it was likely he had lived there at some point, perhaps even during the early bombings.

There was also the note that was left on the 3 ring binder, the UNABOMBER’s 8th bomb. Saying that the master thesis was on the topic of ‘The History of Science’ this was and still is a rather obscure area of study in the United States, their initial conclusion was that he could have been a student of the subject at some point. They interviewed all of the qualified professors in this field of which there were only a handful and got a list of all previous students of that subject. This turned up nothing in the way of suspects but according to Puckett the idea of the UNABOMBER being connected to the hard sciences stuck.

Then there was the letter sent to the New York Times, in it he states that FC was an anarchist group. And that by the time of reading something of significance would have occurred. These were the two most recent bombs that went off. Within the letter he used the line “If nothing goes wrong” to qualify that one or both of the bombs could have malfunctioned. This line and his general means of proceeding thus far, gave Puckett the feeling that whoever they were dealing with was cautious, speculative, unimpulsive and because of this likely in the latter part of his life. These are some broad conclusions to pull from very little information but the Unabomber had left almost nothing behind for them to pull from, so they had to pull as much information as possible from this vast nothingness.

Then on the 10th of December the Unabomber struck again at the home of an advertising executive Thomas Mosser. In a truly harrowing statement Mossers wife, who was in the next room with their 15-month-old daughter at the time, recounted the events of that day. I will save you the gory details of what happens to a person’s body when a bomb filled with fragments of cut up razor blads, nails and other metal pieces goes off in their hands. It would only serve to cheapen the fact that Thomas Mosser lost his life. Though a more agonizing death I can scarcely imagine.

Another attack and the UNABOMBER seemed to have perfected his design. True to type no clues except a metal shard marked FC was found. Then on the 24th of March in a batch of deliveries to a post box in California the UNABOMBER would finally make the mistake that resulted in his capture. Well, to call it a mistake is a little bit misleading, because it was intentional. And as far as I can tell it doesn’t break any of Simon’s rules to being a criminal but then again, I haven’t seen all of them, not saying Simon should send me a free notebook but… Anyway moving on from that digression. The day began with another bomb, delivered to Gilbert Murray at his work. Murray was the head of the California Forestry Association. This new design had resulted in another fatality. Bringing his murder count to 3 and 17 total bombs sent.

Later on that day, several letters are delivered to various recipients across the US. David Gelernter, the victim of the 1993 attack, received a letter ridiculing him for opening an unexpected package from an unknown source, calling him dumb, and a techno-nerd. Real hard hitting stuff. Joking aside, this must have been truly terrifying, having this unknown person reopen another line of contact. This form of childish goading only served to undermine the message that was contained in the other letters sent that day.

Two leaders in the field of genealogy, Dr. Philip Sharp at MIT and Dr. Richard Roberts would receive identical letters stating that “It would be beneficial to your health to stop your research in genetics.” Clearly the UNABOMBER was growing discontent with the approach of the silent murderer. He had a point to put forward and he was doing so emphatically.

His final letter of the day was to the same editor at the New York Times. The one that had been contacted 2 years prior, connecting the Epstein and Gelernter bombings and provided the 9 digit identifying number. It explains that Mosser was the target of the most recent bombing because he had been the head of the marketing company that had handled the public relations of the Exxon company during the Exxon Valdez Oil spill. He felt that he deserved to die because he had worked to clean up the damage that had been done to the company’s public image.

The letter also spoke of an anarchist group that sought the breakdown of society into small, completely autonomous units, this group was of course FC. Who now had their name, ‘Freedom Club’. This was probably a little disappointing for the investigators who had hoped that by finding out what FC stood for they could narrow down the available pool of people who would associate themselves with such an acronym. Unfortunately, as it turns out pretty much every American considers themself to be part of the Freedom Club, in fact by this point I think it’s just another name for American Citizenship. Just a very different kind of Freedom Club. Though FC would not bring them directly to the UNABOMBER, the remaining information contained in the letter would. After explaining the intentions and origins of FC the UNABOMBER wrapped up with an offer to that editor of the New York Times: Publish a manuscript that would be delivered at a later date and in return FC would cease all terrorist activities.

Quite the offer when the alternative was a continuation of the bombings seen in last 17 years. However, the FBI’s first reaction was to say no, sticking to the moral line and stating that the US government does not negotiate with terrorists. However, someone must have been packing an Uno Reverse card somewhere because they did a complete 180 and agreed to publish. Remember that profiler Kathleen Puckett? Well, she read the manifesto and put forth an idea. With their pool of suspects containing about half of all the men in the United States, the FBI were no nearer catching the UNABOMBER than they were catching bigfoot.

Extreme measures would have to be taken to find a suspect. So, she proposed that they make an appeal to the general public. As things stood, their most effective way of capturing the UNABOMBER was by simply interviewing every possible suspect they could find but like I say that list contained the vast majority of the male population in the United States so that was not exactly a practical solution. And even if they did do that, the suspect could easily just mislead investigators and slip through the net. What Kathleen Puckett was suggesting was that they used the public as their interviewers. Surely the UNABOMBER must know someone, must have spoken to someone about their ideas, they hoped to find that person. With the case being about as high profile as you can get at this point, publication would mean they could paint a picture of the UNABOMBER using the sketch, their character background and psychological profiles of him. They would publish the manuscript and use the inevitable high public interest to make every father, brother, mother, sister, daughter, son, friend and acquaintance a part of the investigation team.

