The Unabomber | 35,000 Words | 3American Scandal
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- 15 Dec 2020
A fight erupts between Ted Kaczynski and his brother, David. And when tragedy strikes, the Kaczynski family begins to break apart.Listen ad-free on Wondery+ hereSupport us by supporting our sponsors!SimpliSafe - Get a FREE home security camera, when you purchase a SimpliSafe system at SIMPLISAFE.com/AS. You also get a 60 day risk free trial, so there’s nothing to lose.
A listener note, this episode contains violent imagery and references to suicide and may not be suitable for younger audiences.
It's evening, December 1992, in a steak house in San Francisco. The lights are low and the booths are crowded. Glasses clink and chatter and music fills the air at a corner table. Patrick Webb slowly nurses a beer and waits patiently. He gazes across the table and sees a row of empty bottles. The other people sitting beside him seem to be drunk. They're laughing and getting louder by the minute. But not Webb. He knows that tonight is not an occasion for heavy drinking.
He needs to remain sober and clear headed because he's got an important task at hand and he's waiting for the right moment to strike. Webb is a bomb expert with the FBI, and right now he's sitting alongside three other FBI agents, they're in town for a conference. And while they seem to be having a good time, Webb is in a foul mood because he just learned that the FBI is planning to shut down the Unabomber case. Webb understands why the bureau has gotten so impatient.
It's been five long years since the FBI released a sketch of the Unabomber to media outlets across the country where expected a breakthrough in a matter of weeks. But no credible leads ever emerged for Webb, who's given his life to this case. The sketch was just another frustrating dead end. And throughout this time, the Unabomber has gone quiet. So the FBI decided this investigation is a waste of time and money. But Webb isn't ready to give up because he knows the Unabomber could still very well be out there if they shut down the case.
Americans could still be at risk and the bureau will have thrown away years of Web's hard work. So now Webb knows it's his job to get just a little more time enough to finish the case. And he knows just the person who can help him. Webb glances to his right at a man with a square jaw and thin brown hair. His name is Chris Renea, and he's an FBI supervisor who has real power in Washington. All night, Rooney has been talking to another agent who's happy to see the case shut down.
Webb has been waiting for the right opportunity so he can make his argument and ask Rene to save the case. And now, just as the other agent rises and says he needs to use the bathroom, Webb knows it's time to strike. Webb sets down his bottle and leans in to talk with Ronnie, can you believe this? I mean, talking about shortsighted Chris, I expected better decisions coming out of D.C. The folks at headquarters are frustrated. You know that it's been years since there's been a single new development.
Come on, don't give me the party line. Tell me, what do you think, person? Ronnie takes a deep swig of beer as he considers his words. Look, it doesn't matter what I think. It's not my call. That's the thing. You have power. You have influence. Come on, put your thumb on the scale. But why? Let's be serious. The case is dead. Dead. Chris, you remember that guy with a computer store, one over in Sacramento?
Yeah, I remember a guy who was killed by Unibank said, yeah, I remember him well. I get a call from his mother every month. When am I going to catch her son's killer? So, Chris, what am I supposed to tell her now? Oh, come on, don't get sentimental. You know, you can't win them all. What if Unabomber strikes again?
Any word leaks out that we dropped the case? How will that look? Rhône twirls his beer bottle and doesn't say anything. So Webb jumps in with his trump card. You know, you made this case, Chris. It's your baby. Webb knows it's true. Ronnie was the first person to link all the early bombs. Without him, there might not be a Unabomber case. And so Webb shoots him a look of pity. You're telling me now you want to abandon it?
Ronnie shifts uncomfortably and shuts his eyes. Right then Webb knows he's one. OK, OK, fine. I recommended extension, but one year, one year tops. And if there's no new leads, that's it. You won't regret it, Chris. I promise you that. Right then when announces that the next round is on him, finally he feels like he can sit back and enjoy the night. But as he searches for the waitress and realizes that after tonight, he can't waste any more time, he has only one year on the Unabomber case.
