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"Bombing of America"

PBS Airdate: March 25, 1997
Go to the companion Web site

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, on NOVA, Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, a suspect in the UNABOM case. Bombing is on the rise across the United States. But science is fighting back. Hidden within the chaos of a crime scene lie clues that can solve the case. Can science help stop the "Bombing of America"?

NOVA is funded by Merck. Merck. Pharmaceutical research. Dedicated to preventing disease and improving health. Merck. Committed to bringing out the best in medicine.

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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And viewers like you.

STACY KEACH: On April 19, 1995, a four thousand pound truck bomb brought down the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Amid the chaos, frightened families waited for news of their loved ones. The nation watched as hundreds of dedicated search teams from around the country hunted for bodies, dead or alive, in the rubble.

OKLAHOMA SEARCH AND RESCUE WORKER: There's not a lot of room up there. I'd like you to stay with me when we get up there.

STACY KEACH: In this same rubble lay the scorched and shattered fragments of the bomb that created this devastation: small pieces of evidence in a mountain of debris. But Oklahoma City is just one chapter in the story of the bombing of America. The nightly news is filled with tales of tragedy and terror. Bombing incidents have tripled in the past decade. In Rochester, New York, six bombs were delivered to six different locations, killing five people in a single day. In Los Angeles, two policemen were killed while trying to defuse a bomb. And near Baltimore, a man killed himself, his wife, and their three young children. This is what remained of their car after the bomb exploded. Across the country, dozens of teenagers are injured or killed building bombs every year. Many learned how from the Internet, where bomb instructions can be downloaded at the touch of a button. In 1994, more than three thousand bombings or attempted bombings occurred in this country, an average of eight new cases every day. To solve these horrendous crimes, law enforcement works closely with forensic scientists at every step of the investigation. Former Chief of the Explosives unit in the FBI Laboratory, Chris Ronay.

CHRIS RONAY: Bombings are a very unusual kind of a crime, in that the only evidence that remains is the fragments that are left after the explosion. So that an expert in bombings, or an expert in chemistry or, an expert in handwriting or DNA needs to take the pieces, evaluate them all, and then present a total picture, filling in the gaps of what's missing. And so, a forensic laboratory is essential, certainly, in bombing investigations.

STACY KEACH: But one bomber foiled every forensic effort for almost two decades: the Unabomber. The recent arrest of Theodore Kaczynski may have ended one of the largest and most expensive manhunts in the history of federal law enforcement. It began in May, 1978, when an unusual package showed up at Northwestern University. A campus policeman decided to investigate. He was lucky that day. The bomb wasn't very powerful, and his injuries were minor. It took two more explosions before authorities realized they were dealing with a serial bomber. That was Chris Ronay's contribution to the case.

CHRIS RONAY: On November 15, 1979, I was directed to go out to the Dulles International Airport, where a bomb had exploded on this airplane coming in from Chicago. I took the evidence into the laboratory, and we started to examine it. And as soon as we had some information, we communicated that to Chicago, who was waiting to start covering leads, such as what's the return address? Who was it mailed to, if you can tell? What sort of device was it? And, within a few days, Chicago came back to us and said, "We've shown the photographs around, and we've located another bomb, and there are some real similarities here. We want to send it to you." And they did, and as soon as we looked at it, we made an identification. This was clearly made by the same guy that made the bomb on the airplane.

STACY KEACH: But who was he? No one claimed responsibility until the fourth bomb.

JIM FREEDMAN: It wasn't until the fourth device, which was to the then-president of United Airlines, that initials were affixed to the device, the initials "FC," and they were affixed to the device in a way that they would purposely survive the explosion.

STACY KEACH: The bomber would sign almost all of his subsequent bombs, although it would be years before anyone knew what "FC" stood for. As the bombings continued, law enforcement gave this case a name: UN, for the universities attacked. A for the airlines: UNABOM. While his targets all had ties to science and technology, his motives were a mystery. That's one reason he was so hard to catch. The Director of the Unabom Task Force is Jim Freeman.

JIM FREEMAN: Most bombers are very open about their reason for their actions. They're mad at a particular corporation, or a particular person, and it's—From the investigative standpoint, you work that backwards as to who has a grudge against that company or that person.

