James Fitzgerald, the FBI profiler who played a pivotal role in the capture of the Unabomber, will speak at Neumann University at 1:30 PM on Wednesday, Nov. 8 in the Bruder Life Center.
His presentation is free and open to the public.
In May 1978, a package exploded at Northwestern University, injuring a security guard. It was the first of a series of 16 bombings that would occur over the next 17 years, killing three people and injuring many others. The suspect in the case, a shadowy figure who frequently used the U.S. mail to send his homemade explosives, became known as the Unabomber.
Fitzgerald had already spent 11 years as a police officer and nine years as an FBI agent when he received the Unabomber case as his first assignment as a young criminal profiler. In 1995, the Unabomber had mailed a 35,000-word, anti-technology manifesto to the Washington Post and New York Times, threatening to blow up a plane if they didn’t publish it and promising to stop his attacks if they did. Fitzgerald urged the FBI and attorney general to convince both newspapers to publish the document.
“A few bosses were against it,” Fitzgerald admits. “We didn’t want to cede to the demands of a terrorist.” He argued, however, that “there’s so much in the way of idiosyncratic language features, someone will recognize it — a teacher, a professor, a friend, a family member.”
He was right. Soon after the Washington Post published the unedited manifesto in 1995, a man told the police that the writing sounded just like his brother, Theodore Kaczynski, an ideologically motivated hermit living in a cabin in Montana.
Fitzgerald’s 50-page probable cause affidavit, the first of its kind in federal court using text analysis, was the primary factor behind the judge signing the search warrant for Kaczynski’s cabin.