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Hey everyone, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes on my podcast. Why is this happening? I talk with uniquely qualified guests about the issues. I don't always have time to cover in-depth on my TV show All in Everything From America's opioid crisis to How Creativity Can Flourish Amidst a Pandemic. Stay tuned for a special preview at the end of this episode and search for why is this happening wherever you're listening right now to subscribe to the series.
From Wandera, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American scandal. By the mid 1980s, Ted Kaczynski bombs had left several people injured and one man dead. Yet the FBI found itself stymied as agents struggled to identify the Unabomber. Then in 1987, the bombing ceased. The quiet period lasted five years. Many wondered if the Unabomber had died or had been arrested for another crime, but Kaczynski was simply plotting the next phase in his campaign of terror. He also began to write a manifesto, something he hoped would drive a revolution.
Yet Kaczynski didn't realize that his manifesto would soon expose his identity. This is Episode three, 35000 words. It's the fall of 1989, Ted Kaczynski stares at a piece of paper, his hands shaking, his fingers are cold and stiff, and his heart begins to race as he reads the letter he holds. Kaczynski just got back to his cabin after biking to the town of Lincoln, Montana. It was a six mile ride over hills and through a dense pine forest.
Kazinsky felt alive and full of vigor, and when he stepped inside his cabin, he unzipped his backpack and took out the letter he picked up while in town. It was from his younger brother, David, when, as good as he felt before. Now, as he finishes the letter, he feels himself go numb. He lets the paper fall onto the table. It lands next to a set of batteries, the necessary supplies for his latest bomb experiments.
He gazes across a small cabin. It's silent, as always, and suddenly Ted Kaczynski feels totally alone and full of rage. He can't believe what David just wrote, it was another note about that woman, Linda had first heard about Linda two decades ago when he and David took a trip through Canada. For 20 years, she kept David on a string. It was embarrassing to see him that desperate. And Ted knew that his brother had grown weak.
But then it got worse. David briefly lived on a homestead in rural Texas, but gave up on that pure life. Instead, he got a home and a car, just like all normal people trying to fit in. But then David announced that he and Linda are getting married. Ted rises and places around his cabin. He races back to the letter to read it one more time. Maybe he misread it. Maybe he's losing his mind. But as he finishes rereading the letter, he feels himself once again aching in pain.
Ted buries his face in his hands. He squats down to the ground, and then he lets out a piercing scream to his throat, cracks and burns. It's clear David has abandoned him. He's too blind to realize that this Linda's manipulating him and using sex to tear the brothers apart. David's stupidity and selfishness. It's like a knife and Ted's back. And now Ted can't help but wield a weapon himself. Ted sits down and grabs a pen and paper.
He begins furiously writing a response. He says he's disgusted by David's weakness. He calls his brother a fool, and he issued an ultimatum. Break things off with Linda or he will cease all communication. Ted finds an envelope and seals up the note. He hates going into town too often, ever since the FBI began sending around that sketch of him. But tomorrow he'll make an exception because David needs to know that there are consequences for his actions. A year later, David Kazinsky exits a Chicago freeway and heads toward the suburb of Lombard.
He glances right and sees his father, TURC, sitting in the passenger seat. He looks exhausted and old. And as he stares out the window, TURC grabs a cigarette and lights it off. David's eyes go wide with shock. The two of them just left her latest chemotherapy session. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and David came all the way from New York to take care of him. But here, TURC is still smoking. David reaches out and try to grab the cigarette butt.
TURC fends off David, then pounds the steering wheel and ask why they're even bothering with treatments if Turkey is just giving up on life. But TURC just shrugs, doesn't say a word. He keeps staring out the window. That coldness he reminds David of Ted and any reminder of Ted makes David feel desperate with sadness. He hasn't heard from Ted in over a year. Not since Ted mailed an angry response after learning about David's engagement. And now with her father shutting down, seems like the whole family is falling apart.