This was about as long a shot as you can take in an investigation and in doing it they were in effect announcing to the entire country and likely the UNABOMBER himself, that they had no idea who he was. If it didn’t work they would have simply aided in spreading the ideology of a serial killer. However, Kathleen Puckett, based upon her own psychological profile of the UNABOMBER, said she felt certain that his offer to stop all terrorist activities was hollow. For one thing he had stipulated that he reserved the right to take part in sabotage, stating that the difference was that he would stop bombing people but he would continue to bomb infrastructure. The discord this sewed was enormous; the issue made it all the way up to the desk of Head Justice Janet Reno, who on the recommendation of Turchie the head of the UNABOMB task force, agreed that publishing the manifesto would be the best course.

So when that day came they would publish the manifesto with a psychological profile and the now famous image of the UNABOMBER. This profile, thanks to the work of the task force and also the combined efforts of John Douglas and Kathleen Puckett, had come a long way from the pre-1993 profile. It stated that the UNABOMBER was likely a man in his late-40’s to early-60’s, he had a higher education, likely highly intelligent but was also a neo-luddite. If he was married, then it was likely that he had a room in the house that no-one was allowed to enter. Regarding his movements, they suspected that he was born and grew up in Chicago before moving away for college. They suspected he had achieved a bachelors and a masters but failed at a doctoral dissertation. He then returned to Chicago for several years before moving to Salt Lake City and then finally settling in the San Francisco Bay area. This would all be published as a precursor of the manuscript.

So, what about this manuscript, you may be thinking, what did it contain? Well lucky for you dear listener I have taken the liberty of reading it. This 35,000-word manifesto titled, ‘Industrial Society and it’s future’, describes the failings of modern-industrial society, it outlines how the freedoms of mankind are shrinking day-by-day, it provides examples, causes and effects. In short it lampoons the indefatigable technological progress of mankind and calls for an overthrow of the current system, stating that we should return to an anarchic system of dispersed communities, subsisting and providing only for themselves.

Even as I write this, I am fully aware that it sounds like the ravings of a serial killer and they are. However, it is also wholly convincing. As a little bit of a personal background, I am an engineer, technological progress is my business, so it is in my interest to disbelieve much of what he says about the flaws of technological progress. But even I cannot argue with the points brought forward in the manuscript. In parts, yes, it just sounds like an eloquent child is writing about a kid they hate called ‘the system’. In other words the writing comes across and jaded and there are many unnecessary departures within that expose the author as the kind of person who harbors a deep seated, ill-conceived and yes, childish, hatred of the world. However, in other parts he put forward predictions and points that are inarguable and in some cases rather alarming in their accuracy.

But this is not an essay discussing the flaws and merits of the UNABOMBER’s manifesto, more capable minds than I have seen to both of those already. What interested the FBI was the style of writing, the ideas, the idiolect, and the profile that would be provided alongside the publication. It was on the 27th of June that same year the manuscript was delivered to Michael Getler of the Washington post and Warren Hoge, the editor from the NY Times. Both of which had been typed out on a typewriter, a promising clue which the FBI chased up, though through either careful planning or plain luck this typewriter was about as generic as you could get. There was also a third manuscript posted out to Jerry Roberts at the San Francisco Examiner, apparently the UNABOMBER was getting a little bored of waiting for the government to deliberate on publishing his manifesto because a letter was attached stating that a bomb had been sent using airmail and was going to be aboard a plane leaving LAX within the next 6 days. Which of course led to the shutdown of the entire airport.

It was at this point that the government formally agreed to publish the manifesto, stating public safety concerns. There was of course no bomb on the plane otherwise the Unabomber’s kill count would probably be significantly higher, in fact his stated reasons for lying about the bomb leaving LAX was that he wanted to prove that it was impossible for the system to truly value the lives of the individuals within it. This point is covered in the manifesto but in essence he says that the system (in its current form) cannot both function effectively and value the lives of the people living within it. He proves this by forcing the government to shut down an airport in order to protect the lives of the passengers and in the process they must (if only for a short time) hemorrhage money in a way that would be unsustainable. In effect saying, the moment the system places its inhabitants first, it becomes unsustainable.

Perhaps this is true, though it feels to me like he’s just aggrandizing his newfound power over big companies. By September of 1995 the Washington Post was ready to publish the manifesto in their morning edition of the paper. On September the 19th it was released to the public and try as I might, I can’t seem to find any comment on just how many copies were sold on that day but it is safe to assume their sales didn’t do too badly.

Collectively the FBI held their breath, waiting and sure enough, tips started rolling in. At first hundreds and then thousands in the first few days alone. There were of course the crazy people turning in their dog walkers, neighbors, son. Scorned Ex-wives, probably the odd Karen or two turning in the manager of their local eating establishments. These kinds of tips were to be expected and had been rolling in since the tip line had been set up. Sprinkled among them were the promising leads, concerned friends, sisters, and every other kind of connection you can imagine. People that had read the manifesto and it reminded them of someone they knew. The FBI did investigate all of them, but nothing connected, they would check previous criminal records, educational achievements, records of where they lived in the past, where they came from. Finally, they would cross check it with their own list of suspects.

This turned up several hundred promising leads but even then, nothing. As the weeks turned into months, the flow of tips began to slow, and the pool of potential suspects began to dry up along with it. Eventually 1995 turned into 1996 and still no leads. Though the tips were still coming in they were of the kind that you could discount almost immediately. Then, in the middle of February a letter from an anonymous source found its way into the inbox for the tip line. It was reviewed and passed up to the superiors in the investigation. Though it didn’t say who sent the letter it did have a name, known to the FBI as UNABOM suspect number 2,416, otherwise known to his brother as Ted.

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