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Profile: Susan Swanson
Susan Swanson was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
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