The Unabomber’s One Tiny Oversight

Ted Kaczynski.

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He’s infamously known as the Unabomber. He led the longest and most expensive investigation in the history of the Federal Bureau. By all metric possible, he was nothing short of a genius. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvard. In 1962, he enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s and doctoral degree in mathematics in 1964 and 1967.

Maxwell Reade, a member of his dissertation committee, concluded that “maybe 10 or 12 people in the country understood” Kaczynski’s dissertation. Allen Shields, Kaczynski’s doctoral advisor, called Kaczynski’s work the “best he has ever directed.”

He was the youngest assistant professor of mathematics to ever teach in the history of University of California, Berkeley.

And then, on June 30, 1969, Ted resigned.

Following his resignation, he built a remote cabin outside Lincoln, Montana. He figured he could live a simple life with very little money and no electricity or running water. By 1978, he felt that it was not enough to isolate himself from society in nature. Self-sufficiency was not enough. He felt that technology was destroying the only thing he loved: nature.

He began building bombs. Here is a table of all the bombs the FBI believes he sent:

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Dates of bombings, Wikipedia

He killed three people and injured twenty-three others.

Here is where he made things really hard. These bombs were either hand-delivered or mailed. As time went on, the bombs got more sophisticated. Sometimes, Kaczynski placed strange initials on them or fingerprints that weren’t his.

His first series of bombs included one placed in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight. It was faulty, and didn’t detonate. It released smoke and prompted an emergency landing. Had the bomb gone off, it would have “obliterated the plane” as determined by its potential explosive power.

Kaczynski left false clues all around each bomb he sent. Metal plates with initials on them. Sometimes there would be little notes in bombs that failed to detonate. He used awkward $1 stamps to send the boxes. One of his bombs was in a Sloan Wilson novel. Branches and wood pieces in other boxes.

The lack of a clear pattern and targeting virtually randomly rendered him virtually impossible to detect. He took extreme care to never leave fingerprints. When the FBI did find fingerprints of some of his later devices, they were not matched to Kaczysnki.

There was literally nothing. Even nearly 20 years after Ted started. That is, until his brother’s wife insisted that he look further into Ted’s whereabouts.

In 1978, Ted was working at his brother and dad’s foam rubber factory. His brother fired him for writing insulting notes to a female supervisor he wanted to date.

In 1995, Ted mailed letters to media outlets demanding that they publish his 35,000-word essay titled Industrial Society and its Future. This was later dubbed the Unabomber Manifesto by the FBI.

When his brother, David, read the manifesto, he noticed the writing style. When he looked through old family papers he found letters Ted had sent to newspapers protesting the impact of technology on nature and humanity. At that point, his brother hired a private investigator and a lawyer to gather details to eventually send to the FBI.

The FBI had a million dollar reward for any information that would lead to the identification of the Unabomber. The problem with this is that many letters claimed to be this person, and the FBI was filled with thousands of false leads and suspects to review.

After 20 years, the only flaw in Ted’s plan was that he tried to communicate to the media outlets at all and that he had a brother following the gross details of the terrorism he was causing across the country. Otherwise, nobody ever really knew him personally.

The FBI, before David’s involvement, was convinced that Kaczynski was from the Chicago area, had some connection to Salt Lake City, and in the 1990s had some connection to the San Francisco area.

In other words, they had nothing. Nearly 20 years later.

It was his brother who identified him. Who gave the FBI critical information on where he was living in the back country of Montana.

I don’t think a single human being could justify what Ted Kaczynski did. It’s nothing less than disgusting and inhumane.

Nothing short of domestic terrorism.

But had he been born a single child, the FBI would have virtually nothing to provide them even the semblance of a lead.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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