STACY KEACH: But there's no evidence that the Unabomber had a grudge against Percy Wood, or Diogenes Angelakos, or Hugh Scrutton. It's unlikely he ever met David Gerlernter or Charles Epstein, or any of the twenty-two people he injured, or three people he killed. In 1985, John Hauser was a young Air Force pilot with life-long hopes of joining NASA. To help meet the requirements, he enrolled in an engineering graduate program at the University of California at Berkeley. It was there his dreams were shattered.

JOHN HAUSER: I was coming down here to get to work, working on my master's project work, and I saw, over here on a table, I saw a small plastic box, a little bit like this one, and a three-ring binder and notebook sitting on top. There was a rubber band going around the three-ring binder notebook. Well, I checked the notebook, saw that the pages inside, by and large, appeared to be blank. And then I looked over on the right side and saw that there was a latch that was open, and I thought, "I wonder whose that is? I wonder if that's one of the other graduate students that regularly worked in this research laboratory?" Well, seeing that it was open, I thought, "Well. let's check and see what it was." As I picked up on the latch, as I lifted this, there was a microswitch inside the device that blew up. So, as I got that point, it just blew it off to the side, just knocked my arm way over to the side like this, took my Air Force Academy ring and shot it from, like, this position all the way over here to the wall, leaving an impression on the wall here, where you could see the curvature stone, and so forth on there. I grabbed this. My arm was now pretty weak, because I had lost many of the muscles and so forth here. And, as I stood there kind of looking, I notices that blood was pooling in my arm, coming up to the level, and then starting to squirt out. You know, at this point I realized, you know, this is some serious business, and so I backed up a little bit and screamed for help, you know, "Somebody come and help me."

STACY KEACH: John's blood loss was severe, and he was blinded in one eye. The medics tried to recover his severed fingers, hoping that some could be saved. In the middle of this crisis, it was his flying career John worried about.

JOHN HAUSER: I can remember laying on the gurney in the emergency room, you know, my arm all swollen by the side—I guess I didn't realize how bad the damages were there—asking, you know, "I can't see out of my left eye. Am I going to be able to fly again?" It was very, very, very difficult to accept that.

STACY KEACH: Two years later, investigators got a crucial lead in this now nine-year-old case. In a Salt Lake City parking lot, a woman witnessed the Unabomber place a package near her car. This is the man she saw, as sketched by a police artist. A few years later, the picture was updated. After being observed, the Unabomber stopped bombing for six years. Perhaps soon we'll know why. As the evidence accumulated over two decades, forensic scientists combed through thousands of fragments of metal, wood and wire found at the crime scenes, hunting for a clue to the criminal's identity. But he was no ordinary bomber, as this computer database at the ATF shows. It holds a record of almost every bombing case in the nation, including the Unabomber. Every component he ever used is listed, but in each case the source of the component was either homemade or unknown.

JIM FREEMAN: The Unabomber, for many years, was known as a junkyard bomber, because the components that he would select would be very commonly available, perhaps available in a scrap yard, pieces of scrap wood, pieces of scrap metal. He has, on occasion, made and fashioned screws and other fasteners that could be purchased in a hardware store. It was clearly the intent of the bomb-maker to conceal any potential lead value from the investigator from the outset.

STACY KEACH: The Unabomber even peeled labels off batteries before putting them in his deadly devices. Investigators finally tracked down a suspect here in the wilderness of Montana. This is where the man now believed to be the Unabomber lived for twenty-five years. In the search of his cabin, investigators found a virtual bomb-making factory, enough evidence to arrest Theodore Kaczynski for bomb possession. Among the items specified in the warrant were batteries and electrical wire, pieces of threaded pipe, and a long list of explosive chemicals. Whether any of these items can be connected to the Unabomber's crimes is a question only science can answer, because catching a bomber is a partnership between science and good old-fashioned investigative work. This is how the hunt for a bomber begins. Finding the remnants of a bomb is like discovering the knife or gun at a murder scene. It's crucial evidence that may link a suspect to the crime. This is not a real bombing, although it was modelled after an actual case. These are police officers. Today, they're learning how to investigate a bombing. Heading up the training, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Larry Casey.

LARRY CASEY: The physical evidence recovered at a bomb scene is usually very heavily damaged. It's not easy to recognize as to what it originally was. So the process of recovering the pieces, putting the device together again, and following that trail is a very difficult one.