David knows he has to do something to change this, to fix his family and bring them back together. Soon, David pulls up to his parents house, he and Turk step inside. David grabs the mail. He sorts through some bills a catalog and then sees a letter, makes his heart skip a beat because he'd know that Bloche handwriting anywhere. It's a letter from 10. David tears it open with a surge of hope. He recently wrote to Ted and told him the horrible news that their father had terminal lung cancer.
He had hope that this family emergency would somehow rouse Ted, convinced him to rejoin the family. But as he reads the letter, David's heart sinks. Ted acknowledges that he received the news of his father's condition, but he offers no sympathy and he doesn't offer to return home to see, talk or to be with the family as their father is dying. David sets down the letter and rests his head in his hands. He had hoped he could somehow save Ted, bring the family back together.
But now, for the first time, he feels it might be too late, Ted. Maybe too far gone. A month later, Wanda Kazinsky stares blankly across a funeral home in the Chicago suburbs, she feels dizzy and slow, and even though she hears the soft music coming from an organ and even though she sees a table lined with flowers, somehow none of this makes any sense, doesn't make any sense at all. Wanda son David suddenly appears and hands are a plate of food.
He tells her she has to eat, so she takes the plate. But then her hands start shaking and before she can help it, Wanda drops her, for she feels like something has broken inside her and she begins to sob once again. She replays the scene in her mind, the same one she can't let go of, can't stop remembering. It was just last week and she was in the living room at home. Wanda heard a loud pop from upstairs.
She stood up, worrying that her husband TURC had fallen. David was at home too, and he went upstairs to check. But a moment later he came back downstairs. His eyes were wide, his mouth hanging open. He told Wanda that Terk had shot himself with a rifle. Now, remembering that moment, Wanda's grief begins to overtake her again as she stands trembling in the middle of the funeral home, an old friend approaches and gives her a hug, but she's weeping hopelessly and searching for an explanation for everything that's happened.
But that's something she knows she'll never get. Want to spend days looking for a suicide note. She searched the house top to bottom, looking for a simple last message from church, something saying, I love you, but there was nothing to be called like that, just like Ted and Wanda knows. That's one of the worst parts of all of this. TURC and Ted never reconciled. The one who knows. It's not too late for her to reconnect with Ted.
David invited him to the funeral and so far he hasn't shown up. But maybe he will maybe she'll see her son, the person she wants here, more than any friend or relative. A few minutes later, the funeral director appears to want his elbow. He says he has a long distance phone call. Wanda sighs and nods. She's exhausted, but she should at least thank whoever is calling. Wanda steps into another room and picks up the phone.
Hello, Mom, it's me. Wanda's heart suddenly source. It's Ted, the first time he's called in years. Teddy, Teddy, are you in town? Are you here? I'll come get you. No, no, I'm not, Mom. I'm in Montana. Oh, OK. This is costing me three dollars a minute. Well, don't worry, I'll pay you back. Teddy, I'm just so glad you called. David, send an emergency letter about Dad.
So you heard. It's awful. Just terrible, terrible for all of us. No, it wasn't terrible. Was brave. He died on his own terms like a man. I admire him. Wanda bites her lip and pinches back a tear. She doesn't know what to say. When is it? I do feel sorry for you. I know you loved him. But listen, Teddy, no matter what happened in the past, it is not too late.
We want you in our lives. I love you. I miss you. Stop it, Mom. Teddy, I said I love you. Come back and be with us. Wanda holds her breath and waits for him to say something.
Now she hears a silence and then a click. Teddy. Hello, Teddy. Want sets down the phone and her knows her heart is still aching, but she feels something else, a small trickle of hope. Ted, he did call. He wouldn't have called if he didn't care as wanted. Rejoins a funeral. She catches David's eye across the room and she feels her strength coming back. She has two good kids. And even if the family is strained right now, someday, hopefully she can bring them back together once again.
It's two years later, the summer of 1992, Ted Kaczynski shields his eyes and looks over an endless forest of pine trees. He takes a deep breath and wipes the sweat from his forehead, and then he continues hiking up the slope in northern Montana. Kaczynski loves to hike, gives him a chance to clear his head and commune with nature. But today isn't just about trees and mountains. Today, Kazinsky is experimenting with a new type of bomb. It's been over five years since his last bombing in Salt Lake City.
