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Context of 'April 3, 1996: Former UC-Berkeley Professor Arrested for Unabomber Crimes'

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David Kacynski informs the FBI that his brother, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, might be the infamous “Unabomber.” The situation begins when their mother Wanda puts her Lombard, Illinois house up for sale in preparation to move to Schenectady, New York, to live closer to David. In the final days before the move, Wanda and David Kaczynski find documents written by David’s older brother Ted that they find disturbing.
Independent Investigation - Even before the publication of the “Unabomber” manifesto in the Washington Post and elsewhere (see September 19, 1995), David Kaczynski had worried that his brother might be the Unabomber. After its publication, his wife Linda Patrik read the manifesto and alerted David Kaczynski to its possible connection to his brother. David Kaczynski goes through the papers from his mother’s house, which include letters written by his brother from as far back as the 1970s protesting the use of technology. The themes and wording of the letters were disturbingly similar to the manuscript attributed to the Unabomber. David Kaczynski contacted a private investigator (later identified as Susan Swanson, a long-time friend of the family), who compiled information about the Unabomber’s attacks. David Kaczynski compared them to information he had about his brother’s movements. “She was able to deduce that he worked in the cities that were relevant at the correct times,” her supervisor Terry Lenzner will later say. Swanson contacted a colleague, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, who had briefly worked on a psychological profile of the Unabomber. Van Zandt compared letters written by Ted Kaczynski (whom Swanson did not reveal as the author) with the Unabomber document, and found marked similarities between the two. In mid-January, Van Zandt contacts Swanson and tells her the similarities are so strong that her client needs to go to the FBI, or he will be forced to do so. Swanson has already suggested that David Kaczynski retain the services of lawyer Anthony Bisceglie to represent the family.
Contacting the FBI - In late January, Bisceglie contacts the FBI in Washington, choosing to contact a friend in the bureau instead of the FBI’s Unabom task force in California. An FBI official will later recall, “The lawyer was nervous.” Initially, Bisceglie describes the situation without naming either of the brothers, or giving too much information about the grounds for David’s suspicions. “The brother was nervous,” the official later adds, “wanting to protect and not to smear his brother’s name if he wasn’t guilty and not to hurt him if he was.” After weeks of discussion, Bisceglie and David Kaczynski meet with FBI agents; David Kaczynski brings the documents from his mother’s house. Neither Bisceglie nor David Kaczynski are eager to identify Ted Kaczynski, but FBI agents have begun checking David Kaczynski’s background, and have already determined that Ted Kaczynski is probably the person he suspects of being the Unabomber. “We had kind of figured it out before he told us who his brother was, and that they both went to Harvard,” the official will later say. Bisceglie and David Kaczynski identify Theodore Kaczynski to FBI officials in early February. (Wanda Kaczynski is not told of the suspicions against her eldest son until late March.) Officials later say that they never considered David Kaczynski as having any involvement in his brother’s deeds, and never thought that he was motivated by the prospect of receiving the $1 million reward offered by the FBI for his capture and conviction (see August 20, 1998). Instead, the officials will say, David Kaczynski and the family want to ensure that if the FBI does go after Theodore Kaczynski, they will take precautions not to hurt him if and when they find him. Wanda Kaczynski authorizes an FBI search of the Lombard house as the family is preparing to leave. Using evidence found at the house, along with the documents and information provided by David Kaczynski and its own investigations, the FBI quickly learns that Theodore Kaczynski lives in an isolated cabin in the Montana mountains. Family and friends recall Ted Kaczynski as a brilliant mathematics student, perhaps a genius, but quite reclusive. LeRoy Weinberg, a veterinarian who lived behind the Kaczynskis in Evergreen Park, will later recall: “He never played with the other kids. He was a brilliant student, but even then his brother was much more social. I remember saying at the time that he may be brilliant, but I’m sure glad he’s not my kid.” Neighbors are aware that Ted Kaczynski had abandoned a promising career as a mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley to move into a tiny rural cabin in Montana some 15 years ago, and know little else. The Kaczynski’s father committed suicide in 1990 after learning he was suffering from terminal cancer. [New York Times, 4/4/1996; Washington Post, 4/5/1996; Reuters, 4/8/1996; Chicago Tribune, 4/9/1996] In April 1996, Van Zandt will say that David Kaczynski is a “national hero” for turning in his brother. “He used us to verify in his own mind his suspicions that his own brother may have been the Unabomber,” he will say. “Unfortunately, we confirmed his worst fears.” [Chicago Tribune, 4/9/1996]

Entity Tags: Linda Patrik, Clinton R. Van Zandt, Anthony Bisceglie, David Kaczynski, LeRoy Weinberg, Wanda Kaczynski, Terry Lenzner, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Susan Swanson

