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Ted Kaczynski

On This Day: FBI Arrests Unabomber Ted Kaczynski

April 03, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On April 3, 1996, FBI agents raided the rural Montana cabin of Ted Kaczynski to search for evidence linking him to the Unabomber's 16 bombings.

Family Tipped FBI About Kaczynski

 Ted Kaczynski sent his first mail bomb in 1978 to a university professor in Chicago, injuring a security guard who opened it. Between 1978 and 1995, he would send out 16 mail bombs to universities and airlines, killing three people and injuring 24. The FBI formed a task force in 1979 code-named “UNABOM,” beginning a 17-year search for the man known as the “Unabomber.” The code name came from the universities and airlines he targeted.

In the mid-90s, Kaczynski promised to cease his terror campaign in exchange for the publication of his 35,000-word manifesto, a polemic against the post-industrial world. The Washington Post, with the help of The New York Times, printed it on Sept. 19, 1995.

It was the printing of the manifesto that led to Kaczynski’s capture, as his brother David Kaczynski and his wife recognized the writing and alerted the authorities. The FBI tracked Kaczynski to a remote shack in the woods of Montana.

Agents infiltrated the nearby town of Lincoln, located about five miles from Kaczynski’s cabin, and learned from locals about the man they called “the hermit.” Agents maintained a close surveillance of Kaczynski, surrounding his cabin with sharpshooters, satellite surveillance and lookout posts.

On April 3, 1996, the FBI arrested Kaczynski at his cabin, where agents found evidence connecting him to the Unabomber crimes. The cabin contained shelves stocked with cans and bottles filled with chemicals and other bomb-making materials, books on how to make bombs, a manual typewriter and anti-technology writings, and a live bomb underneath his bed.

FBI Agent Terry Turchie recalls entering the cabin with explosives expert Pat Webb: “Pat Webb turns to me and he has tears in his eyes and one running down his cheek and he said, ‘This is it. We found the Unabomber.’”

Kaczynski’s Plea Bargain and Sentencing

Kaczynski was charged in a Sacramento federal court with transportation of explosives with intent to kill for four of his bombs. He was charged separately by a Newark, N.J., court for another one of his bombs.

Federal psychiatrist Dr. Sally Johnson diagnosed Kaczynski with paranoid schizophrenia, though she declared him fit to face trial. Kaczynski claimed he was of sound mind, and asked for the right to fire his lawyers and defend himself in court. On Jan. 8, 1998, three days after his trial began, Kaczynski attempted suicide in his jail cell.

On Jan. 22, U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell denied Kaczynski’s appeal to represent himself. Later that day, the defense reached a plea bargain with federal prosecutors for Kaczynski to receive life in prison without parole; the bargain covered all the federal charges against him in Sacramento and New Jersey. “The Unabomber's career is over,” declared prosecutor Robert Cleary.

Biography: Ted Kaczynski

Theodore Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, and raised in a normal middle-class household in suburban Chicago. A gifted student, Kaczynski graduated high school at age 16 and attended Harvard University. A social loner, he became increasingly distant during his time at Harvard, and later at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. at age 25.

Unable to form meaningful relationships with women, he questioned his sexuality and even considered a sex change. In 1971 he and his brother bought a plot of land in Lincoln, Mont., where he would build a shack by hand and live there for much of the next three decades. It was in this shack that Kaczynski wrote his manifesto and built bombs.

"His writings describe him thinking seriously about planning to murder a scientist in 1971," wrote Dr. Johnson in her psychological evaluation. "During the later 1970's, he began experimenting to create explosive devices that could succeed in killing individuals. He also describes thoughts of harming people whom he felt had humiliated him."

Kaczynski is currently serving his sentence in AZX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado that also holds Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols and Olympic Park bomber Eric Randolph. In an Oct. 18, 1999, prison interview with Time columnist Stephen J. Dubner, he claimed that he is not insane and said of his brother David, "I think his sense of guilt is outweighed by his satisfaction at having finally gotten revenge on big brother."

Dubner wrote, "Speaking with him, one is struck not by the burning anger that characterized his Una-bomber campaign but by a satisfaction that the world, at long last, is treating him like a valuable human being."

Related Topic: The Oklahoma City Bombing


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