Since then, he's been lying low and rethinking his strategy. Planting bombs in person is out of the question. He can't risk being spotted again now that the whole country has seen that famous sketch of him. At the same time, large packages are expensive to mail and they arouse suspicion.
Kazinsky need something smaller, something stealthier. And that's why he's begun experimenting with aluminum powder mixed with ammonium nitrate, an extremely powerful explosive. And he's built a bomb that could be a work of genius. It looks like a hot dog inside a bun. First the detonator inside goes off and then that ignites the surrounding ammonium nitrate. But Kazinsky has faced setbacks with a number of duds. Still, he knows that if this new detonator works, he'll be that much closer to building the perfect bomb.
First, though, he needs to test it out. On the hillside, Kazinsky scans the forest. Finally, he spots a large dead tree with a hollow in its trunk. Kazinsky walks toward it and wedges the bomb inside the hole. He then lights a long fuse hurrying off. Kazinsky finds a space between two boulders. He settles in and waits, feeling the stab of anxiety because he can't afford any more duds. After hundreds of experiments, he's almost out of money.
And the last thing he wants is to have to ask David or his mother for anything else. Several minutes pass and Kazinsky grows nervous. He rocks back and forth waiting, and then he groser. It's another failure. Maybe it's time to give up. Maybe he's not the genius he thought he was. Kazinsky stands and starts walking back, but when he's 100 feet from the tree, there's a thunderous explosion. Kazinsky falls to his knees and listens. As the boom echoes through the mountains, Brzezinski's mouth hangs open and he jumps up and runs back to the tree.
He smells burnt wood and sees plumes of smoke and a smile lights up his bearded face. The tree trunk is a smoking black crater. Kazinsky examines the site, rolling charred debris beneath his foot. If his bomb tore apart solid wood, he can only imagine what it would do to an unsuspecting scientist. Kazinsky grins again. He may have been quiet for the last few years, but he is far from done. American scandal is sponsored by simply safe.
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So many that better help is recruiting more counselors in all 50 states. Get ten percent off your first month at better help dotcom as. It's June 22nd, 1993, and a bright cloudless day in Tiburon, California, Charles Eppstein pulls into the driveway of a big White House and steps out of his car. He pauses for a moment and looks out at the San Francisco Bay. Eppstein would love to lie out in the sun and relax, but today he came home early because he has an important task ahead of him.
He needs to finish writing a grant application, one that will let him keep pushing ahead with his important work as a geneticist at UC San Francisco. Recently, he's been getting a lot of attention and was even featured in The New York Times. In his research, he splices genes into mice to give them the equivalent of Down's syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. The public response to his genetic engineering has been overwhelming, but it hasn't all been positive, even if Epstein believes his work will save people's lives.
Epstein unlocks the front door and quickly glances at the male on the kitchen table. The stack includes a small package from the chemistry department at Cal State Sacramento. It's about the size of a PVCs cassette, but heavier. Epstein is curious, so he sits down on the table and begins to open it.
It all happens very fast. There's a huge bang and a bright white force blows and backward. Suddenly, he sprawled on the kitchen floor. The table has been blown off its legs, the windows shattered. Epstein feels a terrible throbbing and then a searing pain coming from his right hand. He's dazed, but he knows he needs medical help. And quickly he drags himself across the floor and manages to reach the phone. But he can't dial 911 one because several of his fingers are missing.
Using all his strength, he gets to his feet, nudges the door open. Then he steps outside. He notices gardeners working in his neighbor's yard. He starts toward them, limping in incredible pain and hoping he can stay conscious long enough to reach them. An hour later, Patrick Wa'ad turns the steering wheel of his Toyota sedan and heads toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The car approaches the tall red beams and he looks out across the bay. The sun is starting to set.
