Copyright 1993 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
November 27, 1993, Saturday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A1
LENGTH: 1339 words
HEADLINE: Package Bombs Renew 15-Year Terror Trail; Attacks on Campuses, Airlines Leave Few Leads, No Suspects for U.S. Task Force
BYLINE: Pierre Thomas, Washington Post Staff Writer
DATELINE: BOULDER, Colo.
John Hauser, then a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, was working alone in a second-floor lab at Cory Hall when he noticed a black-binder notebook sitting on a beige plastic container.
"I should see whose this is," he thought, peeking into the notebook. He opened the container; instantly, there was a buzzing sound.
A deafening explosion immediately followed. Then came the pain.
"I saw that my right hand was mutilated and that my arm had exploded," Hauser said, recalling the May 15, 1985, explosion. "There was blood spurting. Shrapnel was wedged in my arm. Every nerve ending in my arm was on fire."
Authorities never caught the person or persons who planted the bomb that obliterated part of the fingers on his right hand. His promising career as an Air Force fighter pilot and a chance to become an astronaut were destroyed.
Hauser, who now teaches electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, was the victim of a faceless serial bomber known as UNABOM, for university and airline bomber, who has wounded 23 people and killed one person over 15 years.
Between 1978 and 1982, the bomber planted or mailed one to two bombs each year, authorities said. Then there was a three-year break before four bombs detonated that police concluded were from the same suspect.
After another lull, this time lasting two years, the bomber attacked again in 1987 and then vanished.
Now, after a six-year hiatus, UNABOM has resurfaced. Last summer two professors were severely wounded by mail bombs. One, at the University of California at San Francisco, lost several fingers and suffered severe abdominal injuries June 22. Two days later, a computer scientist at Yale University was injured in similar fashion.
When he heard of the recent bombings, Hauser, 35, said he thought, "What a shame that this would be happening again."
The FBI's profile of the bomber describes him as a white male in his late forties or early fifties, most likely a loner, who reads prolifically on law enforcement, scientific subjects, psychology and history. Authorities said he constructs bombs meticulously disguised as innocent packages, sometimes mailing them in padded envelopes. The bomb that killed computer rental store owner Hugh C. Scrutton in December 1985 was neatly concealed in what appeared to be a piece of scrap wood behind his business.
"These acts are diabolical," said FBI agent George Clow, who is overseeing a federal task force effort to capture the bomber. "These devices reflect the expenditure of an inordinate amount of time to design and fashion -- an extraordinary amount of time."
Some of the devices took hundreds of hours to complete. Most of the parts are handcrafted.
Frustrated for more than a decade, the authorities have no viable suspects and recently have set up a tip hot line and offered a $ 1 million reward for information leading to UNABOM's arrest, one of federal law enforcement's highest priorities.
Named for his penchant of targeting university professors and airline officials, UNABOM has threatened in a recent letter to remain active. The FBI has notified universities around the country to watch for suspicious packages, or any they were not expecting.
Authorities have looked for common characteristics in the bombings and the victims. Often, UNABOM has targeted the intellectually gifted.
For example, Charles Epstein, a geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco, was a concert pianist and cellist before he was severely wounded when a mail bomb exploded in the kitchen of his home in Tiburon, Calif., in late June. Epstein was known for having located a gene that may contribute to Down's syndrome.
In some cases, the bomber appears to be striking at a certain profession -- such as computer science -- or industry -- such as the airlines. The bomb that injured Hauser was in an engineering building and could have been picked up by anyone. One bomb detonated on American Airlines Flight 444 Nov. 15, 1979, as it made its way from Chicago to Washington. The bomb was designed to explode at a high altitude. The blast filled the cabin with smoke, terrifying the passengers, many of whom suffered injuries from smoke inhalation.
In other cases, the bomber patiently focuses on a single target. About a week before he became a victim, Percy Wood, former president of United Airlines, received a letter telling him to expect a book he needed to read. On June 10, 1980, the bomb came in a package that appeared to be a book and exploded, injuring Wood.
UNABOM's path has spanned seven states. While each attack has differed slightly, the bombs always are disguised to blend into the environment. Also, the bombs often are put in places with public access, where there are many people coming and going, so that the assailant is unlikely to be noticed.
Yet, despite a trail of evidence, authorities have few leads, Clow said. Although many people think that one person is responsible for the acts, authorities are not really certain. And no one is clear what the motivations are.
Based in San Francisco and Sacramento, about 45 investigators and support staff from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI are working to solve the case.
After announcing the $ 1 million reward, the task force's 22-phone hot line received 1,500 calls in one week. The calls have now slowed to a trickle.
Hauser and the other victims, including University of California at Berkeley Prof. Diogenes Angelakos, understand the urgency in the effort to solve the cases.
Hauser awoke abruptly recently, his heart pounding because of a nightmare about a bomb. It was only a dream, but for him it was a reminder that a real nightmare had returned.
After the 1985 blast that shattered his life, Hauser staggered out of the lab screaming for help. People came rushing. One man put his hand over the more than three-inch gash in Hauser's arm to stop the bleeding.
Angelakos rushed from his office only a few feet away. With a pained expression, Angelakos offered his belt or tie as a tourniquet. Angelakos could not believe what was happening. He had been seriously injured in a similar bombing three years earlier, a blast authorities also linked to UNABOM.
Angelakos had been in a fourth-floor coffee room in the same building July 2, 1982, when he noticed a green, gallon-sized container with wires hanging out and a clock-dial. There was construction going on in the building, so Angelakos, a professor of engineering and applied physics, thought nothing of the container other than to move it out of the way.
When he touched the handle, the container exploded, temporarily blinding him and burning the flesh on his right hand down to the bone.
The explosion was another blow to a man already struggling through tragedy. Angelakos's son had died three years earlier and his wife, Helen, was dying of cancer.
As the pain overtook him, Angelakos, now 74, fell to the floor. He said to himself as he lay shaking on the floor, "Poor Helen."
"I was thinking of her," he said. "I was thinking, why me? She depends on me."
His wife died a month later. He was not able to care for her in the final days. "I went to her funeral with my arm in a sling," he said.
If the bomber had known what his family was going through, "would he have done this?" Angelakos asked.
Hauser tries to remain optimistic, although he says there is no doubt that UNABOM "changed the direction of my life."
"I would hope by now I'd be a test pilot," Hauser said. "I certainly planned on getting back into the cockpit."
About a month after he was injured, Hauser received a letter from the Air Force asking him to apply for the manned spaceflight program.
But perhaps more important than his career, Hauser's life has changed in the simplest ways.
"There is not a day that goes by when I'm not reminded that I don't have full use of my right hand . . . from trying to play racquetball to trying to pick up my daughter," he said.
GRAPHIC: PHOTO, JOHN HAUSER, LEFT, WHO NOW TEACHES ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, WAS AN ASPIRING FIGHTER PILOT, RIGHT, BEFORE LOSING PART OF HIS RIGHT HAND IN A UNABOM ATTACK IN 1985 AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA. ABOVE, PROF. DIOGENES ANGELAKOS, A 1982 VICTIM OF THE SERIAL BOMBER. STEVE GROER FOR TWP; PHOTO, SUSAN SPANN FOR TWP; PHOTO LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: November 26, 1993