STACY KEACH: The crime scene extends as far as the furthest piece of evidence, and every fragment must be located. It's often hard to tell whether a piece of debris comes from the car or the bomb. The bomb that destroyed this car was not built by a criminal, but by our instructor, Larry Casey. Pipe and gun powder are the main ingredients for the most common bombs used on America's streets. Even for the experts, bomb-making is an extremely dangerous endeavor, and Larry Casey has no intention of giving a lesson. All of these components will survive the blast, but in bits and pieces. Even some fragments of tape should survive. If the students do their job well, they should be able to find it in the debris, and tape is often a good medium for fingerprints. The bomb is disguised inside a cardboard box, and then placed in the car. But what happens when a bomb explodes? Every explosion begins with a thermal event: a rapid burst of fire or extreme heat. That's followed by a shock wave, powerful enough here to level an automobile. The hot, razor-sharp fragments from the bomb and the car travel at extremely high speeds, endangering everyone in the area. While there are many different types of explosives, they all work by releasing energy. In this pipe bomb, the energy begins to build when the gunpowder is ignited. Burning forces the powder to change form, from a solid to a gas. The gas builds up inside, until the pressure is so great that even a solid steel pipe bulges until it can no longer hold together. This explosion was filmed in extreme slow motion, a million frames a second.

STUDENT: This is a nice hole right here.

STACY KEACH: The damage that results can often tell the investigators a great deal about the bomb. Here, they surmise a heavy end cap was propelled right through the door. They can even guess at the trajectory it might have taken.

STUDENT: A piece of a circuit board.

STACY KEACH: Recognizing the components is only half the work. They really want to know the manufacturer, so they can track down where it was purchased.

STUDENT: Battery.

STACY KEACH: Once in a while, they're lucky.

STUDENT: Everready.

STACY KEACH: The brand name isn't obliterated in the blast. After the larger pieces are bagged, tagged, and sent to the lab, the real dirty work begins. They sift through the debris one shovelful at a time, looking for minute pieces of a bomb they've never seen.

AN AGENT: I'm not sure what it is. I don't think it's from a car, though. I thought it was from the device.

JOE HANLIN: It's the most important factor, to be able to collect evidence, to be able to re-configure the device, to know what type of device was used. Next to interviewing eye-witnesses, I think that's the paramount point of bombing investigation.

STACY KEACH: And Joe Hanlin knows that from personal experience.

JANE PAULEY: A possible bomb explodes under the towering World Trade Center in New York. Five people are killed, hundreds are injured.

STACY KEACH: At the time, the bombing of the World Trade Center was the worst act of terrorism on American soil. When the final toll was taken, six people died, and more than one thousand were injured. Joe Hanlin was a member of the first team of bomb investigators to enter the building.

JOE HANLIN: I just didn't see how we were going to get it done. I mean, I knew we could get it done. I knew we would. I knew we had to get it done. But it was extremely intimidating.

STACY KEACH: This crime scene footage was shot in the first hours after the explosion. Hanlin and his team had orders to assess the site in preparation for evidence collection. The vehicles they encountered were badly damaged. But, to an expert eye, it was clear that the cause of the damage was external, and the car parts found on the platform were all exterior parts. Then, Hanlin came across a few pieces that looked different from all the rest.

JOE HANLIN: These vehicle parts were internal parts to a vehicle. There's differential housing, a pinion gear.

STACY KEACH: The severely twisted section of a vehicle frame then caught his eye.

JOE HANLIN: I was pretty much willing to bet my paycheck that that particular part came from the vehicle that had carried the explosives. Upon closer examination, and removing some of the residue, the grease, we could tell that it was a number that appeared to have been mechanically stamped into the metal, appeared to be significant in identifying the vehicle.

STACY KEACH: With this finding, Hanlin's orders to disturb nothing at the crime scene became tough to obey. The platform was unstable. It could collapse, and bury that potentially critical evidence under tons of debris. So he went against orders and collected the evidence. Two days later, the platform did collapse, around the same time that Hanlin learned from a colleague about the significance of his find.

JOE HANLIN: He showed me a piece of paper and enquired if I knew what that was. And I said, "No." I said, "It looks like the number that was on that frame." And he said, "Well, I have a vehicle identification specialist with me here." He said, "He informs me that this is a VIN number, a vehicle identification number, and that we may well be able to trace this number down to the exact vehicle that was manufactured, and where that vehicle was sent."