The water on the bay is calm. Webb glances right quickly locks eyes with his wife, Florence. She shoots him a mischievous grin. He then grabs her hand and gives it a kiss. Tonight's going to be a perfect night. Webb and his wife are going out for a romantic dinner, one that's long overdue. Webb has been working tirelessly, and he knows that his pursuit of the Unabomber has started to take a toll on his marriage. That's no surprise to Webb.
It's been six months since he got his extension on the case, but his team hasn't found a single new lead in morale. And the unit has grown abysmal. The stress is steadily turning Webb's hair gray and affecting his relationship with Florence. But tonight is finally his chance to reverse course and fix things with his wife.
Webb is halfway across the bridge when his cellular phone rings, Florence sits on a withering look. Don't do it. I shouldn't let it go. Look, I know it'll be two seconds. Don't pick it up. This is our night. Webb grips the steering wheel tight. He feels torn, but he knows what he has to do. So Webb lets go of Florence his hand and picks up the heavy phone. He quickly glances at Florence. She's already turned away with a look of resigned anger.
Webb knows he'll just have to patch this up later. It'll be fine. Hello, this is Agent Webb. Patrick, it's Dennis. I'm at the office. Can you talk? I'm just getting off the bridge. Hold on. Webb finds a spot. Pull over. Before Florence can say anything, he hops out of the car and pulls out the phone's antenna for better reception. All right, Dennis, shoot. There's been a bombing. It's in Marin County at a house.
You think it's a bomb and it's got all the hallmarks. Is the victim. Some scientist, he'll live, but he's in bad shape. Look, we need you to head over, lock down the crime scene right away. Webb's heart starts racing. He looks at Florence trying to meet her eyes, but she turns her head and again looks away. Webb knows he's got a terrible choice in front of him. He can't stand to hurt his wife.
She's put up with night after night of late hours. And this case has taken over his life. But he also knows he can't say no, not now, but when they finally have a development. All right, Dennis. Be there soon. Whoever gets the address and hangs up, then he walks back to his car and takes the seat behind the wheel for a moment in a foreign sit in silence where you can feel a heavy weight between the two of them.
But when knows he has to break the news, they have to reschedule dinner. This is too important. Florence sits quietly, her expression blank.
And then Webb tells her the next piece of news. He doesn't have time to drive her home. He'll have to drop her off in a parking lot and have their daughter come pick her up. Florence turns and shoots Webb a look of crushing disappointment, and she tells him that they can't go on like this. Something has to change. Webb nods, tells Florence that he loves her. He says he can't imagine what she must be feeling. But whatever anger she has, whatever resentment, she's right to feel it.
This job has taken over his life and it's not OK. Florence nods, thanked him for saying that. But Webb reminds Florence that after all these years, finally, the case has got some life again. And then he makes a promise they may have to cancel yet another dinner. But this time is different. This time he's going to get in a bar. Almost two years later, Ted Kaczynski is in his cabin in Montana and on a rampage, he turns over food boxes, digs through his bedding and piles of worn clothes, but he still can't find his missing notebook.
For 16 years, Kaczynski has been the mastermind behind a deadly bombing campaign. He's injured and killed people, and now he's finally ready to tell the world why he launched the campaign, how technology has corrosive effects on the human spirit and how Kaczynski has an idea to change the world. He's been jotting down his ideas in the notebook, but now he can't find it. Kaczynski grunts, kicks over an Apple crate there. Underneath it is the missing notebook.
Kaczynski nearly collapses in happy relief. He stalks over and picks it up, and then he heads over to his typewriter. Kazinski knows he's become a celebrity criminal with a million dollar reward for his capture. And so now he plans to take advantage of the celebrity status. He's going to type up a manifesto and submit it for publication. He knows he can aim big, maybe The Washington Post or New York Times, maybe even Scientific American. He always like that one.
Wherever it's published, it's critical that millions of people read it. That will give his manifesto power, because once people digest its message, they'll rise up in revolution. Humankind will finally throw off the chains of technology. Kazinsky licks his lips and bangs out the first line. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. Suddenly, though, his arms feel weak. It's one thing to fantasize about publishing his manifesto, but it's another to stare at actual words on a page.
