Nation/World

Fbi Turns To Academia For Unabomber Leads Agents Hope Professors Will Recognize Writings Of Criminal

The FBI has given copies of a 35,000-word manifesto written by the terrorist known as the Unabomber to dozens of university professors in the hope they can identify the writing as the product of a former student or colleague.

The bomber, believed by authorities to be responsible for killing three people and injuring 23 since 1978, sent the manuscript to the New York Times and The Washington Post in June, saying he would refrain from killing anyone else if either paper published it in its entirety within three months. Today, both papers ran 3,000-word excerpts.

Many of the professors shown the manuscript, a learned screed against technology, are experts in the history of science.

“What we’re trying to stress is this whole idea of the history of science, and people who might have been in the right places at the right time, who have maybe seen or heard comments from someone whose words and writings are very similar to this,” Terry Turchie, assistant special agent in charge of the San Francisco-based UNABOM task force, said Tuesday.

Members of the task force believe the bomber was exposed to the history of science or some related discipline in the late 1970s in the Chicago area, possibly at the University of Illinois at Chicago or at Northwestern University, where the first two bombs were found.

The FBI believes he then moved to the Salt Lake City area in 1980 or 1981, then finally to Northern California, where he may have had “some sort of contact” with the University of California at Berkeley, in the words of an FBI statement to be made public Wednesday. Two bombs were placed in a computer sciences building at Berkeley in 1982 and 1985.

“Obviously the Unabomber knows his way in and around a college campus. Whether or not he’s been successful in achieving advanced degrees is subject to speculation,” said Jim R. Freeman, special agent in charge of the San Francisco office.

It is also possible the bomber has had “some contact” with other colleges or universities around the country, the FBI said.

One professor the FBI has sought assistance from is Keith R. Benson, a historian of biology at the University of Washington. Benson said he was first contacted by authorities in October, and was called again Tuesday and told that the manifesto was being delivered to him for his review.

Benson said the FBI has asked him to read the essay and look for any terms or themes that might be linked to a particular historian of science or to a university program in the field.

“I think what they’re looking for is any clue about where this individual may be located or may have attended school, based on his particular style of writing,” said Benson, who is executive secretary of the 3,000-member History of Science Society. “The hope is that he may have used some buzzword or language that might be connected with a course or a particular professor.”

Others the FBI are consulting include authors who have written about science and society and professors in related fields, Benson said.

After reading excerpts of the mani festo published Wednesday, Benson said he does not believe the Unabomber was enrolled in a history of science program. While the terrorist clearly knows the field, Benson said his references do not suggest an intimate familiarity with the subject.

For much of his criminal career the Unabomber chose to remain unnervingly silent about what seemed to be a random campaign against unrelated industries and academic fields. The FBI called him UNABOM because his early targets worked in universities or for airlines. The bomber called himself “FC,” for Freedom Club, though the FBI thinks the membership in the group is limited to the bomber himself. The only credible sighting of the bomber was in 1987, outside a Salt Lake City computer store just before an explosion. He was described by a witness as a man with curly reddish-blond hair and a light mustache.

He resurfaced six years later, in June 1993 when, two days apart, university professors were seriously injured with mail bombs. While only one person was killed in the first 14 incidents, his two most recent bombs proved lethal, last December when a New Jersey advertising executive opened a bomb in his house, and then in April when the president of the California Forestry Association was killed in his office by a mail bomb addressed to someone else.

With that incident the Unabomber suddenly became discursive, sending letters to newspapers, a former victim, a college professor and unveiling his manifesto, entitled, “Industrial Society and Its Future.”

Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., said managers at his paper decided to run the excerpts because they “represent a sample of what it is all these professors will be looking at,” and because, by now, there is high reader interest.

The larger issue involved in yield ing to pressure from a terrorist, by printing the whole text as the Unabomber demands, is “very difficult,” Downey said.

“We obviously have two traditions that come to bear here. One is being an entirely independent newspaper, in which nobody outside the newspaper tells us what to publish, whether it’s the government or anyone else,” he said. “The other is our stated position … not to knowingly endanger human life.

xxxx

1. THE BOMBER’S WORDS Two Excerpts from the 35,000-word tract that the Unabomber has asked the New York Times and Washington Post to print in its entirety. “The industrial revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” “Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ ONLY goal.”

2. UNABOMBER’S WORDS Here are some excerpts from the Unabomber’s treatise: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. … “If the system breaks down, the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later. … “Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism. … “But what is leftism? … Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, ‘Politically correct’ types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal-rights activists and the like. … “Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. … “The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values. … “To make an impression on society with words is … almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (Freedom Club) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of those readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people. …”



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