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$1,000,000 for the Unabomber: A Story of a Terrorist Who Was Turned In by His Brother

It was the sixteenth year of the most expensive investigation in the history of the FBI. Agents were confirming the alibis of several thousand suspects. There was no real offender among them. Mathematician Theodore Kaczynski could have terrorized the US with mail bombs for many more years, but his younger brother David turned him in. It is still unclear whether David was driven by civic duty or by a woman.

Finished school at 15, got a Harvard degree in Math with high grades at 20. Theodore Kaczynski hadn’t lost his skills for learning later in life, when to fight the industrial society he started sending homemade bombs to people whom he considered responsible for the spread of technology. In 1978 and 1979 the first two parcels blew up in the Northwestern University of Chicago, but the people who opened them got only minor burns and cuts. Kaczynski’s two last bombs were much more complicated and powerful and killed their recipients — Burson-Marsteller PR agency executive Thomas Mosser who worked with oil companies in 1994 and Gilbert Brent Murray, a lobbyist for the tinder industry, in 1995.

Three killed and 23 injured — this is a total victim count of a loner terrorist who got famous under the name the Unabomber (UNiversity & Airline BOMber).

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Both Kaczynski brothers had outstanding intellectual capacity, but when David was born seven years later than his brother their parents did not think that his abilities were a miracle. By that time they have already invested all of their unfulfilled ambition into Ted. His IQ of 165 (average is 100) allowed him for skipping two years at school. Since then the Unabomber started his confrontation with society, as he experienced bullying from his older classmates. The age gap with his Harvard classmates was even more painful.

Reliable contraceptives that appeared in the 1960s stimulated the sex revolution, but Kaczynski was an observer, not a participant. Attempts to flirt with female students were so humiliating that he could not make himself become intimate with women many years after. After his arrest, Unabomber told the psychiatrist that when studying for his PhD in Math at the University of Michigan (he was a little older than 20 at the time) he fantasized about himself in a female body and was sure that he needed a sex change operation.

Attempts to flirt with female students were so humiliating that he could not make himself become intimate with women many years after.

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Kaczynski concluded that his parents deprived him of a childhood by making him study too fast because it was prestigious. “I hate you, and I will never forgive you, because the harm you did me can never be undone,” he wrote his mother 30 years after school.

Kaczynski concluded that his parents deprived him of childhood by making him study too fast because it was prestigious.

It’s not that younger Kaczynski, David, a much more socialized person and a philologist, was much more successful in his relationships with women. His whole life he loved Linda Patrik, with whom he grew up and studied together. The relationship continued even when they moved to live different cities. One time the elder brother was spending the night at David’s and found his letters to Linda which he considered disgusting: “his relationship to her was servile”, he was no more than “a shoulder for her to cry on.” Linda soon married another man.

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The two brothers felt rejected by society in general and women in particular, so they became recluses. Ted Kaczynski bought a small plot of land in the Montana mountains where he built a hut without sewerage and electricity. David hid in the desert in western Texas. They had some savings and the support of their family, and planned to spend their lives in development of philosophic doctrines. The brothers often exchanged ideas via letters.

1978, two explosions in 1979, 1980, 1981, four bombs in 1985 and 1987, and after a break — more explosions in 1993, 1994, and 1995. The Unabomber thought that modern technology was the main threat to freedom as it distanced people from a simple and clean life in harmony with nature. Year after a year with the money that his family gave him he assembled bombs that he sent to university professors and PhD students, to computer shops and airlines. In 1979, when a parcel emitted smoke but did not explode on board of an American Airlines plane, the Unabomber became the FBI’s priority target. The search for him employed as many as 125 agents at some point.

According to the Unabomber’s philosophy, modern technology was the main threat to freedom as it distanced people from a simple and clean life in harmony with nature.

Meanwhile, the love of David’s life got a divorce. Younger Kaczynski left the desert to live with Linda Patrik on university campus. Ted reacted with a hostile 20-page letter, accusing his brother of the lack of pursuit of a clean and simple life. The connection between them severed.

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Linda Patrik read Ted’s letters to his brother attentively, and got so worried she showed it to a psychiatrist. The doctor said the man who had written the letters was potentially dangerous, but could not help if he had not asked for help himself.

In September 1995, Unabomber sent a 50-page manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, to several national newspapers, promising to stop the terror attacks if it gets published. The Penthouse magazine editor wanted to give the floor to the killer more than the others, but Kaczynski chose the more respectable The Washington Post and The New York Times for publication.

“Two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.” a quote from Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto, 1995.

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Linda Patrik read Ted’s letters to his brother attentively, and got so worried she showed it to a psychiatrist. The doctor said the man who had written the letters was potentially dangerous.

Linda came to David with a copy of The New York Times, and asked him to read the Unabomber’s manifesto attentively and think if his elder brother could have anything to do with the terror attacks. The couple spent four more months comparing the text of the manifesto with Ted Kaczynski’s old letters and making the decision to turn him in to the FBI. They cooperated with the investigation on the condition of anonymity and a promise not to seek the death penalty in court.

The next day after the Unabomber was arrested, CBS journalists named his brother David Kaczynski as the key informant in his case — the FBI acknowledged a leak of information. In his forest hut the investigation found the original copy of the manifesto and the components for the bombs — the evidence was so overwhelming that the prosecution decided to seek the death penalty.

David Kaczynski was awarded $1,000,000 as a prize for help in catching one of the most wanted criminals in the US.

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Journalist Stephen Dubner of TIME who got the chance to talk to Ted Kaczynski in prison asked him what he would have done had he suspected his younger brother was responsible for terror attacks.

— I would have kept it to myself, he said.

— Is that what you feel he should have done?

— I am certain that if David had known of the Unabomber before he moved in with Linda Patrik he would have regarded him as a hero.

The court-appointed psychiatrist concluded that Kaczynski has paranoid schizophrenia, but had a sound mind. He was convicted to eight life imprisonments without the possibility of parole.

The Unabomber’s brother was awarded $1,000,000 as a prize for help in catching one of the most wanted criminals in the US.
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After paying his taxes, David Kaczynski put the money he received from the Department of Justice to the support fund he founded for the victims and families of those who died because of the Unabomber. He and his wife Linda dedicated their life after the event to campaigning for mitigation of the punishment and Buddhism: David is an executive director at New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty foundation and Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in Woodstock, NY.

Ted ‘Unabomber’ Kaczynski is held at the maximum security prison in Colorado. According to the prison administration, he feels fine, subscribes to the New Yorker and National Geographic, and exchanges letter with more than 400 people from all over the world.

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