But once Kaczynski realizes what a huge risk that is, he's essentially mailing evidence straight to the FBI. But Kazansky chuckles the FBI has been chasing him for years and so far they've been clueless. You could probably drop off his manifesto at FBI headquarters in person and still get away with everything. Somehow they'd still screw it up. But Kaczynski knows there's no need to tempt fate. So he tosses this first sheet of paper into the fire and he puts on a pair of gloves, picks up another sheet and begins typing again.
It's October nineteen ninety five, David Kazinsky is searching through the newspaper collection at Union College in Schenectady, New York. His wife Linda stands beside him as the two searched through the papers. They're looking for a special pull out section from a specific edition of one paper, a 35000 word manifesto, which The Washington Post printed last month. The author of the article is The Terrorist known as the Unabomber. David frowns as he searches the papers. He resents being here.
He heard about the manifesto when it was first printed, but didn't give it much thought. It sounded like the words of a psychopathic murderer, but one who apparently agreed to stop killing people if the newspaper published his ideas.
For David, this sort of blackmail is just another despicable act in a world that was growing more violent by the day. But David hadn't thought again about the manifesto until Linda brought it up. She mentioned that the manifesto was anti technology, and it reminded her of how David described his brother, Ted. She said she wondered if there was a connection. David was floored by the suggestion Linda has never even met Ted, and now she was implying that he could be the Unabomber.
Ted couldn't even stand to see a bunny in a cage. How could he be a violent killer? Still, Linda insisted that David at least read the manifesto. He agreed just to keep the peace, which is why he's here today, searching through a collection of recent newspapers. Finally, Linda spots the issue of the post, they flip through it, but there's another hiccup, the supplement with the manifesto is missing. David exhales, feeling secretly relieved, he suggests that they call it a day, but then Linda's face lights up.
She has an idea, the Internet. She grabs David's hand and drags him to a computer terminal. David and Linda have never been online before. And wait as the machine pings and hisses. But finally, the first six pages of the manifesto load, David settles in to read certain this is a waste of time. But when he finishes those six pages, he pushes his chair back and hurries out into the hallway. His face feels flushed and he tells Linda he needs some room to breathe.
For a minute or so, the two stand in the hallway, quiet. But then Linda asked David what he thought. David looks down at the floor, feeling shaken. Then he looks back at Linda and says he's been waiting all day to shoot down her idea. But if he's being honest, something about the manifesto does sound like Ted, there's a chance it's him, maybe one in a thousand. Linda takes his hand and says that even if it's only one in a million, they should still do something.
David sighs in his job, he works with troubled children and he always tells them to do the right thing and follow their conscience. And now he has his own dilemma in his own torn conscience and he has no idea what to do. But David gets an idea. He was an English major in college and very good at analyzing texts. He tells Linda that he'll find a full copy of the manifesto and then dig up some of Ted's old letters. You'll compare the two line by line.
David realizes it's going to be painful going over tens of letters. That pain won't be nearly as great as imagining his brother as the Unabomber. And so, as quickly as he can, David is going to become an expert in the Unabomber manifesto and hopefully prove that his brother is not a killer. American Scandal is sponsored by PACOM, were you aware most companies have gone through around five huge changes in the last three years? It's true, and most of those companies only expect to see more changes more often to be better prepared for the next big challenge.
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You should check out PACOM Dotcom today. That's PACOM Dotcom. It's November 1995 and a month after David Kazinsky first read the Unabomber manifesto. Tonight, David sits on his living room couch with his wife, Linda. He grabs another yellowed piece of paper from the pile on the coffee table and begins to read it. It's another old letter from Ted and David winces as he revisits all of Ted's rage and hatred. David is tired when he knows he has to keep reading.
Every night has been like this for the past few weeks. Instead of cooking or watching TV, he and Linda have order takeout settled down on the couch and spent hours comparing Ted's old letters to the Unabomber manifesto. It's the only way David can know with any certainty whether Ted's just a troubled man or a murderer.
