Unabomber News History

Copyright 1995 The Chronicle Publishing Co.

The San Francisco Chronicle



LENGTH: 908 words

HEADLINE: 'Explosion Envy' Could Trip Up Unabomber, Experts Say Letters reveal a smart but increasingly pa

BYLINE: Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer


The Unabomber, a hitherto secretive man who now apparently craves publicity, is intelligent, articulate, extremely paranoid and wildly jealous of being upstaged by the bombing in Oklahoma City, terrorist experts and police psychologists said yesterday.

But the fact that the UNABOM killer set down his thoughts in a long, highly publicized letter may very well trip him up, crime experts said, by giving investigators a partial window into his mind.

Experts who analyzed the letter said it hints at a man who is not the classic political anarchist he claims to be and who is beginning to suffer more frequent episodes of emotional instability.

Paramount, however, is the suggestion that it took the tragedy of Oklahoma City to rouse him from his secret lair and, after 17 years of near anonymity, to suddenly bring forth a written rationale for his deadly acts.

''It's a case of explosion envy,'' said John Thompson, director of Toronto's Mackenzie Institute of Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda. ''He didn't seem to be hungry for news coverage in the past, but perhaps now he is envying the coverage Oklahoma City got.''

''Up until this terrible disaster in Oklahoma City, (the Unabomber) kind of had the field to himself,'' said San Francisco police Lieutenant Al Benner, who is the department psychologist. ''But Oklahoma City put him way on the back burner, and now he wants to assert himself.''

Just one day after last week's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the UNABOM killer mailed three letters from Oakland, the same origin as the pipe bomb that arrived in Sacramento on Monday and killed timber lobbyist Gilbert Murray. One of the letters went to the New York Times, which published it in yesterday's editions. Portions also appeared in the The Chronicle and other papers.

In the 1,300-word letter, the bomber professed anti-technology and pro-environmental attitudes and demanded national publication of an ''anarchist'' manifesto in exchange for a halt to his terrorist attacks. He also said that ''through our bombings we hope to promote social instability in industrial society, propagate anti-industrial ideas and give encouragement to those who hate the industrial system.''


The bomber claimed, as he did two years ago in a much shorter letter to the New York Times, that he was part of an anarchist group called ''FC.'' But experts said yesterday that they doubt he is part of any organization. Like the FBI, they think he has always worked alone.

What worries some experts who analyzed the killer's letter is his conspiratorial notions and his unfocused ramblings on what he considers the world's ills. Like many conspiracy theorists, the bomber tends to focus on large icons of villainy, rather than specific ills.

''He's saying he hopes to promote industrial instability,'' Benner said, ''and you can't get any more general than that.''

At one point in the letter, the bomber said he targeted New Jersey advertising executive Thomas Mosser in December because Mosser's public relations firm ''helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez (oil spill).'' But the bomber said he was less interested in that specific event and more concerned with the firm's role in ''manipulating people's attitudes.''

''He would have had a more cogent argument if he had stuck with the Exxon Valdez,'' Benner said. ''But no; he says they're brainwashing people. If you're dealing with manic depressives, they come up with a global conspiracy theory. It's the mind-set of convenience.''


Another psychologist, who declined to be identified for fear of making the UNABOM suspect angry with her, said the letter's frequent references to applied psychology and behavior modification suggest that the killer may have ''had some experience with the mental health field, either as a patient or as a student. He's aware of terms that aren't something your typical high school graduate bomber would even be writing about.''

The psychologist, who specializes in anti-social behavior, said the Unabomber's main focus is on large organizations that he fears are ''manipulating his attitudes.''

In that focus, the bomber expresses views similar to those of some of the more militant militia groups now in the spotlight because of the Oklahoma City bombing. Both the Unabomber and the extreme right-wing groups deride and fear the FBI, calling it a symbol of an overreaching, omnipotent government.

''The FBI is the favorite focus of people who have paranoid ideas,'' said the psychologist. ''This is very common among paranoid schizophrenics. It's very interesting and it's very frightening. People like this tend to suffer from a tremendous lack of self-esteem and have an inability to handle face-to-face rejection.''

By coming forward, however, the suspect is closer to apprehension.

''The more he shows himself,'' the psychologist said, ''the bigger the risk of being caught. Perhaps after seeing the attention this other suspect got (in Oklahoma City), he wants us to know that he's an important person too.''

Will he get caught?

''Oh yeah,'' said Benner, the San Francisco police psychologist. ''I'm banking on his ultimately tripping himself up. He'll either be caught or he'll blow himself up, which is poetic justice. But we'd prefer that he gets caught.''