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Context of 'May 25-26, 1978: Northwestern Security Guard Injured by ‘Unabomber’ Exploding Package'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event May 25-26, 1978: Northwestern Security Guard Injured by ‘Unabomber’ Exploding Package. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

A photograph of Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, taken in 1968 while Kaczynski was a young faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley.A photograph of Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, taken in 1968 while Kaczynski was a young faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley. [Source: George M. Bergman / Wikimedia]An unmailed package is found in a car park at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and brought to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, because of its return address; the addressee now teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Buckley Crist, the material sciences professor named in the return address on the package cannot identify it, and turns it over to campus security. When Northwestern police officer Terry Marker opens it, it explodes, injuring him slightly. The package contains a pipe bomb packed in a carved wooden box. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/14/1996; Washington Post, 1998] The bomb is made of a nine-inch pipe filled with explosive powders and triggered by a nail held by rubber bands that strikes and ignites match heads when the box is opened. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The package contains 10 $1 commemorative Eugene O’Neill stamps on its outer wrapper. Authorities will later speculate that the bomber may have chosen the O’Neill stamps because the playwright was an ardent supporter of anarchists. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). It is believed to be Kaczynski’s first bomb. [New York Times, 4/7/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Marker, Northwestern University, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Buckley Crist

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, John Harris, is injured when he opens a box left at the University’s Technological Institute. The box contains a bomb that explodes when opened. Harris suffers minor cuts and burns. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] Authorities recognize fundamental similarities between this and a previous Northwestern University bombing (see May 25-26, 1978). This bomb is quite similar in construction to that one, though more sophisticated in construction and design. It consists of a cigar box and a pipe bomb, triggered by a battery-operated filament that ignites explosive powders. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] However, the package contains a number of small, finger-sized pieces of wood glued to its outer container. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see May 25-26, 1978 and April 3, 1996).

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Northwestern University, John Harris

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A parcel mailed from Chicago catches fire in a mailbag aboard American Airlines Flight 444 from Chicago to Washington, DC. The package contains a bomb which was apparently constructed to explode inside the cargo hold. Twelve passengers are treated for smoke inhalation; the flight conducts an emergency landing at Dulles Airport near Washington. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The bomb does not ignite because instead of explosive powder, it contains barium nitrate, a powder often used to create green smoke in fireworks. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The bombing is later shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). After the airline bombing and the subsequent bombing of a United Airlines executive (see June 10, 1980), the FBI ties the previous bombings (see May 25-26, 1978 and May 9, 1979) to this one and code-names the file UNABOM, for “UNiversity and Airline BOMber.” The media will soon dub the unknown assailant the “Unabomber.” [Washington Post, 4/4/1996; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] Kaczynski will later express regret for trying to bomb the plane (see April 24, 1995).

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

In his Lake Forest, Illinois, home, United Airlines president Percy Wood opens a package that apparently contains a book. It contains both a book and a bomb in the book’s hollowed-out pages. It explodes, causing Wood to suffer cuts and bruises. The initials “FC” are found etched on, or punched into, a piece of pipe from the bomb. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). “FC” will later be found to stand for “Freedom Club.” [Washington Post, 1/23/1998; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] Authorities will later speculate that Wood may have been targeted in part because of Kaczynski’s strange fascination with wood; he often uses wood in the construction of his bombs. The hollowed-out book, Ice Brothers, is published by Arbor House, whose symbol is a tree leaf. [Associated Press, 4/25/1995] The package contains a note asking Wood to read the enclosed book, and noting, “You will find it of great social significance.” The author of Ice Brothers, Sloan Wilson, also wrote The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which, according to a 1959 biography of Wilson, “was the definitive epithet for the commuting suburbanite, the status-hungry conformist from Madison Avenue.” Like an earlier bomb (see May 25-26, 1978), this bomb’s package is mailed using postage stamps commemorating the playwright Eugene O’Neill; authorities will speculate that Kaczynski may have chosen the stamps because of O’Neill’s ardent support of anarchists. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995]

Entity Tags: Percy Wood, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI’s sketch of the as-yet-unidentified ‘Unabomber.’The FBI’s sketch of the as-yet-unidentified ‘Unabomber.’ [Source: FBI]Gary Wright, the owner of CAAMS Inc., a Salt Lake City, Utah, computer shop, is injured when he attempts to remove a “road hazard” at the rear entrance of his shop. The “hazard” is actually a bomb, similar to one that killed another computer shop owner in Sacramento, California, over a year ago (see December 11, 1985). A secretary saw a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses leave the bag containing the bomb; she becomes the first eyewitness in what will later become the “Unabomber” investigation (see April 3, 1996). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The “Unabomber” is improving his skills; this bomb contains a more sophisticated triggering device than earlier constructions. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] Almost six years ago, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber,” planted another bomb in Salt Lake City (see October 8, 1981). But for now, the FBI has no knowledge of Kaczynski’s identity. It has, however, found what it calls “an absolute link” between the Wright bombing and the “Unabom” serial bombings that have been going on since 1978 (see May 25-26, 1978). Federal bomb expert Ron Wolters says the bombs in the different cases display a high level of similarity. Police describe the as-yet-unidentified bomber as a disgruntled academician or computer worker. [Chicago Sun-Times, 2/24/1987]