David takes a deep breath and then continues reading the old letters halfway through, reading one David lets out of grown and he tells Linda that he's got something. It's yet another word with British spelling. David never understood why Ted spelled certain words the British way he'd write analyze with an S instead of a Z. David always saw this as a harmless quirk, but it doesn't seem harmless now. While reading the manifesto, David kept seeing those same British spellings and each time he saw one, he couldn't help but get chills.
Linda just down something in a notebook. She then looks up and says, This is another point against Ted. David's eyes wander as he considers the horrifying implications. These past weeks. He's gone back and forth like a pendulum, trying to figure out whether Ted is guilty or innocent. Part of him still can't imagine Ted as the Unabomber. His brother may be mentally ill, but he's never been violent. But the evidence keeps stacking up and what they found is uncanny.
Ted has lived in Chicago, Michigan and the Bay Area. Those are all areas that were hit by bombs. Even worse, there seems to be a pattern in the timing of these attacks. Several bombs exploded soon after David and his parents sent money to Ted. David feel sick by the thought that he funded terrorism and murder, as he and Linda have continued this exercise. He's felt his own mental health teetering. He wishes this could all just go away.
So David sets aside the letter and stands up, he shakes his head, says this isn't working, this exercise isn't getting them anywhere. Linda watches David as he paces the room. He can tell she's exasperated. She wanted them to hand over the letters to the authorities, but David refused. Now, though, they're out of options. But then David stops pacing. He feels an electric charge of an idea as it begins to take shape. Then he sits back down on the couch and tells Linda he has a plan.
He'll write Ted a letter and propose a visit. He'll say it's a chance for the brothers to catch up. He can even offer to pick up winter supplies for Ted as an incentive. While he's up there, he can poke around for signs of bombs. If there's no evidence, we'll know for sure that Ted is innocent. Then they can stop obsessing and get their life back. David smiles and waits for Linda to agree with the plan, but she doesn't.
Instead, she tells him it's a terrible idea. It's dangerous. She's afraid Ted might hurt him at that. David feel something inside him snapped and he yells at Linda that Ted is not violent. How many times does he have to say that for her to believe it? Linda backs away and gives him a cold stare. She says that's fine. If he's so certain, then there's no point in reading all these letters. She then grabs her box of takeout and disappears into the bedroom.
David rubs a hand through his hair and curses. He hates this. He hates all the ways he feels like he's failed, Ted, like he's led his brother down. But then he looks back and forth between Ted's letters and the Unabomber manifesto, which are all spread out on the coffee table. Deep down, he isn't sure that Ted is innocent, but he also can't go on with this uncertainty. So David sits down again, grabs a piece of paper.
He decides he will write Ted, he will pay him a visit, and he will prove to Linda and himself that his brother is innocent. A month later, David Kaczynski walks up to his house and grabs the mail, but as he shuffles through it, he stops in his tracks. It's a letter addressed in Bloche, handwriting from Ted. David's hands tremble as he unlocks the front door, he steps inside and lets himself drop onto the couch. He stares at the letter, a heavy feeling of dread watching over him.
He can't bring himself to read it, not yet, because he's still not sure what he'll actually do if Ted invite him to Montana. Ted could be a killer. He could be mad. David can't risk his life for such a foolish plan. And if he somehow raised Ted's suspicions, something even worse could happen. David can't live with that kind of guilt. But David decides he can't hold out any longer. He tears open the envelope and pulls out the letter.
It's short by TED standards, just two pages. And as soon as David scans the first line, his heart sinks. Ted is furious with David for writing. He says that he's choked with frustration. All he wants is to get his family off his back forever, and he lets David know that this includes him. The rest is a wandering, hateful rant. David thought that after all these years, he could withstand this venom a little better, but he was wrong.