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities.Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities. [Source: Associated Press]Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a former University of California at Berkeley mathematics professor who now lives as a recluse in a one-room, 10-foot by 12-foot cabin in the mountains outside Lincoln, Montana, is arrested for possession of bomb components. He is subsequently proven to be the “Unabomber” (see January 22, 1998). Kaczynski is turned in to law enforcement officials by his brother David Kaczynski, who believes Kaczynski’s writings bear a marked resemblance to the Unabomber’s recently published manifesto (see September 19, 1995 and January-March 1996 and After). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998; KSPR-TV, 2011]
Tiny Cabin Filled with Evidence - The cabin lacks indoor plumbing and running water. Among other items, the cabin contains a potbellied stove, which Kaczynski used to both heat the cabin and melt the metals used in making his bombs; a hooded sweatshirt similar to the one he is depicted as wearing in the now-infamous FBI sketch released of him years earlier (see February 20, 1987); the typewriter used to type his “manifesto”; books on bomb-making and many other subjects; a homemade pistol; and other more mundane items. [Washington Post, 4/4/1996; KSPR-TV, 2011] In the days after the arrest, the FBI will reveal that two live bombs found in the cabin are nearly identical to lethal devices used by the Unabomber in 1994 and 1995, though the bureau will not give more specifics about the bombs found. “It was as if once he found the right design, he stuck with it,” an FBI official will say. [New York Times, 4/8/1996] The evidence found in the cabin sheds light on Kaczynski’s motivations for the bombings (see April 3, 1996).
FBI Had No Leads - Kaczynski is responsible for killing Hugh Scrutton and two other people (see December 10, 1994 and April 24, 1995) and injuring 29 others between 1978 and 1995. FBI officials later say that while they have tracked thousands of leads over Kaczynski’s 18-year bombing spree, they had no real clues as to his identity before his brother stepped up to identify him as a possible suspect. David Kaczynski later says that he was not sure his brother was the bomber for a very long time: “I had never seen him violent, not toward me, not toward anyone. I tended to see his anger turned inward,” he will say. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
Arrest Uneventful - The arrest comes after weeks of intensive, if unobtrusive, surveillance by the FBI along with postal inspectors and explosives specialists. Disguised as lumberjacks and outdoorsmen, the agents began slipping into Helena and the tiny hamlet of Lincoln, some 50 miles northwest of Helena and not far from the cabin. The agents learned more about Kaczynski from local residents, and found that he is essentially a hermit who rarely leaves the property. FBI snipers moved in close to the cabin and staked it out for weeks, communicating with their commanders by encrypted radios. Mostly they watched as Kaczynski tended his garden and retrieved provisions from his root cellar; during the time he was under surveillance, he never left the property. On April 3, the agents finally move in, with 40 men in body armor surrounding the cabin and proffering a search warrant. An Army ordnance team accompanies the agents, with the duty of searching for booby traps; none are found. When Kaczynski sees the agents, he tries to withdraw inside the cabins, but is restrained. Once the agents have him, Kaczynski puts up no further resistance, and as one official says, becomes “quite personable, and well spoken.” He immediately asks for a lawyer, and refuses to answer questions, though he engages in pleasant small talk with the agents. A law enforcement official, noting that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have collected a huge amount of physical and forensic evidence over the 17-year span of bombings, says, “We always believed there would come a day when all these many bits of information would begin to come together and that day was the day we executed the search warrant.” [New York Times, 4/4/1996]

Entity Tags: David Kaczynski, Percy Wood, University of California at Berkeley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hugh Scrutton, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI gives a $1 million reward to David Kaczynski, who identified his brother Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski as the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). The FBI spent nearly 20 years in an ever-increasing and fruitless manhunt to catch the serial bomber. David Kaczynski works as a youth shelter social worker in Schenectady, New York. He has expressed his ambivalence over turning his brother over to the FBI. Kaczynski has said that if he receives the reward money, he will donate most of it to the families of his brother’s victims. The Kaczynski family feels that giving most of the money to the victims “might help us resolve our grief over what happened,” he says. Kaczynski family attorney Anthony Bisceglie says now that Kaczynski has actually received the money, “[t]hat certainly still is his intent.” Kaczynski notes that he has to use some of the money to pay off the family’s legal bills resulting from the Unabomber case. FBI spokesman John Russell says that the $1 million reward is one of the biggest rewards ever paid in a domestic terrorism case. Kaczynski says that while he does not claim the mantle of “hero” that lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary labeled him, he believes that his choice to turn in his brother may have spared the lives of more innocent people. Kaczynski pressed federal prosecutors to consider his brother as not just guilty of heinous crimes, but deeply mentally ill (Ted Kaczynski has been diagnosed as suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia). It is in part because of the diagnosis, and because of pressure from David Kaczynski, that the government ultimately chose not to seek the death penalty against his brother (see May 4, 1998). Until the government reversed itself and chose not to seek the death penalty, David Kaczynski was bitterly angry at the government and accused Justice Department officials of wanting to “kill my brother at any cost” (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski and his mother, Wanda Kaczynski, also criticized the FBI and Unabom Task Force prosecutors for misleading them during the negotiations that led up to their identification of Theodore Kaczynski by suggesting they were interested in obtaining psychiatric help for him and not in pressing for capital punishment. During the entire trial, though David Kaczynski sat just 10 feet behind his brother in the courtroom, Ted Kaczynski never once acknowledged his brother’s presence or looked at him. [Washington Post, 8/21/1998]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Cleary, Anthony Bisceglie, David Kaczynski, John Russell, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Wanda Kaczynski, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism


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