Agents Move Against Former Professor Suspected as Unabomber
LINCOLN, Mont. (AP) _ A former Berkeley professor suspected by relatives of being the Unabomber was taken into custody Wednesday while federal agents searched his cabin near a mountain pass on the Continental Divide.
A member of the Unabom task force, demanding anonymity, told The Associated Press the suspect was named Ted John Kaczynski and had been using many aliases. For several weeks, federal agents have been following the suspect.
A federal law enforcement official said Kaczynski was taken into custody so that he would not interfere with the search of his home, but he was neither arrested nor charged.
Chuck O’Reilly, sheriff of Lewis and Clark County, said 20 FBI agents searched the home near Stemple Pass, between Helena and Lincoln.
The search for the Unabomber _ who’s thought responsible for three deaths and 23 injuries over nearly 18 years _ appeared to have no connection to the standoff between federal agents and the anti-government separatists known as Freemen near the town of Jordan, 350 miles to the east.
Butch Gehring, a neighbor, said the small cabin being searched was the home of a Ted Kaczynski, described as being a resident since 1971.
``He was real shy, real quiet. His conversations were short,″ Gehring said, describing Kaczynski as a hermit.
A Theodore J. Kaczynski, born May 22, 1942, in Chicago, graduated from Harvard in 1962 when he was barely 20 and taught as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1967-68 school year, according to Harvard and Berkeley records. He resigned in June 1969.
``We like the looks of this guy as the Unabomber, but we don’t have make-or-break evidence yet,″ one federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. ``We have some writings that match up, but we don’t have his tools yet. We want the irrefutable motherlode of evidence.″
One official said Kaczynski grew up in Chicago and received a doctorate in mathematics in 1967 from the University of Michigan. After quitting Berkeley, Kaczynski lived in Utah in the late 1970s and early 1980s where he did odd jobs and menial labor, this official said. He bought land in Montana 10-12 years ago and has been building a cabin there since then, the official said.
Members of the man’s family found some old writings of his while cleaning out a place where he once lived in Chicago, and the writings raised their suspicions, said two federal officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The family approached an attorney in Washington, who called the FBI, to alert them. Federal agents later got consent to search the former Chicago residence, the officials said.
The Unabomber’s spree began at Northwestern University outside Chicago in May 1978. Three people have died and 23 more were injured in 15 subsequent Unabomber attacks; the most recent came April 24, 1995, when a timber industry executive was killed in Sacramento, Calif.
The FBI has spread copies of the Unabomber’s writings throughout the academic community in hopes of finding someone who recognizes the work.
Last September, The New York Times and The Washington Post published, in the Post, his 35,000-word treatise on the inhumanity of industrial society after he promised to stop planting bombs that kill people.
His manifesto held that industrial society should be abolished and replaced with ``small, autonomous units″ of no more than 100 people.
There have been no such incidents since then.
Federal agents working the Unabomber case ``have been hot to trot for about two weeks,″ said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Don Bell, a member of the multi-agency Unabom Task Force and former homicide detective who worked the 1987 case in which a Salt Lake man was critically injured when he picked up a package left outside a computer store.
That was the only time anyone ever spotted the man believed to be the Unabomber and resulted in the now-famous composite drawing showing a hooded man wearing aviator-style sunglasses.
Bell has been told by other task force members that agents searched a home in Chicago, apparently belonging to the suspect’s parents, where ``they found some stuff″ that may be related to the bombings.
CBS News said the initial report about the man came earlier this year from his brother, a Washington-based attorney.
For three years, a San Francisco-based task force of two dozen agents from the FBI, Treasury Department and Post Office has pored over travel records, tips, interviews, lab results and case records searching for clues.
Federal agents describe the Unabomber as white, male, 40ish, a killer-from-afar who is quiet, antisocial and very meticulous. He could easily buy the electrical switches he has used. Instead, he painstakingly builds them himself. His explosives are not exotic. From match heads he moved up to powders, and now uses material that could be scraped out of firecrackers. But he likely mixes his own chemicals.
The longer an explosion is contained, the fiercer the blast. So he experiments with larger and stronger pipes to do more damage.
Sometimes he carves bomb parts out of wood instead of buying easily available metal pieces. He also likes to box his videocassette-sized devices in wood _ sometimes using four varieties. He seems fascinated with wood.
He used to autograph his bombs, putting a metal tab with his mysterious trademark ``FC″ where it would survive the explosion.
Before he mails it, he lovingly polishes the outside. Pride of authorship, agents say. If a clean car works better, then a bomb should too, the thinking goes.
The victims have changed over the years. First universities _ which is how the Unabomber got his name _ and professors, particularly engineering. Then aviation, directed at an American Airlines flight in 1979. Then computer stores. In 1993, it was back to professors, including a geneticist.
In June, the Unabomber threatened in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle to blow up a plane out of Los Angeles International Airport. The next day, an authenticated letter sent to The New York Times said the threat was merely a prank.
That scare prompted a ban on aerial shipping of mail originating in California weighing 12 ounces or more.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Associated Press Writer Michael J. Sniffen in Washington also contributed to this story.