Ted has come completely unhinged and it hurts more deeply than David ever thought possible. David's father is already dead now. It seems his brother is gone as well. But the worst part is he knows that this is Ted's intention. Ted wants to hurt him. Pains, David, to admit this, but if Ted is willing to hurt his own family, he's probably willing to hurt strangers as well. David tries to read the letter again, but can't.
His eyes are full of burning tears and he realizes that he doesn't need to reread the letter. He already knows what he has to do. It's time to talk to the FBI. Three months later, David Kazinsky steps into a suite at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., There's a woman waiting for him and sitting at a glass table. Her name is Kathy Puckett and she's an FBI agent. David collapses into a chair and rubs his eyes.
He's exhausted. Last night, he and his wife Linda flew to D.C. so he could meet with the FBI when a blizzard knocked out power everywhere in the city. We spent the night freezing cold in his hotel after that long, shivering night he spent this morning being grilled by one of Puckett's colleagues. The conversation went on and on as the agent questioned David about Ted's history and why David thought he might be the Unabomber. It was excruciating. David realized then that there was no turning back.
He had now betrayed his own brother. David looks up at Puckett and he doubts this next interview will be any better. But he knows that he has to keep going, even if he is tired, even if he is heartbroken from his own decision, because Ted appears to be unhinged and deadly. But if David cooperates, he could somehow still protected Agent Puckett's sets down a mug and leans forward.
So how are you doing, David? I hope my colleague wasn't too eager this morning. Eager? That's one way to put it. Guy's a bully. He pushed and pushed. All he wanted was for me to hand over Ted's letters. I'm sorry. I don't think you should have been treated that way. Well, you understand, that's why I was afraid to talk to you people. I mean, my brother, he's mentally ill. I can't just give you some evidence and then have a bunch of FBI agents go charging into his cabin.
David, that's not exactly how it happened. We're just collecting information. Listen to me. He could be innocent. You understand that, right? Of course. Of course. Well, if you go storm his cabin, he might lash out or he might hurt himself. David, if if Ted's innocent, he can go right back to his normal life. But if he's behind these bombs, then we have to stop the killing. Either way, we need his letters that'll help us identify whether he's the Unabomber.
Now, I'm sorry my colleague was pushy, but we do need those letters and you know that it's the right thing to do. David stands his legs shaking. He walks to the window and stares out at the falling snow. He knows that if Ted is convicted, he could face the death penalty. His blood would be on David's hands. At the same time, three people have already died from the Unabomber attacks. Even more have been injured. And so, as hard as it is, David's decision seems clear.
Yeah, you'll get the letters, but you need to promise me something in return. Ted can never know. I talked to you. Never, never, ever. You would be devastated. We can do that. We can keep your identity secret. Don't worry about that. David looks directly into our eyes. I mean it. My role can never be made public. I promise to have the FBI. I promise. And with that, David makes a promise of his own.
He agrees to turn over Ted's letters and to cooperate in the case against his brother. He just hopes it all ends soon and that the man being led away in handcuffs is someone, anyone other than Ted. Next on American Scandal, after a 17 year manhunt, the FBI closes in on a remote cabin in Montana, but will they find enough evidence to lock up the Unabomber from wandering? This is episode three of the Unabomber for American Scandal. If you like our show.
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Be sure to listen to my other podcast to American history tellers in American Elections. Wicked game. And a quick note about our reenacts most cases. We can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatisations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber case, we recommend the books, Harvard and the Unabomber by Halston Chase every last time by David Kaczynski and hunting the Unabomber. At least we'll American Scandal. It's hosted, edited an executive produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship Audio Editing by Molly Bond, Sound Design by Derek Burns.
This episode is written by Sam Kean, edited by Christina Malzberg. Our senior producer is Gay Gaborik. Executive producers are Stephanie Gen's, Jenny Lour Beckman and Hernan Lopez for wondering. Tech entrepreneurs are in an all out race to cash in on our collective addiction to social media. It's a fight that started in Silicon Valley that's now gone global. Hi, I'm David Brown, the host of Wonderings Show Business Wars. We go deep into some of the biggest corporate rivalries of all time.
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