Entity Tags: CAAMS Inc, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Ron Wolters, Gary Wright

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times receives a letter from the so-called “Unabomber,” who calls himself “the terrorist group FC.” This is not the first time the Unabomber has identified himself through these initials (see June 24, 1993). The author, who is as yet unidentified, promises to stop sending bombs if a lengthy article written by the “group” is printed in a national periodical such as the Times, Newsweek, or Time magazine. The writer promises to wait three months; if the publications do not print his article, he writes, he will “start building our next bomb.” [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998] The letter is actually one of four copies mailed out together on April 20, 1995. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] According to the letter, the Unabomber was disappointed in the relatively small amount of damage done by the early bombs (see May 25-26, 1978, May 9, 1979, November 15, 1979, June 10, 1980, and May 5, 1982). “Our early bombs were too ineffectual to attract much public attention or give encouragement to those who hate the system,” he writes. He adds that after the early bombs, he took “a couple of years off to do some experimenting. We learned how to make pipe bombs that were powerful enough, and we used these in a couple of successful bombings (see December 11, 1985, December 10, 1994, and April 24, 1995) as well as in some unsuccessful ones.” Of his attempt to bomb a Boeing passenger flight in 1979 (see November 15, 1979), the letter states: “The idea was to kill a lot of business people who we assumed would constitute the majority of passengers. But of course, some passengers would likely have been innocent people—maybe kids or some working stiff going to see his sick grandmother. We’re glad now that that attempt failed.” Of the injury suffered by secretary Janet Smith (see May 5, 1982), he writes, “We certainly regret that.” However, he expresses no compunctions about having killed his recent victims, timber industry lobbyist Gilbert Murray (see April 24, 1995) and advertising executive Thomas Mosser (see December 10, 1994). He writes, “[W]hen we were young and comparatively reckless we were much more careless in selecting targets than we are now.” Of Mosser, he writes: “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston[sic]-Marsteller executive.… Burston[sic]-Marsteller is about the biggest organization in the public relations field. This means that its business is the development of techniques for manipulating people’s attitudes.” [Washington Post, 4/14/1996] The manuscript shows that he targeted Mosser because he believed Mosser’s firm was involved in helping Exxon minimize public criticism of its actions surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The letter also denies targeting random university professors or academics: “Some news reports have made the misleading statement that we have been attacking universities or scholars,” it reads. “We would not want anyone to think that we have any desire to hurt professors who study archaeology, history, literature, or harmless stuff like that. The people we are out to get are the scientists and the engineers.” [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The letter will later be shown to be the work of former college professor and recluse Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996). The Washington Post will print his article, which will trigger his identification (see September 19, 1995). “FC” will later be found to stand for “Freedom Club.” [Washington Post, 1/23/1998]

Entity Tags: Gilbert Murray, ExxonMobil, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Burson-Marstellar, Thomas J. Mosser, Janet Smith, New York Times, Washington Post

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The San Francisco Chronicle publishes an article about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the lengthy spate of bombings attributed to the “Unabomber” (see May 25-26, 1978 and April 24, 1995). The first person quoted in the Chronicle article is Tom Tyler, a social psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Unbeknownst to Tyler or the Chronicle, the Unabomber is Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a former mathematics professor at Berkeley (see April 3, 1996). Tyler, who will later say he was not at Berkeley when Kaczynski taught there, receives a letter from the Unabomber shortly after the article is published. The letter is addressed to Tyler, and identifies him as “head of the social psychology group,” the same incorrect title he was given in the Chronicle. It contains a long manuscript written by the Unabomber (see April 24, 1995) and asks him to read it. “I said in the article that the Oklahoma City bomber and the Unabomber were examples of people who had exaggerated feelings that the government was out to get them,” Tyler later recalls. “The Unabomber objected to that characterization of him.” The letter asks Tyler to read his document, which he had sent to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and three other media outlets (see September 19, 1995). Tyler responds that he welcomes Kaczynski’s suggestion that revolution “need not be violent or sudden,” says that Kaczynski is not alone in feeling discontented with today’s society, and that “it is wrong to simply say that people who are dissatisfied are in some way non-rational.” However, Tyler disagrees with his argument that industrial-technological society cannot be reformed. [Associated Press, 7/5/1995; Washington Post, 4/14/1996]

Entity Tags: San Francisco Chronicle, Tom Tyler, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

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

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