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Profile: Janet Smith

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Janet Smith was a participant or observer in the following events:

A parcel addressed to the head of the Vanderbilt University computer science department, Patrick Fischer, explodes, injuring Fischer’s secretary, Janet Smith. The package was originally sent to Fischer at Pennsylvania State University but was later forwarded to Nashville, Tennessee, where Vanderbilt University is located and where Fischer now teaches. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] Fischer will later describe Smith’s injuries as “nasty lacerations,” and will say, “She made a full recovery, but it was very traumatic for her.” The bomb itself consists of smokeless powder and a large number of match heads. The package has a false return address, stating it comes from LeRoy Bearnson, a professor of electrical engineering at Utah’s Brigham Young University. Bearnson will later say, “I suppose the guy didn’t care which way it went or who got blown up.” FBI agent Oliver “Buck” Revell, who takes part in early phases of the bomb investigation, will later say: “He might pick out an individual, but the person was still a symbolic target to him. I suspect that once he targeted the university research system, it didn’t matter that much who received it. I suspect he felt the country would pick up the symbolism.” The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). When Fischer, along with the rest of the country, learns of Kaczynski’s identity, he will try to find connections between himself and Kaczynski, and come up with only the most tenuous of relationships: Fischer studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while Kaczynski studied at nearby Harvard, and Fischer may have shared a Harvard math class with Kaczynski. He also spent time in Salt Lake City, a city with which Kaczynski is familiar. “The agents made it very clear that I was the target,” Fischer will later say. “I still have no idea why, except my feeling is that he chose names at random with certain associations.” [Washington Post, 4/14/1996]

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Janet Smith, LeRoy Bearnson, Patrick Fischer, Vanderbilt University, Oliver (“Buck”) Revell

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


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