STACY KEACH: It was sent to this Ryder rental lot in New Jersey, where a man had rented the truck and then reported it stolen. Mohamed Salameh was arrested when he returned for his deposit.

JOE HANLIN: It is rare that there is any one single piece that solves the crime. What I have found in general is that it is a combination of efforts from a lot of different people with a lot of different disciplines, from chemists to investigators, to bomb technicians, explosive specialists. More times than not, it's what leads to the conviction of a person for a bombing.

STACY KEACH: It always takes a team of experts to solve a bombing. But once in a while, a single scientist makes a contribution so important it changes the entire course of an investigation, as it did in this case. In December 1989, a suspicious package was discovered at the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court in Atlanta. When investigators x-rayed it, they saw the components of a live bomb inside. In fact, it looked exactly like a mail bomb that killed Federal Court Judge Robert Vance two days earlier. The safest response would have been to evacuate the area and explode the bomb right there, but that would damage the best possible evidence, the bomb itself, so they chose the riskier route, to move the package to the bomb range, where it could be disarmed. Retired ATF special Agent Bob Holland.

BOB HOLLAND: I was immediately summoned to the boss's office, where he told me that a bomb had been recovered at the Eleventh Circuit, and for me to get over there.

STACY KEACH: NOVA has agreed not to show or describe the defusing process, because investigators don't want criminals to learn how to defeat their efforts. The bomb was disarmed intact, and the evidence preserved. The hunt for the bomb-maker began, although investigators had no immediate suspects. The next day, Bob Holland had an important story to tell at the regular monthly meeting of the Metro Bomb Group, a gathering of explosive experts from the Atlanta area. Holland was the only member of the group that had seen the Courthouse bomb.

BOB HOLLAND: As all of you know, a device was recovered yesterday at the Eleventh Circuit. Here's a photograph of it, before it was disarmed. It's a brown cardboard box wrapped in brown paper, excessive postage, a red and white address label with a typewriter that's malfunctioning with the letter "R." Photographs of the device are included here. It's a very unusual device, in that rather than being a standard pipe bomb, as this x-ray shows, it's a pipe bomb with flat end caps, or flat plates welded to the end of the device.

STACY KEACH: The description of the bomb held great meaning for one member of the group.

BOB HOLLAND: If anybody gets any information on the possible perpetrator, please call Atlanta PD bomb squad, myself, or the FBI.

STACY KEACH: Lloyd Erwin, an ATF forensic chemist with more than twenty years experience, was about to have a profound impact on this case.

LLOYD ERWIN: Yeah, I've seen one built on that style before, back in the early seventies.

BOB HOLLAND: You have?

LLOYD ERWIN: Yes. Sure did. Worked on it in Macon, Georgia.

BOB HOLLAND: What did it look like?

LLOYD ERWIN: Well, it had—It was smaller than that. It had a smaller pipe, and made out of aluminum alloy. It had square metal end plates, and it had four bolts going through it.

STACY KEACH: Lloyd Erwin was remembering a bomb from 1972, seventeen years earlier.

LLOYD ERWIN: The end plates. I can draw two of them first.

STACY KEACH: He also recalled the name of the man who built it.

LLOYD ERWIN: He went by the name of Roy Moody. He's bound to be out. That's been a long time ago, the way they let people out of prison nowadays.

STACY KEACH: Lloyd Erwin has analyzed hundreds, perhaps thousands of bombs in his career. And he doesn't remember every one. What he does remember is the bomber's signature: those things that are unique to the maker and repeated time and time again. Thanks to Lloyd Erwin, the investigation focused on Walter LeRoy Moody, a con man and career criminal, who was eventually sentenced to seven life terms, plus four hundred years in federal prison.

BOB HOLLAND: It's amazing, isn't it? We've got all of the computers, and all of the fancy tools, and one man can remember one thing, and solve multiple cases.

STACY KEACH: But good detective work, combined with forensic science, can be a powerful investigative tool. Here, at the ATF's National Forensic Laboratory, scientists look for clues hidden in the burned and mangled evidence that was collected at a crime scene. Forensic chemist, Richard Strobel.

RICHARD STROBEL: I feel like I'm confronting a jigsaw puzzle, but it's much more difficult than the normal jigsaw puzzle. Not only have the pieces been segmented into many fragments, they've also been burned, discolored, damaged beyond recognition. In some cases, the pieces aren't even there, so I have to put this jigsaw puzzle together, with a very large number of handicaps.

