The Unabomber was one of the most notorious domestic terrorists in American history. Beginning in 1978, he mailed or hand-delivered homemade explosive devices to individuals and organizations, killing three people and injuring 23 others over the course of two decades. Despite an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Unabomber remained at large for many years.
However, in 1996, the case took a surprising turn when David Kaczynski, the Unabomber’s younger brother, contacted the FBI. Over the course of several months, David provided investigators with evidence that eventually led to the arrest and conviction of his older brother, Theodore Kaczynski.
The Unabomber’s attacks first attracted national attention in 1978 when he detonated a bomb at Northwestern University, injuring one person. Over the next two decades, he targeted a range of individuals and organizations, including professors, airlines, and computer stores. His attacks often targeted technology and what he saw as the dehumanization of society.
Despite a wide-ranging investigation, the Unabomber continued to evade capture. The FBI conducted an extensive search for clues, analyzing bomb components, linguistics patterns in the Unabomber’s writings, and more. The investigation even prompted the Unabomber to release a manifesto in 1995, which was published in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
David Kaczynski first became suspicious that his brother might be the Unabomber in 1995, after he read the manifesto. The writing style in the manifesto reminded him of his brother’s letters. Additionally, several details in the manifesto suggested that the author had a personal connection to the University of Michigan, where Kaczynski had been a mathematics professor.
David contacted a private investigator who agreed that the two writings were similar. In February 1996, David approached the FBI with his suspicions. Despite initial skepticism, the FBI eventually agreed to investigate Kaczynski as a suspect.
The FBI was ultimately able to link Kaczynski to the Unabomber’s attacks through forensic evidence found in his Montana cabin. In April 1996, Kaczynski was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to charges related to the bombings. He is currently serving a life sentence in a federal prison.
David Kaczynski’s decision to turn in his brother was not an easy one, and it caused great rifts within their family. However, he has been recognized for his bravery in coming forward with the information that ultimately helped catch the Unabomber.
The Unabomber might have remained at large for many more years if it had not been for the courage of David Kaczynski, who was willing to face the difficult reality that his brother was a wanted criminal. His willingness to take action helped bring justice to victims of the Unabomber’s attacks, and demonstrated the importance of civic responsibility and taking action when necessary to prevent harm.