Most criminals undoubtedly want to go undetected by law enforcement, but the vast majority of criminals are caught because most of them fall considerably short from being perfect and probably more importantly, fall short of being considered intelligent. So law enforcement has the advantage of typically dealing with less than perfect and not too intelligent criminals. However, when a criminal comes along and is so smart and creative, how does law enforcement stop someone of that stature?
Theodore Kaczynski was described as a “twisted genius who aspired to be the perfect, anonymous killer. . .” (“The Unabomber” para. 1). He would soon wreak havoc on the society and cause a major investigation for law enforcement, specifically, for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He built untraceable bombs and delivered them to random targets in which he would leave false clues to throw off authorities. This mastermind criminal lived in a secluded area in the mountains of Montana which allowed him to go undetected by authorities (“The Unabomber” para. 1).
Did this infamous criminal grow up in a unstable household? What could have caused him to go on this rampage? Theodore Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, and raised in a normal household in a suburb of Chicago (“FBI Arrests Ted Kaczynski for Unabomber Crimes” para. 13). Kacynski was no doubt a brilliant criminal, and during his childhood, he was described as a gifted student. At the young age of sixteen he had graduated high school and began his college career at Harvard University. (“FBI Arrests Ted Kaczynski for Unabomber Crimes” para. 14). During his time at Harvard, he became known as a social loner, and he became increasingly distant. Later, at the University of Michigan he earned a Ph.D. at the age of twenty-five. It was described that, Kacynski was “unable to form meaningful relationships with women, questioned his sexuality and even considered a sex change” (“FBI Arrests Ted Kaczynski for Unabomber Crimes” para. 14). Then, in 1971 he and his brother bought a plot of land in Lincoln, Montana, where he built, essentially, a shack by hand and lived there for much of the next three decades. It was in this shack that Kaczynski wrote his manifesto and built the bombs. Could Kacynski’s lack of social skills and his vast knowledge have caused him to commit such terror? Notably, Kaczynski was a self proclaimed enthusiast despising technology which most likely grew on the hatred of others.
In some of Kacynski’s writings, later known as his 35,000-word manifesto, he described a serious plan to murder a scientist and also described thoughts of harming people whom he felt had humiliated him. It was not until the later 1970’s that he began experimenting to create explosive devices that could succeed in killing individuals (“FBI Arrests Ted Kaczynski for Unabomber Crimes” para. 15).
In a newsletter from the F.B.I., they said,
The man that the world would eventually know as Theodore Kaczynski came to our attention in 1978 with the explosion of his first, primitive homemade bomb at a Chicago university. Over the next 17 years, he mailed or hand delivered a series of increasingly sophisticated bombs that killed three Americans and injured twenty-four more. Along the way, he sowed fear and panic, even threatening to blow up airliners in flight. (“The Unabomber” para. 3)
With this genuine threat faced by law enforcement and the public, it was time for the F.B.I to intervene. It was not until 1979, a year after Kaczynksi’s first attack, that the F.B.I. developed a task force which included the Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco Agency as well as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. These agencies formed the “UNABOM” case which was code named for the University and Airline Bombing targets involved (“The Unabomber” para. 4).
Law Enforcement had considerable trouble creating any “real” leads as the bomb parts were not traceable. The task force would grow to more than one hundred fifty full-time investigators, analysts and others. Furthermore, the team made every possible forensic examination of recovered bomb components and studied the lives of victims in minute detail to create any type of lead; however, these efforts proved of little use in identifying the bomber, who took “pains to leave no forensic evidence, building his bombs essentially from “scrap” materials available almost anywhere” (“The Unabomber” para. 4). And the victims, investigators later learned, were chosen randomly from library research, making it even more difficult for investigators. This investigation was fast becoming a daunting task that seemed to be developing into a case that would only produce futile results.
Interestingly, the task force believed that the Unabomber had been raised in Chicago and later lived in the Salt Lake City and San Francisco areas. Later, this information turned out to be true, according to an F.B.I. news letter. Additionally, the bureau admitted that they were uncertain of the subjects occupation and even the gender was not certain although they suspected that it was a male (“The Unabomber” para. 5).
Following the first bombing, the Unabomber moved back to Chicago in 1978, where he got a job as a press operator at Foam Cutting Engineers. Additionally, this was where his brother, David, worked as his supervisor. Later that year, he was fired by his brother for his lewd behavior (“The Unabomber: A Chronology”).