STACY KEACH: And this case was one of the biggest challenges the lab has ever faced. In the mid-1980's, abortion clinics were under attack all over the country. The Washington, D.C. area was particularly hard-hit, with two arsons and eight bombings. How these crimes were solved is a fascinating tale of scientific sleuthing, one that started with a couple of tiny particles not much bigger than a grain of salt. Inside a fragment from the first abortion clinic bomb, Richard Strobel found a few grains of unconsumed explosive. Under x-ray analysis, the explosive is broken down into its chemical components.

RICHARD STROBEL: What we're seeing from this particular printout up here is that we have two chemicals, sucrose, common table sugar, and a material called sodium chlorate, which, from experience, I know that we can find in a commercial product known as Solidox.

STACY KEACH: Sodium chlorate, an oxidizer, is not an explosive by itself, and neither is sugar. But when mixed together, they can be deadly, and this bomber knew it.

RICHARD STROBEL: The type of explosive he uses tells us a little bit about him. Is he a kid just experimenting by using match heads, or is he a sophisticated international terrorist who's able to make a synthesized plastic explosive?

STACY KEACH: This bomber was neither, but he knew enough to mix his own explosive, and because it was so unusual, it became recognized as part of the bomber's signature, and what ultimately linked the eight bombings together. The fourth abortion-related bombing occurred in Annapolis, Maryland. When the lab pieced together the evidence from this incident, they noticed a terrifying change. The bomber had switched from relatively small pipe bombs to huge and more powerful gas cylinder bombs. It was bad news, but an important clue for the future.

RICHARD STROBEL: Soon, he was going to run out of his supply of explosive, and he would have to make a change in his explosive formulation. It would be simply too risky for him to continue buying large quantities of Solidox. It would also be very expensive.

STACY KEACH: Found in the debris from the Annapolis bombing was this piece of a gas cylinder. Using a little White-Out to enhance visibility, a serial number appeared. It led investigators to the place the cylinder was purchased, unfortunately under an assumed name. There, they discovered it was not the only cylinder. The bomber had bought thirty-three of them.

RICHARD STROBEL: Once we knew he had that many cylinders, we knew his intent was to continue with his bombings, and he wouldn't stop till he was caught.

STACY KEACH: And they were right. The fifth and sixth bombings occurred on the same day, ten minutes apart. With his seventh bomb, the bomber finally made the move that the lab had predicted. He changed his explosive. X-ray analysis revealed he was now using a mixture largely made up of potassium nitrate. The investigators tracked down where the new chemical was purchased, and eventually that led them to the buyer. With these signed receipts, the abortion clinic bombings were solved. Within a few weeks, three suspects were arrested: Thomas Spinks, Kenneth Shields, and Michael Bray, all members of a radical anti-abortion group. But an arrest does not close the case. Investigators have to come up with enough evidence for a conviction. They got that evidence in a search of the suspects' homes.

RICHARD STROBEL: We were able to find the cylinders. We were able to find the raw materials. We were able to find a fingerprint. Out of all the tape, all the bombings, we were able to find only one latent print, and that one latent print matched up with one of the defendants.

STACY KEACH: A hair found at one bomb scene was matched to Michael Bray. Paint chips scratched from the cylinders matched paint chips found on Spinks' property. And finally, there was one piece of incontrovertible evidence.

RICHARD STROBEL: Prior to the eight bombings, there had been two arsons, and one of the pieces of physical evidence that we had from the very first arson was the wick of a Molotov cocktail that hadn't completely functioned. When we went to search Thomas Spinks' house, we asked Mrs. Spinks if she had any rags around, and there was a rag bag, and lo and behold, when we opened it up, we were able to find the perfect match for the material in the wick. So that was pretty much the—

STACY KEACH: No one was seriously injured in the abortion clinic bombings, but that was just a matter of luck. There was no such luck in this case, as five-year-old Erin Bower is rushed to a Lifeline helicopter, after part of her left hand was blown off by a pipe bomb. Erin and her family were shopping at this Indianapolis K-Mart. Like any five-year-old, she grabbed at things on the shelf. Unfortunately for her, a pipe bomb was hidden in a most unsuspected place. After this crime scene video was taken, the evidence was collected. From the fragments, the ATF laboratory reconstructed a model of the bomb, and this is what it looked like. The lab added the cutaway to show the bomb inside, a pipe filled with gunpowder, and a layer of BBs that were added to increase the shrapnel effect. When the switch built into the cap was moved to the on position, the bomb was designed to explode when moved even slightly. No one knows how long it sat on the shelf before Erin touched it.

