TOPICS > Politics

Suspecting the Worst

April 8, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Federal prosecutors from several states met in Washington today at the Justice Department. They discussed how and where they would prosecute the case against Theodore Kaczynski, the prime suspect in the unabomber case. Over the course of 17 years, the unabomber is alleged to have mailed bombs to 16 locations in nine different states, resulting in three deaths and twenty-three injuries. The 53-year-old Kaczynski continues to be held without bond in a Helena, Montana, jail. Also in Washington, D.C., today, the attorney used by the brother of Theodore Kaczynski to contact the FBI about the family suspicions held a press conference.

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE, Washington Lawyer: Let me begin by reading to you all a statement written by the Kaczynski family. “Our hearts are with Ted. Our deep sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We will not be speaking with anyone from the media now or in the future.”

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Anthony Bisceglie described David Kaczynski’s growing fear that his brother might be the unabomber, especially after a 35,000-word manifesto was published by the “Washington Post” and “New York Times” last Fall.

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: I would say in the late summer, Mr. Kaczynski, Mr. David Kaczynski and his wife had heard some of the media reports about the various locations used by the unabomber or related to the unabomber. There was a nagging feeling that their brother, Ted, had some connection to those locations, but it was dismissed. When the manifesto was published, David Kaczynski read the manifesto with the idea that he would be able to immediately discount any connection between his brother and the unabomber. Unfortunately for Mr. David Kaczynski, when he read the manifesto, he was unable to do that and, in fact, was left with considerable unease.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David Kaczynski sought health from an investigator, a security consultant, and attorney Bisceglie.

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: After discussing the matter at some length and reviewing the materials and getting additional letters authored by Ted, I determined also that there was a significant possibility that Ted and the unabomber were one and the same. On that basis, I obtained David Kaczynski’s consent to contact the FBI.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bisceglie described the Kaczynski family’s painful decision to come forward with information.

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: I think there was a great deal of anguish, and I think now there is a great deal of grief, and this family is going through a grieving process. Mrs. Kaczynski was not informed about this investigation by us or anyone else until about two weeks ago when the investigation reached a stage where it was necessary to inform her. Her reaction was amazingly strong. She expressed her sincere belief that Ted could not be the unabomber, but she also stated that if he were, then he had to be stopped. There was further limited contact between David and Ted over the years, over recent years. There was correspondence. David had not seen Ted for six years, so there was a great deal of unknowns about Ted. There were certain things that we did know. We knew that Ted was a loner. We knew that Ted lived without electricity or plumbing. We knew that Ted was very much opposed to technology. We knew that Ted lived the lifestyle of wild nature that is described as the optimum condition of living in the manifesto. I think there was tremendous dismay. This is an extremely difficult situation for a family member. This is a close, loving family. I think David wanted very much to believe that Ted was not involved, and, and still would like to believe that.

REPORTER: And what does he believe now?

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: I think he is somewhat in shock.

REPORTER: Does he think that his brother is the unabomber?

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: I think that he believes that his brother is involved.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bisceglie denied reports that the Kaczynski family had bargained with the FBI. ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: I did see a report that suggested that I proposed as a condition for disclosure that the death penalty be waived in this case. That discussion did not take place. I think there is a concern for Ted’s welfare expressed by the family that is consistent with any ultimate sentencing if there is a sentencing in this case. But I was, I neither demanded nor was rebuffed on that issue, and as I’m sure you understand, that is something we would have no control over in any event.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bisceglie said the family was not motivated by the possibility of a $1 million reward being offered by the FBI.

ANTHONY BISCEGLIE: Well, I can tell you this. Neither David Kaczynski nor myself were aware that there was any reward at all when we contacted the FBI. Umm, money was absolutely not an objective in this case. I have no knowledge of what the status of the reward is, and I’ve made no inquiries in that regard. There’s a possibility that reward moneys are made available to the families of victims.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, two reporters who have covered this story for some time. David Jackson is the San Francisco bureau chief for “Time” Magazine, and John O’Brien is a reporter with the “Chicago Tribune.” Thank you both for being with us. John O’Brien, the family’s decision to come forward is clearly what broke this case, right?

