A Northwestern University mathematics professor said Wednesday he believes he met Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski almost 20 years ago when a young man asked for his help in getting a manuscript on the subject of modern technology published.
At a news conference on the university campus Wednesday, Donald Saari said he is “99.99 percent” certain the young man was Kaczynski and that his visitor later became visibly angry when his attempts to have the manuscript published were rebuffed by other faculty members at Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“He stated that he was angry,” Saari recalled. “He was angry at the way he had been treated, about how he had been dismissed from their offices. I guess they had looked over his manuscript and summarily dismissed him. He said, ‘I will get even.’ I interpreted it as being essentially a minor temper tantrum, so what I did was I calmed him down.”
Five weeks after Saari’s visitor expressed his anger, the first device attributed to the Unabomber exploded at Northwestern University’s engineering school, injuring a security guard. The bomb had been left in a parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago but was sent to Northwestern because the return address was that of a Northwestern engineering professor.
Saari, who first gave this account of his 1978 meetings with a man he believes was Kaczynski to ABC News on Tuesday, said it was not until 1994 that he began to think there could be a link between it and the Unabomber case. He said he contacted the FBI’s Unabomber hot-line telephone number with this information, then and wrote two letters to the bureau in 1995 describing the meetings.
Saari said the FBI first responded to his contacts in July 1995 but that he remained skeptical that the young man was the Unabomber until he saw photographs of a younger Kaczynski after his arrest in Montana.
Saari would not speculate on whether rejection of the manuscript for publication might have motivated Kaczynski into an 18-year spree of bombings that killed three people and injured 23 others.