K MART EMPLOYEE: The husband had his child in his arms, running around. The mother was screaming. Two men came up, and the both of them just were paramedics. Her hand, I'm not sure how much, but several parts were actually blown off, and there was a lot of blood on her stomach, and it burned her clothes all through here.

K MART EMPLOYEE: We ran and we got ice, 'cause, you know, to put her limbs in, and water, and, you know, everybody tried to help out.

STACY KEACH: Thirty hours after the bombing, a local high school senior drove down this road and shot himself with a handgun. His name was David Swinford, and a family member called to report that he might have a connection with the bombing. It was up to the forensic lab to find out.

RICHARD STROBEL: Things that became very important for us was to prove that he was, indeed, involved in the bombing case. Since we couldn't speak to him anymore, forensic science became the one last way for us to find out whether he was connected with that bombing incident at all.

STACY KEACH: Whoever built the bomb left invisible clues in the cap. A sharp tool had cut the hole where the switch was, and left these marks behind. No two tools will leave the same marks. They're as individual as fingerprints. The hard part is finding the tool that made them. This knife was found in David Swinford's car. To examine the marks it leaves, impressions are made in a small slab of soft lead. The picture on the right is the impression from David's knife; on the left, the marks left in the plastic cap. The match is unmistakable. For investigators, the case could now be closed. Erin Bower was blinded in one eye and has learned to use an artificial left hand. For the Bower family, the wounds are healing. But they will probably never understand why this happened.

RICHARD STROBEL: We don't really know what the bomber's real motive was in this particular case. We surmise that he had a beef against the store. That's the thing about bombs: they kill and injure their victims indiscriminately. The bomber doesn't always know who his victim is going to be.

STACY KEACH: One month after the bombing, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was demolished, ironically, by explosives. While the people of Oklahoma City mourned their loss, an outraged nation was calling for something to be done to prevent such a horrific crime from ever happening again.

PRES. BILL CLINTON: We pledge to do all we can to help you heal the injured, to rebuild this city, and to bring to justice those who did this evil.

STACY KEACH: Some people believe there is a better way to help track down a bomber, but it's a controversial one. These may look like grains of sand, but they're actually tiny chips of plastic called taggants, strong enough to survive an explosion. In theory, taggants could be added during the manufacturing process to anything that can be used in a bomb, from high explosives like dynamite, to low explosives like gunpowder and even fertilizer. In a criminal bombing, the taggants would be scattered all over the crime scene, where investigators could recover them, either by shining an ultraviolet light on them, or by picking them up with magnets. Once recovered, they'd go directly to the lab. Put taggants under a high-power microscope, and a rainbow of colors appear. The top white strip is the florescent glare. The other colors are a code that indicates when the explosive was made, who made it, and, ultimately, the retail location where it was sold. And that's how James McFillin was caught, and this grisly bombing solved.

REYNOLD HOOVER: The investigators that went to the scene had been trained in taggant recovery techniques. In fact, I think when they put the florescent light on the scene, one of the investigators said that it lit up like a Christmas tree. Taggants were then decoded by the laboratory, and they were used to trace, actually, the explosive that Mr. McFillin purchased from a dealer in West Virginia.

STACY KEACH: The McFillin bombing occurred seventeen years ago, when taggants were new and being tested in a pilot program. He was the first person to be caught and convicted with taggant evidence—and the only one. Shortly after the McFillin case, Congress stopped funding the taggant test, when the explosives industry pulled out. The makers of high explosives were worried about safety. They also questioned the added costs, when fewer than four percent of all criminal bombings involved commercial high explosives. And, because of the role that high explosives play in our daily lives, the industry doubted the long-term value of taggants to law enforcement. A former chief of the FBI Explosives Unit now represents the industry.

CHRIS RONAY: The taggants in materials derived from explosives will live forever, so they will be in all the building blocks, and they'll be in all the roads, and they'll be in all the foodstuffs and things around, and for agriculture where explosives are used. It wouldn't be too many years before they would be so common that when you did a crime scene almost anywhere, you would be likely to find a taggant from contamination. But very seldom is it going to be from the bomb.

