Copyright 1993 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
June 26, 1993, Saturday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A13
LENGTH: 629 words
HEADLINE: Theories Abound on Mail Bombings; Officials Frustrated by Series of Explosions, Many Targeting Academics
BYLINE: Andrew Brownstein, Washington Post Staff Writer
In the federal files on UNABOM, the meticulous serial bomber officially linked yesterday to two mail explosions that injured university professors this week, there is the curious entry of "Ice Brothers," a book sent to the home of then-United Airlines President Percy Wood on June 10, 1980.
A little-known nonfiction work on efforts of the Allied underground to disrupt German U-boats during World War II, the 517-page book by Sloan Wilson was delivered a week after an anonymous letter announced that it would arrive. As he opened the book in the kitchen of his Lake Forest, Ill., home, Wood set off a powerful explosion that left him severely battered and burned. It was the third of 14 blasts that have killed one person and injured 23.
Could the topic of the book help investigators identify the suspect behind bombings from 1978 until as recently as Thursday? Or was it another red herring left by UNABOM, who has no apparent motive and has left no trace of his whereabouts in 15 years? Investigators said they haven't a clue.
"It's crazy," said Jim Cavanaugh, deputy chief of the firearms and explosives division at the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "There are more theories on this guy's motives than there are for JFK's assassination. In fact, we should probably start with Jack Ruby as a suspect."
Cavanaugh's comments reflect the frustration of U.S. officials at the reemergence of the elusive bomber who, until Tuesday, had appeared to have halted the bombings in 1987.
In the latest attacks, UNABOM is believed to have targeted two university scientists widely considered to be among the elite in their fields: David Gelernter, 38, a Yale computer scientist, and Charles Epstein, 59, a geneticist at the University of California at San Francisco.
Gelernter was listed in guarded condition following a mail bomb explosion in his office Thursday that severely wounded him in the abdomen, chest, face and hands. On Tuesday, Epstein lost several fingers and sustained a broken arm and severe abdominal wounds when a package bomb exploded in his Tiburon, Calif., home. He was listed in fair condition.
This week's bombings were not the first time UNABOM has reappeared after a hiatus, officials said. Three years separated two bombings at the engineering building of the University of California at Berkeley: the first was July 2, 1982; the second May 15, 1985.
Federal officials coined the code name UNABOM after the 1980 bombing of Wood, according to Rick Smith, spokesman for the FBI in San Francisco. Short for "United Airlines bomber," the moniker also alludes to the suspect's penchant for targeting academics.
"Forensics experts believe . . . that the maker or makers of each of these 14 explosive devices are the same person or persons," Milt Ahlerich, who heads the FBI in Connecticut, told reporters yesterday in New Haven.
The relatively new possibility of multiple UNABOM suspects came from a letter to the New York Times postmarked from Sacramento, Calif., June 21, the day before the Epstein bombing. Yesterday the newspaper reported that the letter warned of an upcoming "newsworthy event" and identified the writer or writers as "an anarchist group calling ourselves FC."
Cavanaugh said UNABOM has been identified as "FC" in letters to two earlier victims. But he cautioned that it could be a ruse similar to one used by Walter Moody Jr., who was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 mail bombing of a federal appeals court judge in Alabama. In letters before the bombing, Moody pinned responsibility on a white supremacist group.
"This is an Inspector Clouseau-type investigation," Cavanaugh said. "We suspect everyone and we suspect no one." Special correspondent Arthur Chung in New Haven contributed to this report.