Bombing of America

Prime Suspect

April 16, 1996

At long last, have we learned who the real Unabomber is?

On April 3rd, federal agents detained the man they believe to be the Unabomber. Although the FBI and other authorities are still painstakingly searching the one-room shack where Theodore Kaczynski lived for 25 years, they have already amassed a mountain of evidence that may one day tell us whether Kaczynski and the Unabomber are one and the same person. Ironically, the very tools of high technology that the Unabomber fought against may prove instrumental in scientifically analyzing the evidence and determining his guilt.

The Evidence

Among the items reportedly retrieved by authorities from Kaczynski's 10 by 12 foot cabin are :
-two bombs
-a variety of chemicals
-batteries and electrical wire
-various tools, including drills, hack saw blades, wire cutters, and solder
-notebooks filled with diagrams and notes elaborating how to make explosives
-books on electrical circuitry and chemistry
-three manual typewriters

Some of the above-mentioned items may ultimately be used as circumstantial evidence to link the suspect with previous Unabomber explosions. Many will also be analyzed using high-tech tools.

The Technical Analysis

The typewriters

Over the course of the investigation, some 12 million pieces of information have been input into the FBI's computer database. Using comparative analysis, one clue that has emerged is that the Unabomber always used the same typewriter when typing out letters to the media. Letters written by the Unabomber will be retyped using the typewriters in Kaczynski's cabin, and then these recreated letters will be analyzed under a microscope. The experts hope to match the type of the recreated letters with the type of the Unabomber's letters.

The bombs

The second bomb, found over the Easter weekend, was studied by experts to determine its "design"—what is called the bomb's signature. The authorities have suggested that the specific construction of the bomb found in Kaczynski's cabin is eerily similar to the construction of one the Unabomber's fatal bombs.

The tools

Bomb fragments discovered at various Unabomber bomb sites were analyzed under microscopes to determine if any tool marks were left on them. With the discovery of tools in Kaczynski's cabin, identifying marks on the bomb fragments can now be compared with marks left by Kaczynski's tools. Our NOVA program, "Bombing of America," describes this particular form of analysis.

Other evidence: DNA, Fingerprints

The typed notes that the Unabomber sent around the country to various people have been analyzed. Among the kinds of evidence these notes might yield are fingerprints and DNA from saliva on the back of the stamps. If DNA is found, it will be analyzed using a technique known as PCR, polymerase chain reaction, which amplifies the amount of DNA found in the sample.

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