REYNOLD HOOVER: The average stick of dynamite in the taggant program had more than two thousand taggants in it. So when you go to a scene and you're investigating, you may find stray taggants that were in the construction material. But the overwhelming concentration of taggants will be from the device itself.

STACY KEACH: The question is not only whether taggants can be made effective for law enforcement, but whether they will be accepted by industry.

REYNOLD HOOVER: Twenty years have passed, and at the time the taggant research and pilot program was going on, everyone concluded that there needed to be more tests, and there needed to be more study. We just haven't done it. And technology has changed and evolved over the years, that there may be something else out there, and we need to start funding, and we need to start researching what those alternatives are.

STACY KEACH: It's unlikely that taggants would have been much help in the UNABOM case. He used matchheads as the explosives in his first two bombs, and since 1982, he used a mixture of chemicals that would never have been part of a tagging program.

CHRIS RONAY: When we knew we had a series of bombings perpetrated by one individual, all of the traditional techniques were used, and we found pretty quickly that the Unabomber recycled many common things, and he didn't buy components. There were no serial numbers. So the traditional techniques of tracing a component from a bomb didn't work. It didn't lead us anywhere. Another technique used in investigating bombings, particularly, is to look at the victimology. Who were his victims? What were the motives? How did they connect? What were the common aspects of each of these bombings?

STACY KEACH: Other than a link to science and technology, there were no obvious connections among his victims. So, investigators took another approach to help track down the bomber. This is the FBI Investigative Support Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Here, behavioral scientists study every piece of evidence collected on a case. Their goal is to create a profile, a behavioral portrait of the person who committed the crime. While the technique of profiling has been refined at the FBI, it didn't start there. It began with another case, another serial bomber, more than fifty years ago.

DICK AULT: Looking at the story of the "Mad Bomber" is almost a template for UNABOM. There are a lot of similarities between the two, in the way they've done their crimes, and I'm confident that we'll find there's a lot of similarities between the two in their psychiatric or psychological makeup.

STACY KEACH: The case of the "Mad Bomber" began in 1940, when an unexploded bomb was discovered at a Consolidated Edison building in Manhattan. Like the Unabomber's first incident, this event went virtually unnoticed. Inside, they found a note. It was signed "FP," and it took sixteen years to learn what those initials stood for, about the same time it took to discover what the Unabomber's "FC" means. The "Mad Bomber" placed a second device, also at Con Ed, one year later. Then, like the Unabomber, his bombs stopped for years.

DICK AULT: When somebody stops committing crimes, as in the case of UNABOM, there's a lot of speculation that the individual was in jail, or committed to a mental institution, or, hopefully, blew himself up.

STACY KEACH: But the "Mad Bomber" told police why he stopped: patriotism. He promised to cease his bomb activities until World War II was over, and he kept his promise. When the "Mad Bomber" resumed his activities in 1951, his devices were bigger and more powerful. Like the Unabomber, he too fabricated most of his bomb components. By 1956, he had placed about thirty bombs and widened his targets from Con Ed to libraries, theaters, and department stores. The injuries were mounting, and the city was terrified. The final straw occurred at the Paramount Theater in December 1956. The largest bomb yet exploded, seriously injuring seven people. The New York Bomb Squad was desperate.

DICK AULT: They had run out of clues. They had no other directions, particularly. They were looking around for other ways of trying to generate leads and, probably in desperation, went to Dr. Brussel.

STACY KEACH: With the "Mad Bomber" case, Dr. James Brussel, a psychiatrist with the New York Department of Mental Health, invented the modern science of criminal profiling. With the entire file laid out on his desk, he began a journey into the mind of the "Mad Bomber." In his letters, the bomber kept referring to his chronic illness, for which he held Con Ed responsible. What kind of man would harbor a grudge for sixteen years? For a psychiatrist, the answer was easy: someone who suffered from the mental disorder, paranoia.

DICK AULT: The paranoid, by definition is, in his own mind or her own mind, a perfect being. They don't make mistakes. They are not crazy, their word is the accurate word. So if things keep going wrong, obviously, it has to be something causing things to go wrong.

STACY KEACH: Since the symptoms of paranoia usually show up after age twenty, Brussel pinned the bomber's age at no less than thirty-five. In his letters, the use of old-fashioned phrases like "dastardly deeds" could mean the bomber was an immigrant, or the child of immigrants. Finally, using Freudian theory, Brussel saw the bomber's underlying problem as sexual. From that, he could draw more assumptions about how this criminal lived.