JOHN O’BRIEN, Chicago Tribune: (Chicago) It does appear to be that way, Liz. Contrary to some reports, the name of Ted Kaczynski was not known to investigators in this particular case.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And give us the–describe for us what happened in Chicago. They found something in the home that’s in Lombard, near Chicago, right, and that gave them the, the search warrant, what they needed to get a search warrant in Montana?

MR. O’BRIEN: They–what they found last month at the old Kaczynski home in Lombard, Illinois, together with other information passed on to the family enabled the FBI agents to establish probable cause with which to obtain a search warrant, and that warrant was, in turn, executed at the cabin in Montana.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What did they find?

MR. O’BRIEN: Well, they found compounds commonly used in explosives. They found some trace elements of gunpowder, and they found some writings, indications of–of instructions on how to make devices. It’s believed that, that Ted Kaczynski may have used items in that shed to construct the first four devices which were later described as amateurish and which convinced authorities that they might be dealing with someone much younger than Ted Kaczynski.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Have they matched anything that was found in the home in Lombard with any of those–there were four–the four LA bombings?

MR. O’BRIEN: They have found some common characteristics in those four devices. The first two were incendiary in nature, along with what was found in the shed. For example, they found some very old wooden match sticks. In the first two devices, match sticks were used, fused together so as to create a sudden flash of flame upon opening the devices. They were concealed in packages sent to targets of the, of the unabomber.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Dave Jackson, would you give us an update on the investigation in Montana. What has been found there?

DAVID JACKSON, Time Magazine: (San Francisco) Well, as we know from the affidavit last week, Elizabeth, they found quite a cache of materials that were very incriminating for Ted Kaczynski. There were not only pipes that were in the process of being made into bombs. They were sealed at one end, which is one of the stages that you go through when you’re constructing a pipe bomb, but they also found chemicals that could be used in explosive materials and they found a lot of notebooks.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you just for a second, Dave. The pipes were sealed at one end that they found in Montana and that was like the bombs that they had found–the bombs that went off, right?

MR. JACKSON: Well, to make a pipe bomb, you have to seal it at one end, and they know a lot about how the unabomber sealed his pipes at one end, and we understand that there are some similarities between the unabomb bombs and the ones found in, in–under construction up in Montana. They also found a lot of writing materials. They found things such as notes that he had taken on his experiments to determine the best way to create an explosion in different weather conditions, and these are very incriminating.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about the carved boxes? Some of the bombs–there’s a tie–carved boxes in the bombings and also found in his place, right?

MR. JACKSON: He used, uh, he used boxes in several of his devices. He used wooden initiators, carefully carved wooden initiators in several of his bombs. These are trademarks of the unabomber, and there is a report that he–that they found carved boxes in Montana. We have to keep in mind that almost all of these reports are unconfirmed officially, but the Feds simply aren’t saying, so we’re having to rely on a lot of, umm, reports from people who are being very cautious about what they’re revealing, and very little of it has been confirmed officially yet.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just based on what you know and what has been confirmed officially, how damning do you think this is so far?


MR. JACKSON: I think it’s a very strong case against Ted Kaczynski as a bomber. There’s been not that much evidence that’s been made public yet showing that he is the unabomber. Clearly, he had bomb-making materials in his cabin in Montana. They’re now trying to put together physical evidence and witness testimony to show that he also was in places where the unabomber left bombs or sent bombs. They have handwriting samples now that surely are going to be very helpful. There’s a report even that they have a suspicion of whom these new bombs in Montana were intended for. If that’s the case, uh, it would be very useful for the investigation because up to now we really don’t know how he chose his victims. And if they have the names of victims in–from the evidence in Montana, this could really help solve the mystery of how these people were chosen for the last 18 years.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: John O’Brien, do you have anything to add to what we’re discussing here, and especially about whether this evidence–and I understand that there’s much that we don’t know and much that isn’t official–how much, how damning it is?


MR. O’BRIEN: Well, let me just follow up on David’s observation and point out that authorities have established that, that Ted Kaczynski was in the Chicago area at four crucial times when the first four devices were sent through the mail or detonated. Now, this was at a time when he had already established residence in Montana. He was back in the Chicago area ostensibly to earn money to continue his lifestyle in the mountains, but he was also here at a time when these devices were–came to the attention of authorities, and I think that’s a very strong circumstance against him.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It’s clear that they’re trying to put together the bombings in his travels. And they–there seems to be some progress in that, right?

