Unabomber News History

Copyright 1997 Gannett Company, Inc.


November 11, 1997, Tuesday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 714 words

HEADLINE: Maybe the Unabomber wasn't alone

BYLINE: Robert Graysmith


When FBI agents swarmed into Ted Kaczynski's Montana cabin on April 3, 1996, they unearthed "a mother lode of evidence" that he was the Unabomber. The case seemed open and shut.

But as jury selection opens up Wednesday, serious questions about the government's case remain.

The FBI logged 720 items of evidence from the cabin. Agents searched that cabin so thoroughly they cataloged lint and dust. But what may be more important is what they did not find.

The cabin had no electricity, no lights, no power of any kind. Yet the suspected terrorist bomber, the subject of the longest search in FBI history, had built sophisticated bombs, cutting, welding and drilling metal pieces to do so. Where were the tools?

In the cabin FBI agents ferreted out a blue and red wooden-handled manual drill, seven wood drill bits, one drill base and a welding mask.

It's highly unlikely that those tools alone could have built the Unabomber's weapons.

There was no power drill, though the Unabomber's pipe bombs had precisely drilled fittings to secure the metal end caps that sealed the explosive inside.

There also was no electric welding set (and no gas tank or acetylene torch for a gas welding set). But beading and a change in the pearl-like grain of metal on the finished welded end plates of the bombs suggest high temperatures had been reached, such as the 6,300-degree heat from an oxyacetylene welding torch.

The fire pit in Kaczynski's garden might have generated high temperatures, but it seems unlikely he could have done any detailed welding work in such a place.

Each of the Unabomber's devices, with the exception of the first two, showed over-soldering. There was solder in that cabin, but no soldering iron.

Penciled numbers on the bomb pieces show that the devices were assembled and reassembled many times before being finished. Could he read those marks in the cabin's very dim light?

Kaczynski could have worked outside, either to assemble the bombs or work the metal in the fire pit, but agents had the suspect and the cabin under surveillance for two months before his arrest. Surely they would have seem him at this. Yet when they seized the cabin, they found a live bomb wrapped and ready to mail. Where had that come from?

Was there a hidden lab? And, if so, whose was it?

Kaczynski was a poor man. In an 18-year crime spree he spent only a few thousand dollars. Outfitting his own machine shop or bomb lab was surely beyond his means.

Had the accused secretly gained access to welding equipment in Lincoln or Helena, test-detonated his devices in the remote Scapegoat Wilderness and gathered components from the many junk piles owned by his neighbors? And if there was a lab or machine shop belonging to someone else, did he know Kaczynski was using it?

Until we know where and how the Unabomber made his bombs, the possibility of an accomplice cannot be ruled out.

There are other hints that there may be an accomplice. The Unabomber used the Park Hotel in Helena, Mont., as a halfway house, staying there before he left the state and when he returned. For every bombing, we can fix a stay at the Park hotel before and after.

There is only one exception. The registration records do not show any stay at the Park Hotel bracketing the bombing that killed Hugh Scrutton, one of the murders for which Kaczynski is about to go on trial.

Moreover, a bank deposit slip, apparently on a Helena bank for one of his three accounts, dated Dec. 11, 1985, places the former mathematics professor in Montana while the bomb that killed Scrutton was being placed in Sacramento.

FBI agent Terry Turchie wrote in his detailed affidavit that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms "has been unable to determine as yet whether this posting date accurately indicates that Theodore Kaczynski personally made a deposit on that day." If that loophole stays open, it is a big one. It would have taken the accused 251/2 hours by bus, which is how he always traveled, to get to Sacramento to place that bomb.

Of course, with the trial and Kaczynski's detailed diaries, we will eventually know the answer to these and other inconsistencies.

I can hardly wait.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, B/W, Elaine Thompson, AP