DICK AULT: He included the fact that he would live with a female relative, one or more. It also included the fact that he was not married, had probably never been married, and was a virgin, although not homosexual, as Brussel said.

STACY KEACH: And in a final bit of bravado, he predicted that when this bomber was caught, he would be wearing a double-breasted suit, buttoned. With an approximate age of the bomber, police intensified their efforts, even searching through driver"s license signatures. On Christmas Day, 1956, Brussel's profile was published. It would, ultimately, solve the case. Alice Kelly, a secretary at Con Ed, read the profile in the papers. For days, she had been scouring old files for employees with health complaints. Then she found this one: a man injured in a boiler accident. On sick pay for months, he was dropped from the roster when doctors found nothing wrong. He spend the next three years writing angry letters, and in them, "dastardly deeds," that uncommon phrase mentioned in the profile, was used repeatedly. Alice Kelly saved this file for the police. It led them to this house in Waterbury, Connecticut. When George Metesky answered the door, he confessed immediately. The capture of the "Mad Bomber" of New York made national news.

ED HERLIHY: A sixteen-year hunt for New York's "Mad Bomber" ends with the arrest and confession of George Metesky, a toolmaker.

STACY KEACH: The first question police asked Metesky was what "FP" stood for. He smiled and answered, "Fair play."

ED HERLIHY: At his Waterbury home, where he lived with two maiden sisters, police found a garage workbench and parts for the explosive handiwork—

STACY KEACH: While profiles aren't always as accurate as this one, they can be a helpful tool.

INTERVIEWER: Well, how—You don't know what will happen now, I suppose.

GEORGE METESKY: Well, I can hope for the best. That's about all.

STACY KEACH: Just as Doctor Brussel predicted, when George Metesky was captured, he was wearing a double-breasted suit, buttoned. How close was the profile in the UNABOM case to Theodore Kaczynski, the suspect now in custody?

DICK AULT: Dr. Kaczynski was a loner, socially isolated, even though he was a lot more socially isolated than we expected. His workplace, and so forth, and craftsmanship was what we expected it would be. He was the outspoken kind of person who was considered eccentric by his neighbors. That's what we figured. He was highly intelligent, although better-educated than we might have expected.

STACY KEACH: For the first fifteen years, the Unabomber carried out his violent crimes in virtual silence. Investigators could only speculate why he was bombing. Then he went public, with a thirty-five thousand-word manifesto published in August 1995. In it, he revealed his hatred for science and technology, and justified his violence. At the same time, he finally disclosed what "FC" stands for.

DICK AULT: UNABOM is driven by emotional storms that we can only vaguely understand, and that mailing of that manuscript, propelled by those emotional storms, is what led to his downfall. The irony will be that this man will, in part, be convicted by science and technology which he spurns, looking at an old typewriter, which is outdated but which is so unique that it can be compared to his writings. The wires, the scraps of dust, the very dirt in his cabin, the sandpaper, the wood—every scrap of physical evidence will be subjected to high technology to convict UNABOM.

STACY KEACH: Every fragment of evidence from sixteen bombings has been saved. Perhaps investigators will find the tool that punched "FC" into the bomb that injured Gary Wright, or splinters that match wood from the bomb that killed Hugh Scrutton, or slivers of metal that match the fragments that still remain in John Hauser's injured arm. Today, John Hauser has learned to write with his left hand. He's found a new career as a professor and a researcher. He also makes time to sing in a chorus. John is luckier than some bombing victims. He survived, and he found the strength to rebuild his life. While he can't fly the jets he loved so much, he does fly a light plane, one that makes fewer demands on a pilot's dexterity.

JOHN HAUSER: I could become very bitter, I suppose. But life's too precious for that, you know. I mean, if there's a blockage in this direction, find another direction, and go with it. I mean, there's too many wonderful things for me to spend too much time, too much energy thinking about the Unabomber.

Examine the crime scene after the blast, with NOVA on-line. Forensic evidence at PBS.org.

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Next time, on NOVA, alien abductions.

I'd be floated outside, and then, in a beam of light, lifted up into a ship.

My legs were being spread apart.

You can't breathe. You can't move.

Have these people been "Kidnapped by UFOs?"

 

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