MR. O’BRIEN: Yes. For example, hotel people in California, David was certainly noticed, had established that he had been a guest in some, some hotels at times when devices were found in that state.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David, do you have anything to say about that? Is that again just leaks, or have reporters talked directly to those people?

MR. JACKSON: Reporters and law enforcement agents are out in force in California. There are, there are witnesses in both Berkeley and Sacramento who are now telling reporters that they recognized the picture of Ted Kaczynski. Unfortunately, Ted Kaczynski right now looks like every other guy living on the street, but they–I’m sure they’ve got some names that they’re looking for. I’d be surprised if Ted Kaczynski used the same–the same assumed name in all of his visits. He was a very–if he is the unabomber, the unabomber was a very cautious person, and I’m sure that it’s not a simple matter of going around and saying, do you have any record showing a man named Ted Kaczynski stayed here?

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to ask you both this question but starting with you, Dave Jackson, you’ve covered this for a long time, and you have speculated on what the unabomber must be like I’m sure many times. Does what you know about Mr. Kaczynski fit what you thought the unabomber would be like?

MR. JACKSON: So far, everything that’s come out, Elizabeth, has been remarkably supportive of the profile that they created. They suspected it was a person who was very meticulous, who kept lists even. They found these lists that were amazingly detailed in his cabin. They predicted a person who would be a social outcast, who would have very little dealings with people, someone who’d be able to disappear for weeks or days and weeks at a time and no one noticed. Ted Kaczynski fits that profile. They even surmised that he may shun technology, and here’s a guy who, except for one brief period of time, didn’t even drive a car. He got around on a bicycle. So all these things don’t make you a unabomber, umm, but they, they certainly don’t, umm, tend to exonerate Ted Kaczynski as a suspect. The case looks pretty strong at this point. And privately, investigators are saying that they feel very confident that they’ve got their man.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: John O’Brien, do you have anything to add to that? You’ve been working on this case since 1980, haven’t you?

MR. O’BRIEN: Yes. When the fourth device seriously injured Percy Wood, who was then president of United Airlines. I would just add that I would agree with what David has said. The “Tribune”, “Tribune” reporters Gary Marx and Bob Secore, however, have established one exception to the profile, and that’s the age of Ted Kaczynski. Most investigators pegged him for at least ten years, maybe eight to ten years less than fifty-three, and there’s some reason to believe that because of the age difference, i.e., his age and the age on the profile, that, that investigators might have missed an opportunity to perhaps find him earlier. Also, the fact that he was living in a remote area while that generally tended to agree with the profile, I find that kind of surprising. I thought that, like some of the others, that he might be in a semi-rural area in Northern California, not necessarily deep in the mountains of Montana.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And they thought he was younger because, you said because the first bombs were amateurish?

MR. O’BRIEN: That’s right. In fact, the first device looked like the work of someone in his late teens when, in fact, Ted Kaczynski at that time was age thirty-six.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And John O’Brien, what happens next? There’s a grand jury to be convened on April 17th in Montana. Then what?

MR. O’BRIEN: Well, I think much remains to be seen. We know that there is some strong circumstantial evidence at this point. I think they’re obviously looking for some physical evidence. They do have most of the, the remains or the debris of unabomber’s bombs over the years on–they’ve had them at the FBI laboratory in Washington for quite some time, and, uh, I think they’re going to try and look for some common characteristics with the debris of those bombs and what was found in the cabin.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Dave Jackson, the meeting today at the Department of Justice, are they trying to figure out basically where to, to try to prosecute the case?

MR. JACKSON: Yes. I think what’s going to happen is that they’re going to be led by the evidence, regardless of where they want to charge him for a crime and try him for a crime, they’re going to try him where the evidence is strongest, and it’s likely they’re going to choose one of the states where a death occurred, so that would narrow it down to New Jersey or California. And the most recent bombing was in California. The unabomb task force was headquartered in San Francisco, so the evidence would presumably be freshest in that case, but, again, it’ll–it’ll determine–it’ll be determined by the strongest case they can put together.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you, Dave, and thanks, John O’Brien.