Then on May 9, 1979, a bomb suspected to be from the Unabomber was located in a Phillies brand cigar box which was left on a table in the Technical Building on the Northwestern University Campus. It was mid-afternoon when John G. Harris discovered it and opened the box. The resulting explosion caused him cuts and burns, but nothing too serious of an injury (“The Unabomber: A Chronology”).
Following several other bombings, Theodore Kaczynski, the father of the alleged bomber, shot and killed himself in the family’s house in the Chicago suburb, with his wife and son David in the other room (“The Unabomber: A Chronology”).
Then on December 10, 1994, a package arrived at the residence of a North Caldwell, New Jersey home. The home owned by Thomas Mosser, who was the executive vice president of advertising for Young and Rubican, was killed by the blast (“The Unabomber: A Chronology”). This was just one of three other bombings that caused the death to the package recipient.
Then in 1995, the task force received a big break in the case. The Unabomber had sent the task force a “35,000 word essay claiming to explain his motives and views of the ills of modern society”. After much debate about the wisdom of “giving in to terrorists,” FBI Director Louis Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno approved the task force’s recommendation to publish the essay in hopes that a reader could identify the author (“The Unabomber” para. 6).
It was September 19, and The Washington Post and New York Times split the cost of the publication of the Unabomber’s manifest. They also printed a joint statement in both of the papers saying that they made the decision to print it based on recommendations from the FBI and due to “public safety reasons” (“The Unabomber: A Chronology”).
Following the release of the manifesto, David Kaczynski suspected his brother Ted wrote the document. Most Importantly, David provided letters and documents written by his brother which were analyzed by linguistic analysis. Subsequent investigation of the papers revealed that the papers from David and the manifesto were “almost certainly the same” (“The Unabomber” para. 7).
The conclusion of Kaczynski’s terror was fast approaching and interestingly, the technology that he despised was what aided in the capture of him. Finally on April 3, 1996 investigators arrested Theodore Kaczynski and “combed through his cabin”. They found a stockpile of bomb components including 40,000 handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of Unabomber crimes. They also located one live bomb ready for mailing (“The Unabomber” para. 8). Appropriate actions were taken to diffuse the bomb.
It was the end of Kaczynski’s reign of terror and his new home, following his guilty plea in January 1998, was an isolated cell in a “Supermax” prison in Colorado (“The Unabomber” para. 9).
Since Kaczynski’s incarceration, he has done an interview with Stephen Dubner. Asked about his sanity, Kaczynski replied, “I’m confident that I’m sane, personally,” he said. “I don’t get delusions and so on and so forth…I mean, I had very serious problems with social adjustment in adolescence, and a lot of people would call this a sickness. But it would have to be distinguished between an organic illness, like schizophrenia or something like that” (Dubner para. 1).
Also, Kaczynski confessed he pleaded guilty last year only to stop his lawyers from arguing he was a paranoid schizophrenic, as had been the diagnosis by court-appointed psychiatrists (Dubner para. 4).
Furthermore, he revealed in the interview that his brother David did not turn on him because of morals or because of the law, but rather that David was trying to settle a perversely complicated sibling rivalry. Also, he noted that David resented him because of “jealousy over the fact that their parents valued Theodore more highly” (Dubner para. 21).
At the conclusion of the interview, Kaczynski admitted that he dis not want to live long and that he would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of his life in prison. To get the death penalty, Kaczynski would first have to gain a retrial, which is improbable. At a new trial, he would represent himself, he indicated, but he would not discuss the strategy he might employ. (Dubner para. 56).
Kaczynski’s reign of terror stretched for decades, deceiving law enforcement and remaining undetected. He was that one person who comes around very seldom and stumps law enforcement. Typically, law enforcement matches up with less than genius criminals and does not deal frequently with mastermind criminals like Theodore Kaczynski. But all criminals in the end “slip up” and release some piece of document or becomes too greedy and is caught by their own ignorant mistake.
Dubner, Stephen J. “Selected journalism by Stephen J. Dubner.” Interview with
Theodore Kaczynski. Stephen J. Dubner. 18 Oct. 1999. Time. 11 Apr. 2009
“FBI Arrests Ted Kaczynski for Unabomber Crimes.” FindingDulcinea. 11 Apr. 2009
“The Unabomber: A Chronology.” Court TV Online. Fall 1999. 11 Apr. 2009
“The Unabomber.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. 24 Apr. 2008. 11 Apr. 2009